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“The number of new donors the last few months of 2008 significantly decreased,” says Dave Henson, spokesman for the Old Globe theater company. Although it will be difficult, he believes current donors will remain committed. Subscription sales are off 7 to 8 percent from last year. The current budget “reflects a series of budget cuts including some staff reductions.”

Joe Kobryner is vice president in San Diego of New York’s Nederlander Producing Company of America, a for-profit organization that puts on Broadway shows. Kobryner, obviously, does not have to worry about fund-raising. “Last year, season ticket sales were down, but this year they are up,” he says. Because of the economy, people can order as few as three shows in their package. “During recessionary times, people still look for entertainment and escapism.”

San Diego arts and cultural groups get gifts from the City, generated by the transient occupancy tax. The sums are not overwhelming, however: the opera gets $462,000 a year out of its total budget of more than $17 million. Back in 2002, local arts and cultural groups got $10.8 million from local government, including the commission’s administrative costs, according to Victoria Hamilton, executive director of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. Last year, the comparable number was $8 million. “The last few years, our budget has been flat,” she says. Statistics indicate that the tourist business is declining. Hotel-tax revenue is likely to shrink.

The San Diego Foundation sent out a questionnaire to more than 200 arts and cultural groups, and about one-third responded. The plurality “are feeling the pinch, are taking appropriate measures to prepare for the future, and believe things will get worse,” says Felicia Shaw, director of arts and culture at the foundation. The second-most-numerous group is in crisis mode, and some could shut down. A tiny group claims it is not feeling the downturn. The groups are seeing the economic megrims in ticket sales and both individual and corporate giving.

“I think there are many serious problems we do not yet know of,” says David Gregson, longtime performing arts writer. More general directors will be aggressively asking for donations and ticket purchases. “The new pleas will stress urgency.”

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Comments

Fred Williams Feb. 11, 2009 @ 2:31 p.m.

$8M for arts, $11M for Padres, and $5M for Chargers.

Hardly seems equitable...especially since your article shows attendance at high brow events is up, while attendance at ballgames is down.

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Don Bauder Feb. 11, 2009 @ 9:15 p.m.

Response to post #1: And keep in mind that the sports teams are profit-making institutions. The arts groups are non-profits. Best, Don Bauder

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reddragonfly Feb. 12, 2009 @ 1:01 p.m.

Another reason could be, and it has to be said...San Diegans are just not interested in the Fine Arts. Culturally and technologically San Diego is too diverse to support one venue, especially in the performing arts. Older benefactors are passing on in larger numbers and there aren't enough new benefactors to make up for the loss. Scaling down perfomances makes sense, as well as, finding new suppliers and dumping the "designers" that charge upscale prices for their services and products based on wanting to keep their upscale livestyle going. And, let me guess, is the stage crew union labor like the guy on Broadway that sweeps the stage between acts for $100,000 a year? Good luck with that.

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Don Bauder Feb. 12, 2009 @ 1:45 p.m.

Response to post #3: Arts groups everywhere have a huge problem: younger people are not interested. This is particularly true of opera, symphony, chamber music. One big, tragic problem in San Diego is that music isn't taught in the schools. It's hard to get young people interested in serious music if they have not been exposed to it at an early age. Best, Don Bauder

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reddragonfly Feb. 12, 2009 @ 2:39 p.m.

Very accurate observation, Don. I grew up in a "barrio" of Los Angeles in, what would be considered today, a "very low income" family. I attended a public school kindergarten class and had a wonderful, grandmotherly, teacher that sat us in a circle and had us listen to classical records. But she didn't just play them, she explained the different instruments and how they told the stories in the songs. Her passion for the music made us want to hear it and learn more about it. At home, I heard Mexican Country Western so, were it not for Mrs. Johnson, I might never have been exposed to serious music. I hope that there are more teachers like Mrs. Johnson out there.

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JohnnyVegas Feb. 12, 2009 @ 3:03 p.m.

I always hated classical music until I got into middle school-7th and 8th grade- and I was in band. We played the classics, such as the Poet and Peasant Overture, William Tell Overture, Pictures at an Exhibition and Toccate and Fugue in D Minor.

I hated them at first, but the more I played them the more they grew on me-especially the Poet and Peasant Overture. I love all 4 of those classical compositions.

I also had Jazz Band before school started where we played old 30's and 40's style music, like "In the Mood" and songs from that era-and those too grew on me. I love "In the Mood", great tune!!!

But you have to be exposed to thsi type of music-more than once- to appreciate it.

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Don Bauder Feb. 12, 2009 @ 10:17 p.m.

Response to post #5: Great story. Would a superb teacher like Mrs. Johnson get in trouble in San Diego public schools for teaching classical music when it is not part of the official curriculum? I don't know the answer, and would like to know. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 12, 2009 @ 10:20 p.m.

Response to post #6: Those would be excellent compositions for teaching 7th and 8th graders. I hope you went on to greater levels of appreciation, Johnny. Best, Don Bauder

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