Recession hits Arizona arts groups

[Source: Salvatore Caputo, Jewish News of Greater Phoenix] — Arizona Jewish Theatre Company’s decision in April to cancel the last show of its 2008-2009 season was one of the most visible signs of the effects of the current American recession on Arizona arts organizations, but it was not the only one.  “I’m very concerned,” said Rabbi Albert Plotkin, when discussing how the economy has affected the Sylvia Plotkin Judaica Museum in Scottsdale.  He is the director of the museum named after his late wife and housed at Congregation Beth Israel, where he is rabbi emeritus.  “(The museum) has been deeply affected.  We couldn’t even go out to ask for more donations because it would have been a futile venture.”

Donors are a substantial part of the mix for many arts and cultural organizations, and when the crisis in the financial markets erupted in fall 2008, many donors’ investment portfolios were severely affected.  Arts organizations contacted by Jewish News all said that donations were down in the current recession.  In addition, most of them had seen drops in public funding, subscriptions and attendance.  “The biggest thing that has happened to us (as a result of the recession) is the just-about 50 percent cut from the city and state,” said Janet Arnold, AJTC’s producing director.  “Those were our largest contributors, and we don’t know how we’re going to replace that…”

A series of surveys by the Arizona Commission on the Arts has shown that the recession has forced layoffs, programming cuts and reductions in operating budgets across a broad spectrum of arts organizations in the state.  The commission has been conducting the survey “to keep track of how (the organizations are) being affected by the recession” on roughly a quarterly basis this year, said Casey Blake, the commission’s communications and research director.  The most recent was in May, with another due to be taken next month, she said.

The May survey was sent to more than 300 organizations.  Among the 160 that responded, 60 percent said they have reduced their operating budget for the current year by as much as 80 percent.  Of organizations with annual operations of $250,000 or more, 40 percent had laid off staff in the preceding six months, while 50 percent froze hiring and 25 percent put staff furloughs in place. [Note: Read the full article at Recession hits Arizona arts groups.]

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