Nonprofit Newswire | Real Losses for Nonprofit Arts in N.J.

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February 7, 2010; The Star-Ledger | A review of dozens of financial records and interviews with arts officials by the Star-Ledger in New Jersey show the economic downturn was more devastating than anticipated for arts organizations there. Salary freezes and unpaid furloughs (among other measures) turned out not to be enough. Two years after the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra sold its collection of rare stringed instruments to clear its fiscal slate, for example, the organization has a $6.4 million deficit. The $20 million sale of the “Golden Age” collection was supposed to pay off the organization’s debts and provide the start of a much-needed endowment. In 2009 “ticket sales were down, donations plummeted, state funds were slashed and investments tanked, creating a state of continuous crisis for the state’s theaters, museums, orchestras and arts centers”, reports The Star-Ledger. Incredibly 2009 was an improvement over 2008. So even as the outlook may be improving, it has not been without costs. Besides the Symphony’s loss of the “Golden Age” collection, the directors of the Montclair Art Museum took the drastic step of cutting the staff workweek from five days to four to make its budget viable. And the museum’s endowment lost $1.5 million for the year, resulting in less interest income to support future programs. The Paper Mill theater will offer five productions and 20 weeks of performances, down from the six shows and 30 weeks it produced in 2008 and 2009. The theater’s director is hopeful that more people will make it to the theater in the coming year. He told the Star-Ledger, “I think people are tired of sitting home worrying.”—Aaron Lester