Thursday, December 20, 2007

Boston Arts Groups - Merry Christmas And a Happy New Year?

Geoff Edgers in The Boston Globe brings the news that the Boston Foundation is killing the holiday buzz.

"Things are not getting better," said Ann McQueen, the senior program officer at the Boston Foundation who cochaired the study. "Things are trending in the wrong direction."

The report surveyed financial and attendance information for more
than 600 groups in the area, from organizations with budgets of less than $1 million to the city's largest, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Ballet, and Boston Symphony Orchestra. It found that while the number of arts groups grew 17 percent between 1999 and 2004, from 534 to 624, the average revenue of those groups fell by 16 percent. Among museums, total attendance across the city dropped 18 percent in that period, from roughly 1.6 million people to 1.3

"Proliferation isn't necessarily a positive for everybody," said
Mark Volpe, the BSO's managing director. "If the pie isn't growing, it gets more competitive." Smaller organizations generally struggled more than larger ones to keep expenses in check as revenue fell, according to the report. That led the Boston Foundation to suggest that some arts groups should consider "exit strategies."

The Sugan Theatre Company already has.

Carmel O'Reilly, the Sugan's artistic director, said yesterday that
the company, founded in 1992, has not staged a production since April 2006. She said there is a chance Sugan could return, though she said it is also likely it will never stage another production. At its peak, Sugan produced three plays a year and had a budget of a little more than $100,000. But even then, O'Reilly, who did not pay herself for the company's first eight years, earned no more than $15,000 a year.

"For us to develop, we would have needed to have a development
officer and a marketing officer, and to do that you need money," O'Reilly said. "It's the chicken chasing the egg."

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