Dance

0

Comments

Add +

[Editor’s note: This story has been expanded with online bonus content.]

Rachel S. Moore
Executive director, American Ballet Theatre

How will the financial meltdown impact the New York cultural scene?
This will be very difficult for cultural institutions, especially those institutions that were extremely financially fragile to begin with. I fear that New York will lose some wonderful artists because they will move to places where there is greater opportunity to create their work, or because of a lack of resources, they will choose to no longer work.

How will it specifically affect ABT?
This remains to be seen. It is really very early in the cycle. However, last year ABT saw the beginnings of the financial downturn and budgeted accordingly. We have spent a great deal of time and thought on what will make us sustainable in good times and bad. We have tried hard to be proactive, but clearly the priority needs to be what is onstage—if we cannot maintain excellence onstage, then we have not just lost the battle, we have lost the war.

How will audience members experience this financial crisis?
I suspect that some audience members will find it more difficult to attend shows because their financial situations have changed radically. I don’t expect those who do attend to have a different experience per se, except that perhaps they may more greatly relish the notion of being in another world for a few hours.

Will there be an impact on ticket prices?
We will have very modest price increases in categories that have the highest level of demand. For our upcoming engagement at City Center (October 21–November 2), we have a modest price increase on our premium orchestra seats. To offset it and further promote accessibility, we lowered the price of our rear-mezzanine seating.

Is there an upside to this?
I don’t see much of an upside. I think many, many people will be hurt, and I fear less art will be made or experienced.

In your experience, how does this financial crisis rate?
This is the worst financial downturn I have experienced.

NEXT: Carla Peterson Artistic director, Dance Theater Workshop»


Carla Peterson
Artistic director, Dance Theater Workshop

How do you think this crisis will impact the New York arts scene?
It makes sense that the big institutions are more worried than the smaller ones. Everybody in the field has something to worry about, but I think that the bigger institutions are going to be more worried because a bigger percentage of their contributing funders—corporate and individuals, public and private—have far deeper pockets than what Dance Theater Workshop has. The larger ones are going to feel the impact more quickly, and they may not have the ability to maneuver and respond and cope that smaller institutions and individual artists have. We’re going to suffer more of a trickle-down effect. It’s not necessarily going to hit us immediately—although it’s going to hit us. Of course, I’m speaking very generally, there’s always exceptions. I don’t want to romanticize that this is going to be fun, but the artists we tend to work with—artists who don’t have very much money or very many resources—are incredibly resourceful, not only on the level of making work but on the level of figuring how to survive in a city like New York. It may be that as we go down, more artists will start saying that New York has been getting tougher and tougher and tougher, and they’re gonna go. We might see more of that. I think there’s been a little bit more of that recently with artists going to Europe because the support system there goes much deeper. Although, Europe’s going to get hit by this as well.

Practically, what are some of the challenges DTW faces?
DTW already runs a pretty lean machine relative to administration. We have a relatively new building and there are costs, but in terms of infrastructure, we run an extremely tight ship and we’ve gotten it tighter and tighter before this hit. I’m not sure where we can cut any more than what we’ve already done. We’re really committed to continuing our programming; if we have to figure out some way of cutting, we’re going to figure out how to do it in some other way. It’s extremely important for us to continue to service the arts community. The other thing is that nationally a lot of presenters will tend to pull back from more experimental work because they can’t sell it to their audiences. The audiences are saving their money, they’re not going to go to something they’re not familiar with. The presenters tend to also pull back on international programming. We’re really going to try to not do that, because that’s sort of the soul of DTW—we have to protect our mission. When one starts to cut back on programming, there’s a kind of spiraling effect: You have less people coming into your facility, interest over time starts to recede, it becomes harder to get funders excited about what you’re doing. So there’s real pragmatic reasons beyond our commitment to the artists community.

Looking at how well cultural institutions tend to be run, it’s a wonder Wall Street firms don’t look at them for tips.
Artists are really good problem-solvers. The population at large in this country doesn’t consider them essential or important to the societal, political or cultural fabric, but they are. There’s a tendency to patronize, infantilize artists but they are not to be patronized—they figure it out. Yeah, it’s going to be harder, but I think that art itself will prevail.

NEXT: Judy Hussie-Taylor Executive director, Danspace Project»

Judy Hussie-Taylor
Executive director, Danspace Project

How will the financial crisis impact the New York cultural scene?
Like many people, I have more questions than answers right now. Clearly, dance artists make so little money that any downturn in the economy is a cause for great concern. Both emerging and established dancers and choreographers already struggle to make ends meet. I do believe that artists will keep making work because money is rarely a motivation to be either a dancer or choreographer. But I hope the financial meltdown does not result in an exodus of artists from New York City.

How will it specifically affect Danspace Project?
We won’t feel the full impact of this crisis until later in the year or even early next year. That said, it will surely impact fund-raising, especially corporate and individual giving. We are also unclear how foundations and government agencies will be affected. Danspace has worked to increase artist fees and commissions over past years, and it will be a priority to maintain them.

How will audience members experience this financial crisis?
It’s a good question, and again we don’t know. But I think that the Danspace audience will continue to come because they are truly interested in and committed to experimental work.

Will it impact ticket prices?
Not yet. Although we rely heavily on ticket revenues, we also have a policy not to refuse admission on the inability to pay the full price. And we have free or low-cost programs such as DraftWork and Food for Thought.

Is there an upside?
It’d be great if rents went down, which would allow artists to continue to live and work here. I think it is interesting to note that in 1974 as New York City was facing bankruptcy, Danspace Project was founded at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. So who knows what unexpected and creative responses artists will have to this current situation.

NEXT: Debra Singer Executive director and chief curator, The Kitchen»

Debra Singer
Executive director and chief curator, The Kitchen

How’s the current crisis affecting the New York’s arts community?
It could be a moment of great difficulty in terms of individual philanthropy, on which, places like the Kitchen certainly rely, as well as the generosity of the city, because the city itself is so dependent on the financial market. It’s too early to say—you haven’t had your December campaigns yet. Our fall benefit and our auction are in November, and then you have that year-end December campaign/holiday thing that everyone sends out, meetings with individual patrons, all of which haven’t happened yet. If you ask us all in January, we’ll have a different take. The Kitchen has cheap tickets, we don’t have a lot of corporate funding. We’re so small and weird, you know? Local government support is meaningful, and obviously some foundation support, but then there’s a huge amount that comes from the generosity of individuals, so how this affects them will directly impact us. We don’t know what the future will bring, other than saving our pennies for a rainy day. And that rainy day may be closer than we think.

Let’s try to be not completely depressing; is there any kind of upside?
It’s hard to see any upside, but the negative side of the prosperity we’ve enjoyed over the past several years has been the gentrification of so many neighborhoods, with artists getting pushed out. If rents went down, it could actually be better for artists in Bushwick [Laughs]. The early ’70s was a recessionary time that was actually an artistically vibrant point in history. I mean, the presenters will suffer, but the tough times could generate some interesting potential for the artists if they can once again afford to live in their own neighborhoods.

NEXT: Linda Shelton Executive director, Joyce Theater»

Linda Shelton
Executive director, Joyce Theater

How will the financial meltdown impact the New York cultural scene?
Without a doubt, it will be negatively impacted by the current economy. I think it will be mostly on fund-raising but it will also hurt ticket sales. The banking and finance industries are a huge supporter of the arts, and now there are fewer banks. When banks merge or are bought, where there were two grants, there is now one—if you are lucky. Individual giving will likely decrease as a result of employees losing their jobs or the fear of losing one’s job.

How will it specifically affect the Joyce?
Knowing the economy was in a downturn, we already started looking at possible cuts to our 2009 budget. Although we have recently copresented Evening Stars as part of the River to River Festival, we are rethinking any other off-site presentations this year. It is a time to focus on our core programs of presentations at the Joyce and Joyce SoHo and the subsidized rental programs in both locations. Other presenting opportunities will be considered very carefully with the board and staff. In a way, we are lucky to have just celebrated the theater’s 25th anniversary with several special initiatives, such as commissioning 25 works at $25,000 each and expanding our free outdoor performances. If the anniversary had been this year, I would imagine any special programming would have been reconsidered. Although we were not yet directly affected by the closing of several well-known financial institutions in the news recently, we are still feeling the impact from the loss of Altria. When we saw the financial problems first started, a board member suggested calling our major funders to make sure we could still count on them going forward. Of course, there is still more fallout to come, and we will need to respond accordingly.

How will audience members experience this financial crisis?
We are continuing with all of the programs that New York audiences expect from the Joyce, including the education program performances and the subsidized rehearsal studio rentals and performances at Joyce SoHo. Audience members should not experience any difference in their experience. As a matter of fact, we have recently extended the hours at our lobby bar and will offer reasonably priced refreshments after performances with the hope that audience members will have an enhanced experience while at the theater.

Will it impact ticket prices?
Although the Joyce Theater has always been known for its affordably priced tickets, for the first time in our history, we have scaled the house. This means there will be tickets available at several different prices, one of which is a very attractive $19 ticket available at every performance. My hope is that those who have been hit the hardest by this crisis will still come to the Joyce and enjoy dance. Also, we are hoping to welcome people to the Joyce with this ticket price who may not immediately think of dance as a cultural destination or a place to escape the bad news around them.

How will it affect your programming?
Our programming will not be affected at this time. We are still offering 48 weeks of dance at the Joyce Theater and 42 at Joyce SoHo. It is the mission to include a mix of genres and styles, and we will continue to program international dance companies when many presenters have decided not to because of additional expenses, including the extra costs for the visas.

Is there an upside to this?
Maybe real-estate prices will come down and artists will once again be able to live and work in NYC. I realize this may cause other economic problems for the city, but if one must look for an upside, this could be it.

In your experience, how does this financial crisis rate?
This is really the worst I have seen because of the wide range of sectors it has affected.

NEXT: Performing arts»

Users say

0 comments