Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Editorial, gazette, 9/6/09-get a person with knowledge of the ARTS to run SPAC, what a good idea!!

Editorial: Another, better, season for Saratoga
Sunday, September 6, 2009

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When Rachel Alexandra and the other horses get into their trailers and leave Monday, Saratoga will have completed its usual summer trifecta: ballet, orchestra, racing. Though all could have done better, they did well enough considering the economy and the rain. That’s good news for the region, and particularly those who value the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra and worry about their future at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Average attendance at the ballet was up, a marked contrast to previous years when it dropped. But the increase was likely because SPAC management and the ballet, in a move designed to save $800,000, cut the season from three weeks to two. That created, in effect, a shortage of supply and an increase in demand. But at least the people came. If they continue to come with a three-week season, which should be tried again soon (if not next year, the one after that), then the audience for ballet will have stabilized and even grown.

Numbers for the orchestra were similarly encouraging. Attendance was up 14 percent over 2008, but 2008 was a terrible year. A better gauge is to compare 2009 with 2007, and then attendance was still down 2 percent. Not great, but with the 2009 increases, definitely headed in the right direction.

The next question after attendance, and not unrelated to it, is who is going to lead SPAC in the future? This is the last year of a five-year contract for Executive Director Marcia White, a former Joe Bruno aide who had no professional experience in the arts before being given the SPAC position after Herb Chesbrough was forced out in 2004.

We have nothing against White, and can’t say she has done a bad job. But we can say her salary of $245,000 (the last reported figure) is too high, especially for her qualifications. With that kind of money, and probably less (considering the attractiveness and prestige of SPAC), an arts leader with national stature, or the creativity of Proctors’ Philip Morris, might be brought in, which could improve programming, marketing and fund raising. SPAC’s board should at least see what’s out there before committing to White again.


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