Sunday, August 31, 2008

This Labor Day, Celebrate Arts Employment

Posted by Bruce Miller
Today, Barksdale and Theatre IV employ 37 arts professionals working in full-time jobs. It was 39 a few months ago, but we’ve had to reduce staff by two due to financial woes associated with the national recession.

This seems like a lot of people, and it is. But when you consider all we do (33 different productions, many of them touring throughout 32 states, plus all the ancillary activities), we’re actually understaffed.

In addition to these 37 full-time positions, we employ:
· several wonderful box office workers who are paid on an hourly basis, · several talented interns who work on a seasonal basis for weekly stipends,
· several skilled part-time workers who put in less than 40 hours per week in various capacities,
· tens of touring actors who keep Theatre IV’s national tour going strong, and
· legions of freelance actors, directors, designers etc whose talents power our mainstage productions.

We also budget $15,000 per year for hourly production overhire.

All told, Barksdale and Theatre IV invest approximately $2.2 million annually in Virginia’s workforce. If that doesn’t seem like a lot to you, then you’re not one of the ones loosing sleep every two weeks worrying about how we’re going to meet payroll. There’s no grand fund set aside somewhere to cover these and other expenses. We pay out only what we bring in. To meet budget, we need to sell approximately $70,000 per week in tickets and tour shows, and raise approximately $30,000 per week in contributions. During this recession, meeting these goals has been, and will continue to be, very challenging.

That's why I vigorously support continued state funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Additional state cuts will mean additional layoffs, and additional layoffs, at Barksdale and at other nonprofit arts organizations statewide, will ultimately increase rather than decrease Virginia's financial woes.

The arts are a labor intensive industry, which is good for Virginians and the state economy. On average, Virginia’s arts and cultural organizations spend 44.2% of their revenues on labor, 37.2% on other production expenses, 9.8% on facilities, 7.4% on marketing, and 1.4% on state and local taxes and fees. This is a nonprofit industry.

In 2000, Virginians for the Arts, our statewide advocacy group, did an economic impact study in cooperation with the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the Virginia Association of Museums. The study was prepared independently by The Wessex Group, Ltd., located in Williamsburg. I mentioned this study in a previous post. The findings of the study indicate that eight years ago, arts and cultural organizations comprised a major sector of the Virginia economy.

In 2000, 12,507 Virginians were directly employed by arts and cultural organizations (full-time and part-time). They were paid $157.8 million in salary and benefits. An additional 6,344 full-time Virginia jobs were financed indirectly by the economic impact that arts and cultural organizations have on Virginia’s support businesses and independent contractors. All told, in 2000, $306.6 million was paid to 18,851 Virginia workers by Virginia’s arts and cultural organizations.

Additionally, the 2000 study found that arts and cultural organizations in Virginia annually generate $849 million in revenues for Virginia businesses and $342 million in revenues for Virginia tourism businesses through spending by out-of-state visitors who come to see Virginia’s arts and cultural organizations. That’s a total injection into the Virginia economy of nearly $1.2 billion.

I know, it’s a lot of numbers, and they’re eight years out of date. But they’re important. If we don’t celebrate employment in the arts, nobody will. Many of those who make decisions about state funding simply don’t care about the intrinsic value of the arts, but they might care—they ought to care—about how the arts positively effect Virginia’s economy.

Labor Day originated in 1882 when the Central Labor Union of New York City asked the nation to take a day to value America’s workforce, the engine that always has and always will power our nation. This made sense to the U. S. Congress, and so they made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894. Today, Labor Day is honored by all 50 states.

We who work in or care about the nonprofit arts sector need to make sure that we also get in the game. We need to remember that Labor Day not only marks the closing of our neighborhood pools, plus the beginning of the Virginia public school year and the NFL and NCAA football seasons. Labor Day is our chance to remind all Virginians that the nonprofit arts sector and its 18,851 jobs represent an irreplaceable force in the state economy. The arts are not a frill or a nicety. We are a cornerstone industry, crucial to the Commonwealth and its financial well-being.

--Posted by Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Jeanette Blaylock said...

If you ran for any policial office, I'd surely vote for you.
Not only are you very well spoken (sure you didn't major in English?), but you really care about people AND Richmond. Richmond is fortunate to have you, Phil, Theatre IV and Barksdale.
Keep up the great work!