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Park City Institute To Re-Examine Operations Following Financial Crisis

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Following the reports of a financial crisis, the directors of the Park City Institute now say that they’re not going away, and the lights at the Eccles Center are staying on.

Teri Orr, the executive director of the Institute, says they’re going to be smarter about how they operate. And they’re going to change—though not radically.

Previously, Orr told us that they needed to raise $250,000 before the end of the year—both to pay performing acts and for ongoing operations.

The good news is they were able to raise most of that amount.

“We are about $45,000 still needed of the $250,000 but we keep chipping away at that.” Orr said, “Almost every day we get another lovely donation from someone. So, we’re kicking the can down the road a little bit, but we are also reorganizing. Taking a look at how we do what we do and shaving things wherever we can.”

The largest contribution the campaign brought in was one—and only one—donation of $5,000.

“All the rest were underneath that.” Orr continued, “There were so many lovely letters that came with so many of the donations about experiences folks had had. Family times they had at concerns, young girls who had taken dance after seeing a dance company, all those kinds of things. they’re really heartwarming.”

As we’ve reported, the Eccles is charging $29 a seat for the rest of its season. Orr said the change is meant not only to foster revenue, but attendance.

“It’s also about getting what we always call butts in seats.” Orr explained, “It’s about getting people into the theater. Once folks are in the theater then they become more motivated to say, ‘gosh I would hate to see this go away,’ and that’s where the donations start to come in again. So it’s that whole cycle of remembering why the Eccles center and the Park City Institute is important to the community. When you’re not there experiencing it it’s easy to forget.”

The chairwoman of the institute board, Phylis Robinson, recalled that last year they had to deal with the loss of Deer Valley as the venue for their summer concerts.

“Can we have a summer season? What’s it going to look like?” Robinson asked, “All the machinations of where it could be and all the pieces and parts that it took to get to the summer just took a tremendous amount of energy and time on that. Then just the sheer cost of the summer. I think there were some costs that were surprising and just the amount of time. It was great when we were able to move to city park because that certainly helped with the location and some of the transportation issues. It was an expensive series and I think in some respects more expensive both in terms of the cash that it took but also just the sheer amount of staff time that it took to put that on which really put us behind the eight-ball coming into the fall.”

Robinson said it’s been 20 years since the Institute began. They have to deal with a new customer base and an arts landscape that has changed, in Park City and in Utah.

We asked her, has the Institute had its day? The answer to that is mixed.

“I don’t in think of terms of a need in this community or a need in this state for the arts for culture, I’d say vehemently, no.” Robinson answered, “I think it offers us an opportunity to do things defiantly and move away from maybe being presenters in the arts to being creators of art. Like we like to do on the main stages bringing in new acts people haven’t heard of and really fostering the arts. Maybe it’s a multi-day pieces that we do instead of just a one-evening event.”

Orr said they’re looking at a number of ways to take a new slant. One example is from later this season.

“In February we have the It Gets Better project.” Orr explained, “It was based out of a theatre group in Los Angeles and it started with the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus. It’s now moved up to the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and so that group is coming out for an entire week and we’ll be doing outreach in the community about bullying. That was really what the core of the whole It Gets Better project was about. So, we’ll be working with city hall, we’ll be working in the schools, we’ll be working with different groups of LGBT kids in the community to try and develop awareness with these folks who have been doing this work for years.”

Orr said they’re re-examining everything, because you never waste a good crisis.

“This crisis has kind of thrown us into what are the things that work and what are the things that don’t.” Orr said, “What are the things that we’ve just been doing because we always do them? How do we stay relevant as Phyllis was saying? How do we build to the future?”

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