by Jon Wojciechowski Executive Managing Director
by Jon Wojciechowski When I left the world of corporate healthcare to pursue a career in professional theatre management I applied the same business principles I had become accustomed to. After several months a board member at my first theatre said to me, “wow, you’re running this place like a business.”
I thought to myself, we employ more than twenty people year-round and payroll during the season can include more than 100 people. We own a 60,000 square foot building with three performance spaces and six store fronts that are rented out for profit. We are a business!
But, as absurd as it sounds, many non-profit employees and leaders don’t like to use the word ‘business’, let alone apply ‘corporate’ tactics to day-to-day operations. Because we are ‘mission-based’ organizations, the belief is that prayers and good wishes will carry us through. As noble as that sounds, the last time I checked the power company accepted neither prayers nor good wishes for electric service.
To combat this lack of business focus, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) began a campaign entitled “The Arts Mean Business” to encourage non-profits to begin thinking more business-like and to help arts and cultural organizations quantify their value within their communities.
Nationally, the arts and culture sector employs thousands of Americans and contributes more than $166 billion to the economy. Using a formula provided by the NEA, we estimate that Gloucester Stage’s contribution to the local economy is about $1.7 million. Directly and indirectly, it is estimated that Gloucester Stage will contribute $51 thousand in local tax revenue and $57 thousand to state coffers.
Those dollars are generated by the more than 15,000 people who will pass through our doors this season to see shows and attend events. Our patrons frequent local restaurants, shop in local stores and galleries, stay in local inns and hotels, and buy gas on their way in and out of town. That’s a lot of revenue.
Gloucester Stage employs six people year round and this season will employ nearly 80 others, including an 8-person apprentice company that will be paid and housed locally. Last season the theatre spent more than $26 thousand on housing in the local area and that expense will continue.
Each of our seven shows has a production budget of more than $32 thousand. That doesn’t include overhead like utilities, maintenance, or even costs for marketing; those are direct production costs. Last year we spent more than $21 thousand locally on paint, lumber, and fabric to build our sets and craft our costumes, and that cost will nearly double this year.
We also spend more than $65 thousand annually on marketing, more than $20 thousand on accounting and payroll, and more than $30 thousand on insurance. Like any business, we are subject to basic operating expenses.
Our ticket prices cover about half of our annual expenses, with the remainder made up through donations, grants, and sponsorships. But, it’s always a struggle to increase “unearned revenue” (that’s what comes to us from donors and grantors) sufficiently to cover rising costs of electric, gas, and other “non-artistic” expenses.
I share these numbers with you because I think it’s important for everyone to recognize the value of non-profit organizations like Gloucester Stage. We talk a lot about the value of seeing professional theatre, and the value of educational programs like our Youth Acting Workshops and our Apprentice Company. But, we often fail to remind folks of the real value (the dollars and cents) that comes from having a thriving professional theatre in the community.
The arts mean business and Gloucester Stage is proud of all that it returns to its community. Come visit us, come see a show, and come be part of the arts economy.
*GSC Blog posts are the select opinions of individual employees and may not necessarily reflect the views of Gloucester Stage as a whole.