Sunday, August 10, 2003

Economy still putting the squeeze on

The economy (No. 1) - Cincinnati Arts Association will finish the fiscal year unscathed, thanks to The Lion King, which set attendance records at the Aronoff Center.

The Broadway blockbuster, says CAA president and CEO Steve Loftin, "has helped offset what might be a downward trend."

As we predicted in January, arts nationwide continue on a downward trend.

"There's a little less to go around," says Loftin.

Cincinnati's major performing arts institutions are running behind last year's ticket sales. Endowments are down, as is state funding.

CAA is in the business of rentals at the Aronoff, Music Hall and Memorial Hall. People, says Loftin, are being more cautious about that, too.

Foundation giving is down, although Kathy Merchant, Greater Cincinnati Foundation president and CEO, says, "There's some diminishment (here), but it's not as bad as nationally."

Everyone is hunkering down and doing more with less. Some institutions have consolidated staff. Playhouse in the Park and University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music suspended summer theater series.

There are more creative collaborations, such as Cincinnati Ballet's upcoming production of Jewels with Columbus' Ballet Met.

It's not over, cautions Merchant, but what makes her optimistic is the energy she sees among cultural leaders, even in hard times.

"They're taking this time to look ahead. We'll be in good stead when the economy makes more things possible."

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