published Friday, September 13th, 2013

Chattanooga Theatre Centre facing closure, director warns

The executive director of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre took to the Internet and social media Thursday to warn supporters that unless $90,000 is raised by this fall, the theater likely will close.

The email blast message and theater Facebook post from George Quick reads in part: "Arts and Cultural organizations are in crisis. With the announcement of the closing of Atlanta's Theatre Under the Stars and the almost certain demise of the New York City Opera, I'm compelled to tell you that if we cannot raise at least $90,000 in donations this fall, (and more after that) your Chattanooga Theatre Centre could very well be facing the same difficult decisions."

The theater has a $250,000 line of credit it uses when "cash flow is tight and we are there, so we don't have any wiggle room on cash flow unless we bring in new revenue," he said.

There is no hard deadline or amount that has to be raised, but they are close.

"We feel like we have two stories to tell here," Quick wrote. "The first is that we have these wonderful productions and you should come and see them. The second is that ticket sales don't cover everything."

The theater, which is celebrating its 90th year, is facing a financial crisis in large part because of cuts in funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission, which has decreased its contributions to the theater by 25 percent, and a 47 percent reduction in funding from ArtsBuild (formerly Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga) since 2008.

Quick said ArtsBuild is its largest contributor and that the arts fundraising/advocate gave $112,000 to the CTC in 2012 and is giving $100,800 this year.

Dan Bowers, president of ArtsBuild said the economy has affected all arts organizations.

"It's been tough for all nonprofits for the last five years," he said. "It's requiring us and everybody to make adjustments. The bottom line is we invest in the theater center a significant amount of money and support it in many ways."

He says if the CTC does close its doors, it would be a big loss for the city and the arts community.

"Oh my. well, it would be a monstrous loss to Chattanooga. They are in their 90th year and they are a Chattanooga icon."

Sonia Young, a longtime theater center board member, says "It would be terrible to lose our proud cultural heritage in the arts," but she understands and worries about the current state of fundraising.

"We are all dipping out of the same small pot," she says.

Theater lovers are asked in the e-mail blast and online plea to make any donation, but that a $90 donation will get the donor a parking pass for shows that is good through August 2014.

"In order to bring you the shows that celebrate our past, present and future, we need more than subscription and single ticket sales (which make up only 42 percent of our annual income -- good by industry standards, but we still need more)," the online message reads.

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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