With the Scottsdale economy and its tourism industry in their strongest positions since the last recession, why the Scottsdale Cultural Council is contemplating layoffs is more than a little mystifying.
The council is a quasi-public body that governs the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the city’s public art program. The council’s board of trustees agreed to postpone until April 25 its decision on layoffs that was expected to have been made last Tuesday.
As trustee Mike West put it to reporter Lindsay Butler in Wednesday’s Tribune, in order to attract the additional donors and sponsors it needs, the council has to fix its budget “to create the perception that we know what we’re doing.”
We wonder if that is a perception best created by laying off the people who put on the programs and support the performances that primarily give an arts venue its reputation.
Central to the financial problems the Cultural Council is experiencing is its 31-year-old performing arts center, whose Virginia G. Piper Theater’s seating capacity of about 800 was designed for the Scottsdale of 1975.
Not only is it too small to book some of the acts that would be ordinarily eager to play to a Scottsdale audience, the theater lacks the “bells and whistles” that newer or remodeled competing venues have. And there are more competing venues in the Valley than there were 31 years ago.
Unfortunately, planned renovations to the Scottsdale center originally scheduled for this year have been delayed until 2007.
Soliciting donations is no easy task, but it has been puzzling that both the Cultural Council and some other worthy arts organizations such as the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation at Taliesin West have in recent times been unable to reach fundraising levels that could be reasonably expected in the north East Valley.
Certainly in cities with such enviable household incomes such as Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Carefree and Fountain Hills there is sufficient personal wealth for donation or sponsorship purposes.
We aren’t fundraising professionals, but it stands to reason that such well-heeled people aren’t going to be persuaded to drop large amounts of money on any organization that is trying to look like one of accomplishment while laying off its staff. The Cultural Council trustees need to think harder and assess the local arts and philanthropic landscape better in order to meet its financial challenges.