Arts organizations such as the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, the Springer Opera House and the Liberty Theatre, still are seeing audience growth, even as the economy is slowing.
“As counter-intuitive as it may seem, we’re having our best year ever,” said Paul Pierce, Springer Opera House producing artistic director. “Audiences have increased steadily here over the past four years, and, so far, that growth has continued. This season, we expanded our ticket-discount structure, and that has helped a lot as the economy has weakened. We began honoring the student discount for teachers and offering the military discount for all public-safety employees. When times are tight, the public is eager for cost-effective entertainment, and that’s how we’ve built the Springer brand.”
Enoch Morris, executive director of the RiverCenter, agrees with Pierce that people still are supporting the arts.
“Yes, people still do support the arts in the worst of times, but they are certainly more judicious about what they are spending their money to see,” Morris said. “Winston Churchill was told during the Blitzkrieg of World War II that they should cancel an upcoming art show, and he was heard saying, ‘What are we fighting for? … No, it is not to be canceled.’ In the worst of times, the arts will always be an important part of our lives.”CSU music
Columbus State University’s Schwob School of Music got a huge boost from Maxine Schiffman, a longtime donor, when she gave 67 Steinway pianos through the Maxine R. and Jack S. Schiffman Family Foundation in July. CSU became the state’s fourth all-Steinway school after the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University and Spelman College.
The other notable event at the Schwob School was when it won the University System of Georgia Board of Regents Excellence Award for Teaching.
Schwob director Fred Cohen said it is the first time CSU has earned that honor.
Besides these two events, Cohen said the school has had quality performances and student achievements.Columbus Ballet
Dance is a tough sell in Columbus, except for the annual recitals by local dance schools. But the Columbus Ballet appears to be thriving.
“2008 has been a pretty good year for Columbus Ballet,” said executive and artistic director David Herriott. “We reorganized our board’s responsibilities and developed the Columbus Ballet Guild. Our board has done an outstanding job obtaining sponsorships. Our guild has provided the many volunteers to help with our productions. Our ticket sales in the spring for ‘Les Sylphides’ and ‘The Ice Skaters’ and our ‘Nutcracker’ performances in November were a little less than last year, but the company dancers were seen by more people this year due to our many outreach and festival performances. We did lecture-demonstrations at a record 40 schools this year before ‘Nutcracker’ and three retirement homes. We also performed for the Chamber of Commerce, and many festivals, including Springfest and God Bless Fort Benning.
“2009 should be a good year. We are looking forward to performing at the Alabama Dance Festival on Jan. 18. It is an honor to be chosen to perform, as all who applied and sent videos were not selected. Then on March 28, the company will perform ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at the Springer Opera House. We are still looking at our ‘Nutcracker’ dates but definitely want to do a performance that third-grade students would be bused to see the entire ‘Nutcracker’ performance.”On stage
Gayle Daniels, the managing director of the Liberty Theatre, feels good about the increased attendance for the shows and the growing number of students who attend the afterschool programs.
“If I can add something else, we have planned future collaborations and joint opportunities with the Columbus Jazz Society and Chattahoochee Shakespeare Co.,” Daniels said.
The Springer’s big thing is the relationship with the creators of the “Tuna” shows. Pierce and associate artistic director Ron Anderson, who have starred in “Greater Tuna” and “A Tuna Christmas” have formed a strong friendship with Ed Howard, the playwright and director for all four “Tuna” shows.
The shows have, Pierce said, “generated much-needed revenue and national recognition for the Springer.”
Until this season, no other theater in the United States has been allowed the rights to produce “Red, White and Tuna,” the third “Tuna” play.
The reason, Pierce said, is that the Springer presented not only the first two “Tuna” productions but also debuted Howard’s “The Tempest Tossed” and “All the Way From Magnolia Springs” at the Springer.
“All of that work resulted in the Springer being the first American theater to be given national touring rights for ‘Greater Tuna’ and ‘A Tuna Christmas,’ ” Pierce said. “Howard is really part of the Springer family now. Ron and I have gotten to know the other ‘Tuna’ partners, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears, better as their newest show, ‘Tuna Does Vegas’ has been developed.”
Pierce said the top shows at the Springer in 2008 were “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Carousel,” “Doubt,” “Menopause the Musical” and “Why Baby Why.”
Across the street at the RiverCenter, Morris’ top shows were Anne Murray, the Cleveland Orchestra, “The Pajama Game,” Mannheim Steamroller and the third annual Winterfest.
“The Cleveland Orchestra, arguably one of the top five orchestras in the world, performed right her at the River-Center, and the performance was recorded by Georgia Public Radio and has been broadcast all over Georgia for the benefit of all the citizens of our state,” Morris said. “And it all began here at the RiverCenter.”Columbus Museum
Tom Butler, director of the Columbus Museum, said one of the top things to happen at the museum was the acquisition of the Claire and Joseph Flom Collection of American Drawings.
“This acquisition included 105 American drawings, added great strength to an already strong collection of drawings and further expands the museum’s reputation for its drawing collection,” Butler said.
Other important events were the exhibits of “Painters of American Life: The Eight,” which included works by Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn and John Sloan; “The Objects of Our Desires: Collectors and Collections in the Chattahoochee Valley;” “The 2008 Columbus Biennial,” featuring works of artists of the Southeast; “Now and Then: A Photographer’s Response to Images of Columbus’ Past;” and “The Right Chemistry: Colors in Fashion, 1704-1918.”
The museum also transferred the Singer-Moye Indian Mounds to the University of Georgia. The Columbus Museum had been the caretakers of the site for more than 40 years.
Butler also noted that Kristen Miller Zohn, the curator of collections, was named president of the Southeastern Museums Conference.Symphony
Columbus Symphony Orchestra executive director JJ Musgrove said his top events were pretty much orchestrarelated. He said hosting 3,000 third- through fifth-grade students for the annual Young People’s Concerts was amazing. The Celtic group, Cherish the Ladies, performed for an appreciative audience during the annual Christmas concert two weeks ago.
Last January, there was a successful fundraiser, “The Overture of Events,” which featured an auction of fine wine and trips, as well as a first look at the Columbus Symphony Volunteer Association’s Noteworty Party series.
Musgrove also welcomed Schwob School graduate Whitney Millican as operations director.