Editor's note:A group of area artists have banded together to resist management changes and fee increases at the John Waldron Arts Center. On Nov. 23, they sent the following letter to Bloomington Area Arts Council Board President Ashley Fisher and Executive Director Rob Hanrahan.
Dear Ashley and Rob,
We the undersigned represent 21 performing arts organizations in Bloomington who have come together to form the Bloomington Performing Arts Coalition (B-PAC). The primary concern of our organization is the recent increase in the rental rates and fees of the Waldron Arts Center, a building donated to the BAAC by the City of Bloomington for use as a "community arts center."
While we understand the BAAC's current financial dilemma, we believe that the Bloomington Area Arts Council's current fiscal and rental policies imperil our member organizations by establishing rental rates and fees that make our access to the Waldron Art Center Auditorium and Rose Firebay ("performance spaces") unaffordable. Further, we believe that the BAAC's building management policies have created an environment at the Waldron that is inhospitable for our member organizations. Taken together, these things directly contradict the city's mandate of the BAAC: to make the Waldron a home for performing (and other) arts organizations.
"We believe that the Waldron must be restored to its intended use as an Arts Center."
Since our chief concern is that those community groups that have historically rented this facility will no longer be able to do so, we wanted to remind you of the city's original intent for the use of this building: Attached for your easy reference, please find Resolution 89-16 (Attachment 1) and Purchase Money Promissory Note dated July 31, 1990 (Attachment 2) in which the BAAC's mandate is made clear. The city conveyed the building to the BAAC to be used as a "community arts center". The current policies of the BAAC are not in keeping with this resolution and contract.
B-PAC's goals are threefold. First, we believe that the Waldron must be restored to its intended use as an Arts Center; specifically, we ask that fair rental rates and service levels for the performance spaces be restored to those that existed prior to the current management's tenure. Second, we ask that the BAAC reinstitute "We ask that the BAAC reinstitute Stakeholder Relations by meeting regularly with organizations that utilize the space."Stakeholder Relations by meeting regularly with organizations that utilize the space; the current leadership has been in place for nine months and has yet to reach out to stakeholders or the public for input. Third, we suggest that the BAAC must exhibit reasonable transparency with regard to renters and costs; B-PAC members and the public deserve to know who is renting the space (arts organizations versus private events) and also what costs are driving current BAAC policies. We also request that the BAAC work with stakeholders to develop a policy that arts organizations receive priority booking opportunities over non-arts events.
The BAAC's current rental rates (published on the BAAC website) represent a dramatic overall increase from the 2008-2009 season. In its press release dated November 2, the BAAC announces that it is providing discounts and rehearsal rate breaks and positions the Waldron as "More Accessible and Affordable". Instead, organizations that are currently negotiating contracts with the BAAC report that the reverse is true. The Waldron is less accessible and not at all affordable for our members. To illustrate this, we have included rate sheets from 2008-2009 (Attachment 3) and 2010-2011 (Attachment 4). A starting point for comparison is a full day Friday rental--in 2008-2009 the auditorium cost an organization $330 to rent. It now costs $1,075 or $950 (non-profit) or $712.50 (once the organization has paid a $1,000 membership fee). We have also undertaken a comparison of rates paid by representative B-PAC member organizations in 2008-2009 versus what each organization would pay under the current rate structure for the same rental time and space. Two examples are below (rate increases vary because rental structures have changed). A more complete comparison is attached for your review (Attachment 5.)
|Jewish Theatre||$675||$1381||$724 (110%)|
|Reefer Madness||$740||$2,115||$1375 (186%)|
It is important to note that the rate comparisons do not take into account the additional fees that have been established for the use of the performance spaces (Attachment 6). The $250 fee for performing arts groups to access risers and chairs in the Auditorium is the most confounding and exemplifies the Waldron's shift away from its mandate. The one line item that is offered at no or minimal charge is "Tables and Chairs" for non-performance use (i.e. private weddings and receptions).
"We suggest that the BAAC must exhibit reasonable transparency with regard to renters and costs."
B-PAC fully supports the Waldron's need to be fiscally sound. But we must not lose sight of the fact that the building was donated by the City of Bloomington to be used first and foremost to be used as a "community arts center". We believe that "community arts" must include community-based performing arts organizations as represented by our membership. At the same time, we do not think it appropriate that the performing arts spaces subsidize other BAAC activities. Further, we believe that any pricing model for the Waldron performance spaces should consider the relative commercial values of performance space in Bloomington and other communities (e.g. The Buskirk-Chumley Theater's Friday rate is $2.16/seat [capacity of 612] while the Waldron Auditorium [capacity of 170] rents at $5.59/seat).
The Bloomington Performing Arts Coalition invites you to contact us early next week to set up a time during the week of November 30 to meet and work on this together. We hope that you will accept our invitation to work jointly to develop a solution; we are, by definition, primary stakeholders and beneficiaries of the agreement between the city of Bloomington and the BAAC.
We look forward to a productive discussion with you on the above issues and trust that you share our commitment to restoring the Waldron performing arts spaces to their original mission and purpose.
Yours in the Arts,
Theatre of the People
Oasis Productions / InterAction Theatre
National Society of Arts and Letters, Bloomington Chapter
Monroe County Community Theatre
Jewish Theatre of Bloomington
Jazz in Bloomington
Eric Anderson, Jr. Presents
Cardinal Stage Company
Bloomington Area Arts Commission Board of Trustees
Sally Walker, Secretary
Marci Widen, Treasurer
Lance Eberle, Finance Committee Chairman
Pam Kinneman, Governance Committee Chairman
Mayor Mark Kruzan, City of Bloomington
Miah Michaelson, Assistant Economic Development Director, City of Bloomington
Andy Ruff, City Council President and At-Large Representative
Isabel Peidmont-Smith, City Council Vice President and District V Representative
Steven Volan, City Council Parliamentarian and District VI Representative
Timothy Mayer, City Council At-Large Representative
Susan Sandberg, City Council At-Large Representative
Chris Sturbaum, City Council District I Representative
Brad Wisler, City Council District II Representative
Michael Satterfield, City Council District III Representative
Dave Rollo, City Council District IV Representative