Numerica Performing Arts Center navigating it’s way through Covid challenges
With tremendous help from donors and a lean staffing approach, the Numerica Performing Arts Center has thus far weathered the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.
Perhaps one day this will be called the second Miracle on Wenatchee Avenue. The first miracle was getting the place built in the first place, according to a history written by my late father, Wilfred Woods.
I met with several members of the board of directors recently to hear how they are positioning the nonprofit to be financially sustainable in coming years. It’s probably in the best financial condition of its 20-year life, ending its fiscal year this past summer with a slight profit.
“We cannot thank the supporters and community enough for standing by us,” said board member Mike Salmon. The Numerica PAC is, according to board members, the only performing arts facility in the state that receives no outside support from government agencies. Because of that unique situation, staying solvent is a huge challenge.
One of the great tailwinds for the PAC was the community-building that former executive director Matt Cadman achieved. The former educator’s electric enthusiasm was the catalyst for turning what had been a facility that catered to older and wealthier folks into a vibrant place of community that appealed to everyone.
Cadman had the idea of getting every show sponsored, which made theater tickets affordable for the entire community. He also diversified the offerings to appeal to more people in the community, from booking shows like the Atomic Bombshells burlesque group to hosting performers who appealed to the region’s Latinx community. True to his educational calling, he also launched Every Kid at the PAC, a program that brought high quality performances to students in the region. It was no wonder that Cadman earned the Governor’s Award for arts advocacy.
It was Cadman’s success in making the PAC a community asset that built the network of supporters that ultimately carried the PAC through the dark financial days early in the pandemic, according to board members, which included Salmon, president Dave Gellatly, treasurer Rick Linder and Steve Robinson. Jane Hensel, who has been involved with the PAC since the beginning, also sat in on the conversation.
The PAC currently has only one part-time bookkeeper on staff, but the facility requires $8,000 a month to cover all of the costs of the building. Virtually all of the sponsors who had committed to bringing shows to the community chose to donate the money to the PAC, as did many people who had purchased tickets. With no revenue coming in, the board has raised $85,000 of a $100,000 goal from community members to keep the organization afloat financially during the business shutdown.
Gellatly said the board has used the crisis of the pandemic to start rethinking how the PAC can be financially sustainable for the long term. Tremendous uncertainty exists in terms of when normal business resumes with shows being sponsored and the community turning out for shows in sufficient numbers to make it financially successful.
On Oct. 3, the PAC will livestream the Wenatchee Valley Symphony concert, in which the symphony members will be on stage and the audience will listen remotely. There are plans to continue with the tradition of the Festival of Trees in an online fashion, an event that has been a significant fundraiser for the PAC throughout its history.
The PAC at one point had $500,000 committed to paying staff, but those days are over given the new uncertain financial picture. I was told that they hope to hire staff back but that depends upon the recovery from the pandemic and profitability.
“It’s too important a community asset for us board members not to create a long-term sustainable enterprise,” said Robinson, the former executive director at Pybus Public Market. “It’s eminently doable,” he added.
I appreciate how the board at the PAC has taken on this challenge and is retooling to achieve long-term viability.