The new contract manager for the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts will start his job next week with a looming deadline of less than two months to get the fall season’s acts signed plus a nearly half-million dollar projected budget deficit.
The budget draft going before the Bloomington City Council on Monday projects almost a $500,000 operations deficit but City Manager David Hales said he hopes former VenuWorks Executive Carl St. Clair, with his 50 years of venue management, can help improve operations and determine, for example, whether to fill three vacant positions on the BCPA staff.
"Do all those positions need to be filled? Is there something Mr. St. Clair can recommend even in this upcoming budget to reduce that projected deficit?," Hales wondered.
Hales said he is concerned about how the deficit has grown in recent years. However, he said the city is committed to keep vibrant arts center programming.
"We want to see how to reverse that [operating deficit], what do we do about those vacant positions but also make sure that it [the BCPA] continues to be just a great opportunity for the arts and for events in that building," said Hales.
No Acts Booked for Fall
Hales said he is also concerned there are no signed acts yet for the fall season. However, he added Tina Salmone had been working to secure performers before her sudden death last month.
"It does appear Tina was working on several acts. Me, as city manager, I haven't signed any of those artist agreements that I can recall," said Hales.
But Hales expressed optimism the season schedule will be strong.
"This is a case where VenuWorks personnel can be extremely helpful on the interim basis," said Hales.
The City Manager pointed out VenuWorks can coordinate acts playing in the Midwest and capitalize on an existing tour schedule to squeeze in Bloomington, IL appearances.
"That's what they do now with the Coliseum. They constantly look at, as they book shows, how they include the Coliseum in that and so the same thing can happen with the BCPA," he suggested.
For example, VenuWorks also owns The Rialto Theater in Joliet, a venue that would attract similar acts as the performing arts center in Bloomington.
The four-month management contract with St. Clair and VenuWorks could be extended but Hales said St. Clair has indicated he does not want the job permanently. Asked whether now would be a good time to shift management to VenuWorks or an outside company, with three vacancies and no permanent director, Hales was uncommitted.
"It all depends. We don't know what we're going to find with recruiting when he look for a full-time BCPA manager position," said Hales.
As city manager, Hales has had to hire two other BCPA directors.
"It is tough sometimes to find the right person so once we get past the first two or three months and look to the future we'll just have to see what opportunities or what other problems we might have in trying to come up with that long term solution for management of cultural arts activities," said Hales.
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