by Calli Stromner
Council got its first look at next year’s Community Cultural Centre Performance Series line-up and another snapshot at how this year’s cultural offering has fared at the box office. Administration provided the information as a response to a Council request made during the June 10 meeting.
The Town booked two separate acts in the month of May: Calvin Vollrath, a fiddler who played a three-day set from May 23-25; and La Folia Ensemble, a baroque string quartet which performed a single show on May 31.
Expenses incurred to bring Vollrath to the stage topped $30,000, including $21,000 in artist’s fees and $2,000 in hotel expenses at the St. Albert Inn. Despite ticket sales of 515 over the three days and the addition of $2,344 in revenues from liquor sales, the three-day performance lost a total of $13,789.
The La Folia Ensemble performance also cost the Town money as revenue from ticket sales was $126.50, representing only 14 tickets sold. The artist’s fee for La Folia was $2,500, meals for the group cost $42.75 and advertising costs were $157.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe made the original motion seeking the CCC Performance Series financial information and expressed concern about the loss of revenue. “I appreciate getting the numbers and they must not have been easy for (Administration) to present,” he said. “Eight taxpayer’s property taxes were frittered away for two shows. I’m gobsmacked at that kind of loss. We need to fix this…without a doubt.”
Councillor Barry Turner wanted to know what the numbers mean for next season’s line-up and Council’s role in approving the budget. “One thing that this report brings to bear is that we’re already booking into April,” he said. “I’m a little bit concerned that if we don’t act soon, we’re already going to be looking into later next year so our timeframe to having a budgetary impact is shortening.”
Councillor Rob Ladouceur agreed with his colleagues. “We’re already committed for $10,192 if we cancelled every show we booked. We are now forced to that $42,000 (for the next season). I am blown away that we have lost $15,000-$17,000.” He added that he is also concerned that administration also just recently started tracking this financial information. “The truth is we don’t know what last year’s numbers were. It might have been better attendance, but because we weren’t tracking it, we don’t know.”
The May Performance Series losses of $16,415 combined with the previous CCC Performance Series losses of $10,182 (highlighted in the Town’s First Quarter Report) indicate that the series posted $26,597 in reported losses this year, however since expenses and revenues were not tracked prior to January 2014, the total loss for the 2013/14 performance season is unknown.
The lack of direction for Cultural Centre staff and the absence of an overarching cultural plan for the community were more problematic for Councillor Nicole Boutestein. “We can’t take back the money we’ve lost, but unless we correct that mistake, we are going to sit here for the next ten years, it will be regurgitated over and over again. We need to have administration draft a cultural plan.”
Putnam reiterated the concerns of his Council colleagues, however he cautioned them against reacting hastily. “We can’t operate on this basis, however I do not want us to lose sight of what is viewed as culture,” he argued. “If we stopped hosting shows and offering that art and culture to our citizens, we may never get it back. We need a biz plan and some focus, but I just don’t want to see our citizens lose out on arts and culture.”
While Mayor Lisa Holmes agreed with the Council concerns over loss of revenue, she took exception to suggestions that Council become involved in programming decision. “It is absolutely not our job to say what belongs in that theatre,” she emphasized. “We have to look at what we’re able to provide to our citizens. We need to look at this as looking at the money, not looking at the programming.”
Dafoe subsequently made a motion to have staff put together a workshop to establish Council’s cost recovery expectations for children, family and adult performances hosted by the Town. “If it turns out that some of [the shows that bring social value to the community] have no cost-recovery, so be it, but we cannot hold too many feet to the fire until staff have been given expectations,” he said. Council unanimously approved this motion and a subsequent motion directing administration to review the proposed roster of artists for the 2014/15 performance series and prepare a set of options on how to reduce the overall number of shows.
The current slate of 11 performers for the 2014/15 season includes the popular Missoula Children’s Theatre, local country band Ain’t No Rodeo, Celtic band Cod No More and Canadian icon Jimmy Rankin. It also features a four-man a capella ensemble, Taiko drumming, and a number of family-oriented shows. The artist’s fees for all 11 shows totals $42,134 and does not cover other expenses such as hotel and meals for performers or other fees associated with putting on the show. It also does not include facility, staffing and other overhead costs associated with the Performance Series.