More than a third of the Mesa Arts Center’s fall classes have been canceled because of low enrollment, a trend arts supporters link to the latest price increases.
Thursday, the supporters asked the City Council to return fees to the summer session rates and eliminate the extra charge on non-Mesa residents, who make up about 40 percent of the students. The council raised the rates as part of an ongoing effort to shave city costs.
But supporters say it has actually cost the city by slowing the new center’s momentum.
"The Mesa Arts Center is a $100 million investment and it would be terrible to cut it off at the knees during our first year," said Brian Allen, a member of the Mesa Arts Center Foundation, which raises private money for the downtown center at Main and Center streets.
Councilman Mike Whalen said he now thinks the council moved too fast on the price increases. But many council members withheld judgment until seeing more data. Councilman Tom Rawles called subsidizing the classes a "frivolous expenditure of taxpayer funds."
Arts center director Gerry Fathauer said Mesa’s fees are no longer competitive and many longtime students have gone elsewhere.
The council is scheduled Monday to revisit the issue and possibly set the winter session fees.
• In June, the council voted to raise the fall visual arts adult class prices 26 percent for Mesa residents and 69 percent for nonresidents. The fees went to $177 from $140 for residents and to $236 for nonresidents. Visual arts classes include painting, photography and sculpting. For performing arts classes, fees were raised 10 percent for city residents, to $74 from $67, and 48 percent for nonresidents, to $99. These classes feature music, drama and dance.
• The council approved 25 percent increases for the 2005 summer session, the first held at the new arts center. It did not include extra charges for nonresidents. Fifteen percent of summer classes were canceled because of low enrollment.
Fathauer said historically the 13-week fall classes have about a 20 percent higher enrollment than the summer, which would have been about 1,050 students.
Art center enrollment
Number of people registered for the fall session
Number of classes offered
Or 35 percent were canceled due to lack of interest
Registered for the 8-week summer session