As I’m sure you know, Artistry has been an important partner with the City in the area of performing arts, visual arts, arts education and creative placemaking. Artistry provides most box office services for the resident arts organizations that use the Bloomington Center for the Arts, produces plays in the Schneider Theater, curates the Greenberg and Atrium Galleries and provides arts education programming in Bloomington and around the Twin Cities. Like many arts organizations, Artistry has struggled financially coming out of COVID-19.
Artistry’s revenues have historically been generated from theater production ticket sales—typically around 60% of revenue is tied to Schneider Theater productions. No shows were staged during the pandemic and the
2021 – 2022 season was cut short. When shows did run, attendance was only 40% and revenues only amounted for 30% of the budget. The financial impacts of the pandemic were significant. The Artistry chair noted that poor management and board oversight made a bad situation worse. As a result, Artistry is facing a sizable operating shortfall and has exhausted its reserves to absorb losses.
At its September 19 meeting, the City Council approved a $150,000 grant for Artistry. As a condition of the grant, Artistry was asked to present a report to Council outlining the actions taken to date and its business plan for the coming year.
In October, after public comment and a thoughtful discussion, the Council voted down a proposal to provide Artistry a $750,000 loan. More than a dozen people spoke during the public comment period—both for and against the loan. I and others on the Council received many emails from residents, again, both for and against. In our discussion, every member of the Council expressed their strong support for the arts. I know I did. I have been a vocal supporter of the arts not only as an economic driver—prepandemic the arts had a $12 million local economic impact—but also as an important piece of what makes a city special. I often say a great city has great art.
In the end, the Council decided it could not support a loan to Artistry because there were too many unanswered questions about its business plan, development plan and a viable path forward that would point confidently toward the success of the organization. There was also discussion about equity regarding our other arts organizations, past financial support of Artistry and the fact that $750,000 is a significant amount of money.
The next steps specific to Artistry are up to its board of directors. As I said earlier, a great city has great art. We still have great art here in Bloomington. I won’t deny it—our arts ecosystem in Bloomington will be different if Artistry is not able to get through its recent troubles. But art in Bloomington will still be strong. Like all arts organizations, the Bloomington arts organizations I listed above in the sidebar were financially impacted by the pandemic. Support them if you are able. Buy a ticket and attend one of their performances soon. I know they’d love to see you.