Indy arts organizations get creative to make ends meet during pandemic


INDIANAPOLIS – With no shows and no revenue, the local arts community has been forced to make tough decisions.

As they face an uncertain future, the art scene is attempting to do what they do best to make it through the pandemic — be creative.

Footlite Musicals haven’t been able to perform on the historic Hedback Theater stage since mid-March.

“We’ve lost four shows so far and our kids camp, with 60 kids,” said Keith Matters, the board president of Footlite Musicals Inc.

Tens of thousands of dollars are on the line for the organization. Matter’s is worried that if they’re not able to come up with $30,000 by September, they’re at risk of losing everything.

Due to the cancellation of our summer shows, Footlite has no revenue coming in from mid-March through September. Unfortunately, we still have expenses to pay. Despite cutting back as much as we can on cleaning, utilities, insurance, etc., we still have costs of roughly $6,000 per month to pay. Right now, our cash reserves will be completely depleted before we get to the new opening of Mamma Mia! on September 18.

Keith Matters, President, Board of Directors
Footlite Musicals, Inc.

Ursula Kuhar is a professor with the arts administration program at Indiana University. She says for theater and art nonprofits, donations make up roughly half of their revenue.

“And the rest of that is usually made up by ticket sales, so you’re looking at anywhere in between 40 and 60 percent in ticket sales in earned income for arts organizations, and that’s at a standstill,” said Kuhar. “I think we’re seeing people go into shock, panic and trauma mode.”

That’s what’s concerning for Kuhar, the reality of millions of dollars lost for organizations that have been around for decades.

“A lot of arts organizations in this country are small and mid-sized, meaning their budgets are less than 1 to 5 million dollars. They are the ones that I believe are possibility going to be hurt the most because they already lack so many resources without a global pandemic occurring,” Kuhar added.

Even larger organizations like the Indianapolis Art Center are doing what they can to make ends meet.

“It’s been a challenge to say the least,” said Patrick Flaherty, the president of the center.

As their building remains closed for now, several kid camps and art programs have moved online.

“We had to lay off a large part of our staff, our teaching artists, over half of our admin staff, so we’re down to a core, skeleton crew right now,” said Flaherty.

One of their largest fundraisers, the Broad Ripple Art Fair was postponed for its 50th year. They’re working to produce a virtual art fair experience for later this summer. It’s a move Flaherty didn’t want to make but had to.

“The greater arts community, even across the state of Indiana, is already banding together,” said Flaherty. “We’re all in this together, and that is a really reassuring and positive side of this.”

“We’re all trying to make it,” Matters added.

If you would like to help Footlite Musicals Inc. raise money to keep their doors open, can click here to visit their website.

To learn more about what the Indianapolis Art Center is doing during the pandemic, click here.

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