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Randy Stewart talks to local arts administrators about their "wish lists" this year, both practical things and "pie-in-the-sky."
RANDY: Springfield Art Museum Executive Director Jerry Berger came prepared with an extensive list of wants and needs for our holiday wish-list:
JERRY BERGER: Our primary wish-list item involves the new wing that we've got planned for the Museum, that will be put out for bid this spring. So we still have a couple of naming possibilities available, one for the wing itself, and one for one gallery.
RANDY: What kind of investment are we talking about for getting one's name onto either the new wing or a gallery?
JERRY: For $1 million the wing would be named after a donor, and for $300,000, a gallery. And we have had some galleries (named); the Library has already been taken in terms of naming, a couple of the galleries. So we're pleased about that. And we do have a new entrance hall which, if anyone really wanted to have entrance hall, a very nice facility, that could be named after them!
--In the new wing we have a new library, and so shelving for the library and furniture for the new library would be great.
--Special display cases to display small objects and three-dimensional works of art.
--A new flagpole for the front of the building.
--Landscaping for the new entrance.
--Bicycle racks for those who bicycle to the Museum.
RANDY: Are there not bicycle racks now?
JERRY: There is one bicycle rack, and it has been the victim of a car confrontation, I suspect. We've also got some trees that are going to be relocated as a result of the construction process, and we'd be happy to have someone pay for those to be relocated, or to provide new trees.
RANDY: Are these things budgeted for already and you would simply like to have money donated for them, or can they not be done UNLESS money is donated?
JERRY: Some of the things will have to wait. We have not opened the bids, obviously, for the new wing, and with rising costs of materials we have no idea what to expect. But as each day and week goes by, things seem to escalate in price, and so a lot of these things will be contingent upon funds available.
--We also have several outdoor sculptures that need to be relocated as a result of the construction, and providing new concrete bases for them.
--New shop equipment for the framing of artworks is needed--that's currently not budgeted.
--We'd like to be able to acquire several bistro tables to use for our receptions.
--And we've been very fortunate this past year to have the sponsorship of two major exhibitions: the Andy Warhol Athletes exhibit was completely sponsored by Richard Weisman; and "Visions of Victory: A Century of Sports Photography" was underwritten and completely paid for by the Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company. And we'd be very happy to discuss future sponsorship with interested parties.
--And of course, then there's artworks... we always like to add artworks. And we got a list of the "usual suspects": Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry, being regionalists, are of interest to us. Also paintings by George Bellows, large watercolors by Walton Ford, et cetera.
--Books and DVDs about art and artists are always welcome for the library collection if we don't already have them.
--And we welcome scholarships for children to attend our studio art classes. These are things that would be extra amenities, and things we'd like to have to serve the public.
RANDY: Maestro Ron Spigelman from the Springfield Symphony wishes for the funds it would take to allow for more collaborations between performing groups, as with this year's "Nutcracker."
RON SPIGELMAN: You know, I'm one of these people that believes that you should always want what you have rather than have what you want. We're so blessed with everything that we've got already: a community that seems to be energized by us and vice versa, and that we're engaging in economic development and cultural enrichment, education, helping with child poverty... all these different programs that I believe an orchestra needs to be involved in to show that they're there for the benefit of the community, rather than the other way around. But... there's ALWAYS things that you could do with!
RANDY: Absolutely Of course, you're going to be moving into the Creamery soon.
RON: Right. And of course, we have a capital campaign that we need to raise, probably, about $200,000 to make that happen.
--But you know, more importantly, I think programming is the thing I'm interested in trying to promote. I think it's terrible that we don't do grand opera and grand ballet in Juanita K. Hammons Hall. It's frightfully expensive to do that--I estimate it costs about $55,000 if you want to do an opera right in there, with orchestra, costumes, sets. So you probably need about $110,000 to do a full ballet production and a full opera production in the Hall. But the way I look at it is this way: I say instead of trying to raise $110,000, I'd love to raise $2.2 million, so that we can have an endowment that provides money to be able to underwrite a production a year in that hall, and so that Springfield can truly get grand opera, grand ballet, in the style that this city deserves. And I think that if you want to recruit the best doctors, the best surgeons, you need the best arts. That's the most important thing, is that we all work together as artistic organizations to be able to provide this city with what it deserves, and that is great arts and great opportunities for cultural enrichment. That's really my wish--that we could find a way that every year the Opera, the Ballet and the Symphony collaborate on major productions.
RANDY: And that you have the money to do that specifically.
RON: Absolutely. So my estimate is it's going to cost about $110,000 a year to make that happen, but I think it's worth it.
--And alternatively, I also want to be able to perform in Branson and in Joplin and in Bolivar and in Lebanon every year.
RANDY: And again, these things cost.
RON: These things cost, but that one's not so big, if you think about it. We would need about $13,000 a year to be able to perform in each of those communities, so if you want to times that by four, about $52,000 a year and you could actually perform a concert in each of those communities. And why is that important? Because we perform there, then we bring people who want to come and hear us here. I mean, it goes hand in hand.
--And for us to do more work in the schools with our small ensembles. We do about 20 school visits a year--I would like to make that 40.
Music touches people's lives. My skill is to play and to conduct; my job is to touch peoples' lives with music. And that's my ultimate Christmas wish: that we can continue to do that for the community.
RANDY: Springfield Ballet Artistic Director Marsha Warnke would also like to do more collaborations--and she needs more space for her dancers and costumes.
MARSHA WARNKE: In addition to just wanting to be able to put on more productions with a greater budget--like to have the Symphony play with us again--I think one of our priorities is that we would really like to work on an endowment fund that would enable us to have the Symphony with us EVERY year for "The Nutcracker," and perhaps in the future have them also at our other performances. We don't want to wait another 15 or 20 years to get to have live music again!
RANDY: As a separate fund, in other words, just for this.
MARSHA: Correct. That money would be exclusively devoted to that collaborative project between Symphony and Ballet.
RANDY: How much do you think it would take?
MARSHA: We've been told that if we had an endowment that was around a million dollars, and just the build-up of the endowment, that would guarantee for several years that we would be able to do "The Nutcracker" together every year.
RANDY: Okay, what else is on your list?
MARSHA: Space! We always need space. Even though we just moved into the Creamery about a year and a half ago, we have three very nice studios there, only one of which is particularly large. And I'm not sure that people know how much space dancers need in order to do what they do. When we get in a theater--at Landers, for example--the stage dimensions are about 45 feet by 30-something, and that's a nice size stage. It's about as small as we want to go. And we need to replicate that in rehearsal so that we can transfer things over to the theater.
RANDY: And of course, there are plans to keep on expanding and building additions to the Creamery.
MARSHA: Yes, and ideally--
RANDY: So you'd like this to be part of that.
MARSHA: I would LOVE to have three stage-size studios, as opposed to two small ones and one stage size. That would help us in a lot of things, and even in technique class when you're traveling across the floor. I compare it to trying to get your car up to 60 MPH while you're still in the garage with the door down! (Randy laughs) You might get it there, but it's not gonna go very far.
RANDY: And it won't be pretty either!
MARSHA: No it won't!
RANDY: So what else is on your list?
MARSHA: We do need storage facilities. Again, we have been very fortunate at the Creamery that we have more than we've had in a long time. But now that we have access to a costume shop and a set-design shop, we're very quickly finding out that it takes also a lot of storage space to store--especially with ballet costumes, with tutus, they have to be stored a certain way to keep the longevity, and it's not necessarily a space-conservation issue.
RANDY: Right. Anything that would be more immediate, like office equipment or something?
MARSHA: We always need computers. We desperately need good computers! The ones that we have now were donated to us, and we've had them for several years, and you can TELL that we've had them that long! (laughs) So those are things we can always use. Volunteers we can always use, to help us with projects.
RANDY: Jane Munson-Berg, the new Artistic Director of Springfield Regional Opera, feels compelled to think "big."
JANE MUNSON-BERG: Yes, I'm thinking big-scale--opera is always big-scale! The first thing I had wondered about: at the moment we have a very small office at the Creamery, for which we're very grateful. But we're already busting out of that room.
RANDY: Of course you know they will be eventually--when the Arts Council gets enough money, I think they're needing about $2 million to add on to the back of the building--
RANDY: And that would make for more space for everyone.
JANE: Right. So I was thinking of an expanded office space, rehearsal space, practice-room space...
RANDY: You don't have rehearsal space, really, to speak of.
JANE: We don't, we don't--this is an ongoing problem. The new costume area and set-fabrication shop at the Creamery are huge advantages for us. We haven't quite plugged in yet, but we're about to, and thrilled about it. Space is a problem, though: storage space for sets, and office space within just to work. We don't really have any way to bring in our Guild and volunteers who want to help us stuff envelopes or do a calling campaign, that kind of thing. We're a bit limited.
RANDY: You're too cramped for space.
JANE: We are REALLY cramped for space! At the moment, in the office that we occupy, there's really only room for Darle Dennison, our Executive Secretary, and one assistant, and the room feels crowded. But that was really "long-term," because we're not talking about office space at the Opera at the moment. That's so far in the future for us.
Right now we're focused on next season--our productions and how to fund those productions. So when I went to bed last night my thought was, well, I should ask for underwriting for "A Little Night Music" and for "Madame Butterfly."
RANDY: How much money are you looking for?
JANE: We would love to have $30,000 for each production. We're doing "Madame Butterfly in October of 2007 at the Gillioz, and "A Little Night Music" several months later, January '08, at the Gillioz. And of course both have their particular requirements, but we need underwriting to the tune of $30,000 for each show. This is just the reality of operatic production.
RANDY: It's expensive.
JANE: It is, because you have to pay qualified performers; you have to pay the orchestra; you have to put something on the stage, an environment for the performers.
RANDY: Right--set design and construction; costume design and construction--
RANDY: --and theater rental.
JANE: Marketing. Someone contacted me from the press earlier this week, and I said, "What do you think a production would cost?" And he threw out the nice round figure of $10,000... that wouldn't even pay the orchestra for one performance! So you can see that the costs mount up very quickly. Nobody's gonna retire on this! (Randy laughs) But it is certainly a value-added investment in the community. And I think opera, along with symphony, is one of the benchmark criteria for any community and its health and growth and longevity.
If you can help out with any of these wish-list items, contact the Springfield Regional Arts Council at 862-2787 (www.springfieldarts.org), or any of the arts organizations directly:
An Arts Patronage Initiative: 865-0450; email artspatronage [at] springfieldarts [dot] org (no website)
Springfield Little Theatre: 869-3869; www.landerstheatre.org
Springfield Art Museum: 837-5700; www.ci.springfield.mo.us/egov/art/index.html#schedule
Springfield Symphony: 864-6683; www.springfieldmosymphony.org
Springfield Ballet: 862-1343; www.springfieldballet.org (website currently under reconstruction)
Springfield Regional Opera: 863-1960; www.sropera.com