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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fiscal woes hit the Horizon

In this economy (can we officially coin that shit as the played-out catch phrase of the decade?) it's sadly not shocking to hear that another arts organization is mired in financial difficulty. But this time, it's an slightly unlikely victim - Little 5 Points pillars Horizon Theatre Company. Traditionally a fiscally sound business, the group announced on May 24 the launch of a new campaign dubbed "I Heart Horizon". The goal is to raise the $90,000 the theater is missing from their budget this year - and they only have one month to do so.

horizon_theater
Since 1983, the theater has been under the direction of Co-Artistic Directors and Founders Lisa and Jeff Adler. In those 26 seasons, the Horizon has filled their 175-seat piece of Little 5 Points for 5 productions every season, many of which are perpetually gathering critical kudos. The theater itself has been pegged as "Best Theater Company" by Creative Loafing several times.

Part of the pride of Horizon's history is the fact that they've managed to exist without debt since the beginning.

"We have never carried a deficit, so we're debt free," says Horizon Theatre development manager Jamina Cole. "It was the perfect storm of things when the economy fell: this wasn't the first year that the Georgia Council for the Arts has had their budget cut, and corporate sponsors have had to pull funding. We've also had a loss in ticket revenue because people are just finding it more difficult to go out these days. We're putting out this plea [for donations to help bridge the $90,000 budget gap] so we don't start carrying a deficit - we don't want to see this problem get worse."

With the slash-and-burn policy towards arts funding that has become increasingly prevalent across the country, creative organizations are starting to question how much non-artists weigh the cultural value of sustaining these places; are theaters, galleries, and artists non-essential fluff, or are they the sources of the artistic vestiges by which our society be will be judged in the future? Why is it that we exalt the great artistic achievements of past civilizations, and mark that art as a significant contribution to history, while at the same time showing less and less interest in preserving our own civilization's ability to create?

On the other hand, maybe we're all getting too knee-jerk, culturally existential, "our government hates the arts!" about these fiscal issues. Perhaps lawmakers aren't especially picking on the artists when they make budget cuts (it does kinda seem like it though.) Times are tough and everyone is feeling the pinch. Maybe the new decider which arts entities live or die comes down to survival of the cleverest - from potluck dinners to slumber parties, organizations across the arts spectrum are concocting new ways to get people and their wallets in the door. Which is awesome, actually. When businesses are desperate to attract patrons, they tend to think up events that are more unique and envelope-pushing than those conceived during times of economic comfort. And even if some of those events make you flash a quick WTF side-eye to the organizers, well, watching a hit-and-a-miss is almost as entertaining as a happening you're actually into.

Unfortunately, the Horizon Theatre is looking at much less light-hearted changes to come if they aren't able to fill their current deficit.

"If we don't raise this money, our reserves would be depleted. We would have to lay people off, including artists and technicians. If we have to make serious cut budgets to stay open...there are some hard decisions that would have to be made," says Cole.

Horizon Theatre is currently showing "True Love Lies" thru June 20. HorizonTheatre.com or call 404-523-1477 for scheduling and ticket information.

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