I am Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Friends of the Strand, Inc., the nonprofit organization that operates the Earl Smith Strand Theatre.
The city is blessed to have this grand restored theater, as well as the other arts organizations and local museums on and near the Square. We have a unique combination of venues that preserve history and provide culture, entertainment, education and economic activity. I am proud, and the public should be, too, of the ways we cooperate and support each other.
But we all struggle financially and share the never ending need to raise funds beyond ticket sales, rentals and membership fees to stay open. Unfortunately, we simply cannot make it long term without considerable public and private support.
The recent publicity about the city’s funding of local organizations through the hotel-motel tax is a reminder of an awkward yet necessary annual ritual we experience together. Money from this source may be critical to the level of operations, even survival, of our organizations.
With a total amount available that is determined every year based on the funds collected by the tax, the city council has the unenviable job to make a decision on how to “slice the pie.” To serve the mission and best interests of our respective organizations, each group must make a case for keeping or even increasing the amount received the year before, while respectfully not casting doubt on the needs or merits of any other group.
As I understand it, the primary basis for distributing the tax is to support and promote tourism, with the intended impact on visitors and economic activity. To this end, objective measures that attempt to reveal the balance and value of the money distributed should have a major consideration.
The city council may also apply subjective judgment to the “fairness” of the distribution as well as the intangible value of having a particular museum, historic structure or the arts as part of the community to improve the quality of life.
Beyond the hotel-motel tax and other support that government may provide, these organizations also need support from individuals, businesses and charitable foundations. Do not leave it to what you think others should do and do nothing yourself.
To the extent you or your organization are able, find a way as a patron, donor, event sponsor, or volunteer to support one or more of the local museums and arts organizations. All are worthy, and make an important impact on our community.
Board of Trustees
Friends of the Strand Inc.