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Arts Organizations Face Challenging Times During Economic Crisis

Rhode Island arts organizations are feeling the effects of a declining state and national economy, according to a study released by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Arts organizations throughout the state report that contributions are down and ticket sales are behind where they were last year.

“This is a significant problem for all Rhode Islanders, not just the many who enjoy and participate in the arts,” according to Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the State Arts Council. “If you go to town on a night when the arts community is in full swing you see restaurants and cafes full to overflowing. It’s the same all over the state. The arts are a quarter-billion dollar business in Rhode Island. An active and healthy arts community is important to our state’s economy. Weaken that community and you’ve done real damage to our economy.”

Arts organizations are seeing substantial problems ahead, just from what they have experienced in the first few months of the current economic crisis. According to the survey, 72% of arts organizations are seeing a clear downturn in contributions. The picture is even more distressing when you look at just small and medium size arts organizations (those with budgets under $1 million). Eighty-nine percent (89%) of those small and medium size organizations report seeing a downturn in contributions.

Ticket sales are suffering as well. Although it is early in the performance and exhibition season, 58% of arts organizations responding indicate that they are seeing a downturn in ticket sales for their events. There is an increasing trend toward single ticket instead of season ticket purchases, and single tickets are selling at a lower average price, which means that some price resistance is affecting sales.

The report outlines several steps that can be taken to address the short-term issues facing arts organizations while we prepare for a difficult economic period. Local arts leaders are beginning to address these issues in a collaborative fashion.

“This report from RISCA is extremely helpful in making the public aware of the real and immediate impact of our economic climate on the arts and cultural community in Rhode Island. While Slater Mill has been in business as a nonprofit since 1921 and certainly isn’t going anywhere, even we are feeling a pinch. Given the amount of business that nonprofits drive, state officials, the business sector and the public need to be aware of what an immediate concern this is for all of us. This isn’t about projections, it is about a negative change in donor behavior,” says Janice Kissinger, CEO of Slater Mill.

A copy of the report can be obtained at the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts website, at http://www.arts.ri.gov/economy

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency, supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders.

Related links

Department or agency: Rhode Island State Council on the Arts

Online: http://www.arts.ri.gov/

Release date: 10-30-2008

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