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ISO drops popular park concerts

March 6, 2009
Turning over the blog for this item to reporters Kathleen McLaughlin and Scott Olson:

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is bowing out of the free summer concert series at Garfield and Holliday parks.

Symphony CEO Simon Crookall said he decided last fall, after the city of Indianapolis reduced its arts funding by $500,000, or one-third, that the summer concerts would have to go.

“Unfortunately, you cut the things that aren’t producing any revenue,” Crookall said. He estimated that one outdoor concert with a rehearsal costs $60,000. “For this year we have ruled them out, but for the future, they’re very important concerts,” Crookall said. “We will look to reinstate them somehow.”

IndyParks officials recently learned of the change and said they will try to fill the ISO’s slot with other classical or jazz groups.The professional orchestra concerts have drawn big crowds in the past. Last year each of the ISO concerts, held on weeknights in July, drew at least 2,000 people, Art Services Manager Paul Norman said. The long-running concerts have drawn crowds as large as 4,000 in past years, he said.

The professional orchestra will continue to perform at Ellenberger Park on the east side because that concert series is sponsored by Community Health Network. The ISO will appear on July 21 at 7:30 p.m.

Arts managers don’t know yet exactly how much money they will lose because of the city’s budget cuts. The city money supports grants from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, which announces its awards in May. After the city cut its arts budget, Crookall said the ISO figured that would mean $50,000 to $80,000 less in the 2009 Arts Council grant.Last year, the ISO received $251,000 from the Arts Council. Crookall said the money was not earmarked for specific programs, but instead went into the general fund. While the grant application is for general support, Crookall said it is justified by the symphony’s free concerts and other outreach.

There might be even less taxpayer support for outreach next year. The Arts Council stands to lose $130,000, or 13 percent of its $1 million grant from the Capital Improvement Board. (The CIB uses food and beverage, hotel and other consumption taxes to support sports venues.)

The debt-burdened CIB’s finance committee this week recommended a $442,000, or 13 percent, cut in grant funding.The CIB would trim its local tourism grant by $260,000; a grant to the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership by $32,500; and another to the Indiana Black Expo by $19,500. -- Kathleen McLaughlin and Scott Olson
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