Artists Repertory Theatre (ART) has made the difficult but necessary decision to suspend production of our 2023-24 season as planned.
This news comes as we were set to begin rehearsals for Pueblo Revolt by Dillon Christopher Chitto, which was to be mounted at both the University of Portland and the Center for Native Arts and Cultures.
Funding for the arts sector has been challenging in general, and crucial funding has not materialized for ART specifically. Most notably, House Bill 2459* was not passed by the Oregon Legislature and resulted in $250,000 not being awarded to us as part of the proposed recovery funding for the arts and cultural sector. The bill would have appropriated monies to cultural organizations in response to the negative impact of the pandemic on organizational finances.
This shortfall leaves us with insufficient cash on hand to cover critical operating expenses, necessitating immediate reduction of expenses and redirecting staff resources to operational planning and revenue generation.
The timing of this suspension is particularly difficult, as pre-production work for Pueblo Revolt had begun, and we were greatly looking forward to hosting playwright Dillon Christopher Chitto for collaboration during rehearsals. ART deeply regrets that we have been forced to suspend the production of a new play by a Native playwright, with Native actors and a culturally diverse creative team with short notice. We acknowledge the impact this decision has on Dillon, the production team, and the venue partners we were excited to work with.
All of us at Artists Repertory Theatre are actively working to address the stunning reality of this moment. Incoming Managing Director Aiyana Cunningham, and Artistic Director Jeanette Harrison are evaluating all of our options for a path forward, including the potential to present work later in the planned season. With our leadership, ART will methodically assess the multiple factors that converged to create this crisis, and the strategic options for achieving our immediate and long term goals for a sustainable future.
The decision to suspend our season comes as the aftermath of the global pandemic continues to impact regional theaters across the country. ART, like many of our peers, has encountered several challenges, including escalating operational costs, decline in ticket sales, and reduced staffing capacity. Acknowledging these realities, Pancho Savery, ART’s Board Chair, emphasizes, “The ongoing national crisis among regional theatres has presented us with significant obstacles that require careful consideration and action. To navigate these challenges successfully, we believe it is crucial to take this strategic pause in order to focus on key areas that will shape the future of ART and ensure its sustainability.”
We’ll be sharing our progress in addressing this situation as frequently as we are able to. For now, we thank you for your continued support of the 40+ years that our company has been a home for artists and audiences.
In deepest regret and gratitude,
Aiyana and Jeanette
*House Bill 2459 appropriates moneys to Oregon Business Development Department to distribute to Oregon cultural organizations in response to the negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic on organization finances. The proposed bill would have awarded approximately half of the proposed $50 million to arts venues directly and, using the same model under the CARES act, the other half would have been given to funding organizations such as the Oregon Arts Commission that would have then distributed those funds. ART would have been one of the recipients of the funding from the Oregon Arts Commission.
ART received $684,000 through state allocated CARES and ARPA combined. The funding for both were grants that had been distributed through local county coalitions. Funding for CARES money was distributed by OAC. Funding for ARPA was distributed through Business Oregon. Under that model we would have expected to receive funds from the passing of HB 2459 similar to what we had under the CARES and ARPA.
Under Section 3.C.2 The Oregon Business Development Department shall use $27,432,004.49 of the moneys appropriated under section 1 of this 2023 Act to develop and implement a program for awarding grants directly to Oregon cultural organizations.