Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts lowers ticket prices |

Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts lowers ticket prices

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts has recently come under fire for charging more for its public events and other activities than some parents feel is justifiable.

Those claims were laid out in two recent letters to the editor about the arts center written by locals Suzanne Horwich and G.C. Snider.

“We try to run everything as lean as we can,” said arts center director Gayle Mortell. The center still strives to provide a broad range of arts-oriented classes and events for all ages.

The Center for the Arts, at 601 Sixth St., occupies the city’s old hydroelectric plant, just west of the Yampah Hot Springs Vapor Caves. It’s a nonprofit organization that receives a $50,000-a-year subsidy from the city government.

Snider’s letter of March 26 questioned the fiscal justification for public support of the Arts Center. Horwich’s letter of March 19 objected to paying $16 for tickets to Dancers Dancing, the center’s main annual fundraising production with performances April 20-21.

Horwich’s 4-year-old daughter is performing in Dancers Dancing, after taking classes that cost Horwich $61 per month in tuition. Horwich believed she should at least get a discount, if not free admission.

Mortell and the arts center’s assistant director, Christina Brusig, said the situation with Horwich had been a “mixup” that has since been resolved.

The arts center cut admission prices to the 2012 Dancers Dancing show from the $16 charged in 2011 for advance adult tickets to $12 for advance-sale tickets this year.

“It’s not a recital. It’s a full-on production,” Mortell said. This year, the show is expected to cost the arts center $6,500 beyond revenues, according to the organization’s budget.

“We’re biting the bullet. We listen to our customers,” Mortell added.

“I was thrilled to hear they had reduced the prices, which I applaud and appreciate,” said Horwich in a follow-up telephone interview. “I’m glad I wrote the letter. I’m thrilled the arts center listened. I support them 100 percent, and my daughter loves her classes.”

She suggested the arts center clearly inform parents when they sign their children up for dance classes that the kids will perform in the annual fundraising event and that parents are expected to pay for their tickets.

“I understand that they have to cover costs, and that they want it to be a professional production,” Horwich added.

As the arts center director, Mortell is a city employee.

The city’s funding for the center comes from a 0.5 percent, dedicated sales tax. Authorized by voters in 1998, the tax provides $50,000 a year in support for the Center for the Arts and for the Frontier Historical Museum.

The arts center’s 2012 budget is about $320,000, down from $360,000 in 2011. The city’s $50,000 subsidy covers Mortell’s $45,000 salary and other expenses.

Roughly 60 percent of the total budget, about $192,000 this year, is earned income from fees for classes, gift shop and gallery sales, and the proceeds from fundraising events.

The remaining $78,000, Mortell said, comes as grants from foundations and public support of fundraising activities.

The arts center budget includes the salaries of three full-time employees and two part-timers, wages for 14 to 17 specialty course instructors, maintenance and utility payments for the building, and other expenses that may arise.

Currently the school has 443 students in classes such as dance, pottery, visual arts and music. It’s a big drop from the 678 enrolled in 2011.

“We’ve been adjusting our schedule, adjusting our fees, to try to make it more affordable,” said Brusig. The goal is to bring in more students.

About 200 of the current roster of students are in the dance program, which is attracting students ages 3 to 80.

Over the center’s 30-year life, some of those dance students have gone on to professional careers and national recognition.

Brusig mentioned Bailey Barnum, 11, of Rifle, an arts center student who recently won a scholarship to perform on MTV as part of the Jump Dance Connection in New York City.

The arts center puts on as many as eight art shows every year. Most are open shows instead of being juried by a panel of art experts. Some 600 local artists exhibit in the center’s gallery every year, Mortell said.

Access to programs is key to the arts center’s viability, Mortell said.

“We try to make everything as affordable as possible,” she said.

The arts center allows for payment plans for those with meager resources, awarded 48 scholarships on 2011, and currently has a number of volunteers who trade their work for free classes, Mortell said.

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