As noted in one of our earlier October blogs, a recession economy is exactly the right time to plan. And it may just be a terrific time to rationally rethink community goals and needs for new arts facilities. Feasibility studies done now may actually lead to smarter and more viable arts facilities than those done in the heady days of a flush financial market. Why? A recessionary economy brings new need for partnerships, creative problem solving, and right-sizing for civic construction ventures.
There are a myriad of wonderful performing arts centers, theater complexes, and museum facilities out there to use as models of wise budgeting and solid operations.
Trends we see and like:
1) A new interest in performing arts centers “attached” to high schools. Not every city and town has the population to afford a major stand alone PAC. But they can build outstanding halls that provide their students incredible opportunities and that also provide residents with buildings that otherwise couldn’t be afforded in capital or operations. Some of these halls are free standing. Most have distinctive and professional-quality entrances and box offices. Many include black box theaters. Some are even multi-theatrical complexes. The truly great ones are every bit as workable for professional performances as for student events, and as a result are booked almost every day of the year. We’re thrilled by all that we see happening in the wonderful and affordable ($5 million) Bothell (WA) North Shore Performing Arts Center, which has been a joint venture between the Bothell School District and a private sector group. And for magnificence, the new Lake Zurich High School (IL) Performing Arts Center couldn’t be topped.
2) Facilities on community campuses. These are particularly workable in mid sized and smaller communities, but have applicability to larger cities as well. Bloomington, Minnesota’s modest but absolutely lovely performing arts facility shares a building entrance with the city council chambers. Rooms used by community arts groups for rehearsals in the evening can be used by the fire department or planning office for meeting space during the day.
3) Multi-jurisdictional and entity partnerships in making facilities happen. Today’s projects require creative partnerships, sometimes involving all or most of the following even before private giving or bond financing come into play. municiipal and or county goverment, school districts, colleges, and developers. In operations, it is fabulous to see models ranging from THEARC in Washington DC all the way to the proposed Pinedale Community Center, in Wyoming. Put together by multiple nonprofit, education, and civic groups, these are models where the arts – including state of the art performing arts halls – live side by side with afterschool education programs and diverse community service agencies. They put the arts in the heart of every day community life.
We still love the major arts facilities that are community architectural icons and centerpieces. But we are drawn to the above trends as wonderful solutions that are also financially much easier to capitalize and operate. They are the type of solutions that are worthy of consideration, not only due to the present economy, but because they really work! The books balance, users are delighted, and quality arts are at the heart of community life.