Park City Institute seeks donations as impacts of COVID continue
Although the summer hasn’t been filled with Park City Institute’s Big Stars, Bright Nights summer concert series, Executive Director Ari Ioannides and his staff have kept busy.
“We can’t just shut down, because if there is a chance for a concert to happen, we need to book these artists in advance,” Ioannides said. “Let’s say we will be able to open the Eccles Center theater on March 1. That means we need to book that act in September.”
Booking acts for upcoming performances that may or may not happen is one of the perils of the performing-arts community right now, and Ioannides is seeking donations to help keep the Park City Institute in working order.
“What we’re asking from people is a little bit of expanding support,” he said.
Donations can be made by visiting parkcityinstitute.org.
“Any donation, from as little as $20 made through the end of the year, will be matched by one of our generous donors,” Ioannides said. “Even if 250 people donated $20, they would sustain us through March when we can start selling tickets and getting sponsors.”
Before COVID-19 shuttered Park City Institute, the nonprofit would provide incentives for donations.
“Donors’ names would appear as a sponsor, or they would get tickets or priority seating to see events or get access to post-show after-parties,” Ioannides said. “Right now, when we cannot put on shows, we don’t have something for someone to sponsor and we can’t acknowledge your donations other than thanking you online or sending a letter. So it’s very difficult to motivate donors to support us.”
Park City Institute isn’t the only performing arts nonprofit that is struggling to stay alive.
The Egyptian Theatre furloughed all of its employees and temporarily shut its doors. Mountain Town Music, which usually presents more than 300 free summer concerts, began hosting door-to-door shows where bands would perform in neighborhoods on the back of a flatbed truck, and Park City Film began screening films online and hosting weekend drive-in films at the Utah Olympic Park.
None of these solutions are sustainable in the long run, according to Ioannides.
“I think it’s important that people know that without a little bit of funding, there is a chance that one or more of these organizations won’t make it through COVID,” he said.
Ioannides is doing all he can to keep the institute’s overhead down to conserve resources.
“We cut our monthly operating expenses by 94%” he said. “We did everything from canceling our water cooler to sending back our copier lease. Even our power bill is 30% from what it used to be because we turned down our thermostat, and we only have one salaried employee out of the 15 who work for us.”
These cuts were also made in an attempt to lessen the impact of artists’ requirements as outlined in their contracts, Ioannides said.
Entertainment contracts include riders, which are lists of specific items such as types of food, drinks, hotel rooms and other requests that the artists ask that must be supplied by the production company or hosting venue, according to Ioannides.
In addition to that, the artists will specify the types of lights, sound system and communication system they need so they can rehearse and perform, he said.
“Usually in the past, the production companies would accept those riders, which can cost us upwards of $50,000 or more on top of what we have to pay the artists,” Ioannides said.
Since March, Park City Institute changed the contracts, so it wouldn’t have to provide everything the artists requested, he said.
“If the artists don’t agree to those things, then we have to say, ‘No, thanks,’” Ioannides said.
In addition Park City Institute changed the terms regarding the artists’ down payment for playing. A down payment is typically guaranteed to the artists and not refundable to the production company or organization, whether or not the show happens, according to Ioannides.
“So we’ve rewritten in the contract to say we won’t pay the down payment until 30 days prior to the show,” he said. “We also say that we can cancel the event up to 30 days before it is scheduled for reasons that include the pandemic or that the school district won’t allow us to use the theater. And we’ve found the artists have been OK with that.”
The changes came a little too late for a handful of performances Park City Institute canceled at the end of its last Main Stage season this spring, Ioannides said.
“We won’t be able to get a return on those shows until we bring those artists back,” he said. “We will bring them back, but it’s a matter of when. Everyone is ready to see shows, but we just can’t do it right now.”
Although Park City Institute canceled its summer season, if something would have changed at the last minute, the contracted artists would have performed. Ioannides said.
“If we had found another venue for Black Violin to play, they would have come,” he said. “The same thing with Gretchen Wilson. She would have come to perform. We did work hard to try and find places, but just couldn’t find them.”
To date, Ioannides and Park City Institute artists liaison Jenny Knaak have already planned the upcoming winter and spring Main Stage season and some of next year’s summer season, he said.
“We have to keep booking shows just in case there will be a time that we can present them,” Ioannides said.
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