As the COVID-19 crisis continues to impact the health of our community, the Arsht Center is faced with the reality that social distancing in the live performing arts is challenging artistically and, often, financially unfeasible.
To ensure the long-term viability of Miami’s marquee performing arts institution, the Arsht Center leadership is undertaking additional difficult but necessary financial measures. “Our plan will mitigate the foreseeable risks ahead; provide a necessary contingency for the unforeseeable (particularly the uncertainty around when health conditions will allow a safe return to live performing arts experiences); and position the Arsht Center for a strong re-emergence when health conditions improve,” said Johann Zietsman, president and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center.
FINANCIAL MITIGATION MEASURES
In May 2020, the Arsht Center implemented significant cost-saving measures that included operating budget cuts, a reduction of salary and benefits and several layoffs. Since then, the Arsht Center received and shared the benefits of the Paycheck Protection Program, re-instituting salary levels for all eligible staff for the 8-week duration of the program.
Faced with cancellation or postponement of more than 160 performances representing a revenue loss of $11 million in the 19-20 season, the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and continued uncertainty around returning to revenue-generating activities, we must now take additional measures to sustain the Arsht Center through this crisis and prepare for the day when we can welcome guests and artists for a shared, revenue-generating live performing arts experience in the theater. The Arsht Center’s plan, which has received support from the Trust Board Executive and Finance Committees, includes the following:
Continued suspension of performances at the Arsht Center through most of the summer, perhaps longer. When the time is deemed right (and fully in accordance with directives from County health officials), the Arsht Center will be open for resident company, community partner and rental events. Right now, there are several events from partners scheduled for Fall 2020 and, of course, the broadcast of the Second Presidential Debate on October 15. We have retained two Arsht Center-presented performances in December, but larger performances that carry a financial risk or investment are expected to resume in 2021. Details will be made available as soon as they are finalized.
Staffing reductions. The Arsht Center has made the incredibly painful decision to implement a 58% aggregate payroll reduction. Sadly, all of our 108 current employees are affected – either with salary reductions, furloughs or layoffs. We are committed to maintaining health benefits for all remaining staff, including those who have been furloughed – for as long as possible. We will continue to use everything at our disposal to assist everyone affected by these measures, including help with state unemployment applications. Our intention is to bring back as many of our staff members as possible as we ramp up for re-opening. Our staff is our lifeblood, and this has been a gut-wrenching decision.
Reducing FY21 budget while maintaining Signature Series and Arts Education programs. The Arsht Center operating budget for FY21 will be reduced by approximately 50% compared to typical years ($21M vs. the most recent $42M). The budget will seek to balance anticipated minimal revenue for the last quarter of 2020 and necessary conservative expectations for ticket revenue in 2021. We expect to retain our Signature Series (classical, jazz, theater, Broadway, etc.) and are committed to maintaining our marquee arts education programs – Rock Odyssey for 5th graders, Kitty Hawk for 7th graders, and the 2021 edition of AileyCamp Miami.
Plan for re-emergence. Our doors have been closed for months now yet we continue to keep our community connected to the arts, even though these activities do not generate any revenue for the Center. Arsht@Home has become our new digital stage, providing art-making experiences, living room performances, Miami-focused monologues, curated playlists and more – free to the community each week. In the spirit of connecting and supporting artists, we have commissioned 30 Miami artists to create work inspired by this global experience and will be premiering new pieces every week via social media over the rest of the summer (details here). AileyCamp Miami, our free camp now in its 12th year, has also gone virtual. In anticipation of our re-emergence, our team is planning a series of fun and entertaining, low-cost (or no-cost) events – all enjoyable at a safe social distance. We have also planned a 20-21 season that includes jazz greats, magnificent orchestras, brilliant Broadway shows and soul-stirring local theater – all of which will take place when it is safe to do. We are grateful to the thousands who have already subscribed for their commitment to the Arsht Center.
Many of the arts organizations in our community are nonprofits (Arsht Center included) and by-and-large depend on donations to continue to offer programming. We hope that, those who can, consider supporting the Arsht Center and other arts organizations by investing in, advocating for and attending cultural events (including virtual ones). The generosity of our community has never been more needed and valued. Those interested in supporting the Arsht Center can donate now at this link.
“The Arsht Center is a financially stable organization and a point of pride for this community. Despite the uncertainty around the COVID-19 crisis, we have had to make the difficult but necessary decisions now that will help to ensure the long-term viability of the Center as an asset to artists, audiences and young learners for years to come,” said Aileen Ugalde, Adrienne Arsht Center Trust Board Chairman.
“Even though our stages are dark for now, the Arsht Center remains committed to keeping our community connected to the arts and to each other through this crisis. We will continue to showcase the magnificent work of Miami’s treasure of local artists and engage our young people through educational arts experiences. We’re doing this virtually for now but we are confident that the Arsht Center will re-emerge to serve our community with spectacular performances, shared live experiences and educational opportunities for students when it’s safe to do so again,” concluded Zietsman.