LexArts pulls Actors Guild of Lexington’s funding

UPDATED 9 p.m. June 20.

Josiah Correll and Hayley Williams starred in Actors Guild's 2008-09 season closer, "Long Time Traveling." It was one of the bright spots in an up-and-down season for AGL. Photo by Rich Copley | LexGo.

Josiah Correll and Hayley Williams starred in Actors Guild's 2008-09 season closer, "Long Time Traveling." It was one of the bright spots in an up-and-down season for AGL. Photo by Rich Copley | LexGo.com.

LexArts released the list of allocations from its 2009-10 Campaign for the Arts late Friday and left out one of Lexington’s top theaters.

Actors Guild of Lexington, which last year received $72,500 from the campaign, received nothing in this year’s allocations.

Jim Clark. Photo courtesy of LexArts.

Jim Clark. Photo courtesy of LexArts.

“While no arts group is prepared to be cut from a major funding source, it is not as if this came from out of the blue,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of LexArts. “There have been ongoing conversations, and this is not a knee-jerk reaction. This is a cumulative result of the last four years and was not taken lightly.”

Clark said the past four years, LexArts, Lexington’s united arts fund, has worked with Actors Guild to address an accumulated deficit of $83,000 and a current debt of “approximately $40,000,” Clark said.

Actors Guild’s board president, Jim Dickinson, said he and other AGL leaders were taken by surprise, though, when they learned of the de-funding late Friday.

The executive committee of Actors Guild’s board met Saturday afternoon to discuss the de-funding and drafted a statement:

“The Actors Guild of Lexington Executive Committee will submit a comprehensive letter to LexArts addressing the decision to discontinue funding AGL, as well as the inaccurate statements made to board members and the media. We will make our letter public after LexArts board members have had an opportunity to read it.”

Dickinson said Actors Guild will appeal LexArts’ decision.

LexArts’ funding accounts for about 15 percent of Actors’ Guild’s annual budget, Dickinson said.

This move comes shortly after the 26-year-old Actors Guild, one of two professional theater groups in Lexington (Lexington Children’s Theatre is the other), announced plans to move its offices from the Downtown Arts Center to a building in the Distillery District, on Manchester Street; move forward with a contract with Actors Equity, the stage actors union; and expand its programming to include a second stage series in the Distillery District and a cabaret series at Central Kentucky restaurants.

At the time, Clark, of Lexarts, called the move a “calculated risk” for the theater.

The de-funding also came after an up-and-down season for Actors Guild. In December, Actors Guild’s artistic director, Richard St. Peter, said he was concerned about the theater’s survival in the economic downturn and after a few shows did not perform as well as expected at the box office. The theater modified its schedule for the last three shows of the 2008-09 season, reducing the runs for two shows and completely changing one to save money on cast and crew.

But Actors Guild ended the season with two bona fide hits: the one-woman show Bad Dates, which it revived this month, and the April world premiere of Kentucky writer Silas House’s Long Time Traveling.

Ultimately, Clark said Saturday afternoon that although Actors Guild was trying to attract new audiences and generate more income, the plan the theater presented to the allocations committee was insufficient to address the ongoing deficits.

Asked if the theater could survive the $72,500 funding cut, Clark said that was “doubtful.”

But Dickinson, the Actors Guild board president, said, “We can survive without it.”

Arts organizations that did receive allocations from LexArts’ 2009-10 Campaign for the Arts and the amounts they received are:

  • Lexington Philharmonic, $165,000.
  • Lexington Children’s Theatre, $120,000.
  • Living Arts and Science Center, $101,250.
  • Lexington Art League, $62,000.
  • Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, $20,000.
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    45 Responses to LexArts pulls Actors Guild of Lexington’s funding

    1. Brad says:

      I would be interested to hear more facts that led to this decision.

    2. TheaterBuff says:

      This is a real shame. LexArts is simply making themselves more vulnerable to cuts. By cutting funding for Actor’s Guild, they no longer are supporting any adult community theater. I would also look forward to seeing the response from the Actor’s Guild board — they seem to be doing some very exciting things.

    3. Brett Stevens says:

      Maybe j
      Jim Clark should address the late checks he has sent to groups all year and his high overhead.

    4. WritingontheWall says:

      I have no knowledge of LexArts’ reasoning, but I think this suggests that LexArts recognizes the absurdity of the sad situation at ATL: the financial troubles there have been well documented for three years, they are $40,000 in the hole but hold on to this pipe dream of becoming an equity theatre. The restaurant cabaret idea and the second season in the Distillery District – who knows there the money for these would come from – simply are not viable or practical options for curing the ATL blues. Mr. Clark and LexArts have been more than fair and generous with ATL over the years – good for them for finally getting the baby out of the nest and for exercising a little discretion by NOT pouring more money into a sinkhole. ATL would have done well to exercise such fiscal responsibility the last several years.

    5. Robert Parks Johnson says:

      The Lexington theatre community has worked too hard to see this company killed. What can the audiences, stagehands, and artists who have given so much do to help keep Actors’ Guild alive?

    6. Brett Stevens says:

      WritingontheWall … ummmm It is AGL not ATL. Lexarts hasnt paid anyone on time in the last year. It is a fact. talk about a sinkhole. Enjoy agl’s money to cover your losses.

    7. MrHumm says:

      Considering how much the native stupidity of my benighted hometown tends to surface whenever money is involved, I guess I’m not surprised by the apparently ego-tainted decision of LexArts or by AGL’s preposterous Equity aspirations. It’s just another in a long series of self-destructive acts by people in power here in the “Athens of the West,” going back at least as far as when we transformed the Ben Ali into a parking lot.

    8. Martin says:

      Scrap AGL and start again. I’m tired of hearing excuses about why the theatre is failing. And that is exactly what it is doing; failing. Face the facts that you aren’t a viable arts institution anymore. Maybe you are to the 20 people that come and see your shows, but that isn’t enough.

    9. daniel says:

      Many times these programs begin paying too much in slaaries and have nothing left for the ARTS. I hope this is not the case here. It has been a good program.

    10. Robert Parks Johnson says:

      writingonthewall… if you’re going to slander a company you don’t know well enough to name correctly, maybe you should at least man up and give your real name.

    11. RealityCheck says:

      While 15% of the total budget is nothing to sneeze at, neither is it a death knell. Perhaps those of us who support the theater can donate directly to them instead of LexArts. Unfortunately it is too late to do that this year.

      I believe that the director of LexArts has a salary in excess of $100,000 yearly.

    12. informed says:

      Interestingly, according to LexArt’s 2007 Federal Tax form, Clark was paid $117,495.

      Even more interesting was that LexArts had a deficit of $174,308—so their expenses were 174k more than their revenues. (the lost 144k in 2006 and 88k in 2005…per their tax returns, which are open to public inspection).

      Interesting that they fault another organization for have a deficit while theirs has been INCREASING each year.

    13. Brett Stevens says:

      All taxpayers should look at this as a slap in the face. This is how and why United Arts Funds fail the taxpayers. Maybe the majority of us want a professional Theatre to stimulate our economy and why is it lexarts who chooses the how and why. From what I have heard this public slap in the face is personal and not professional.

    14. hailiebug says:

      An artistic endeavor that is not viable in Lexington? Where are the young professionals and the creative class that so desperately need these activities and choices? Surely those that are here would support this activity so important to their lifestyle choices.

    15. Robert Parks Johnson says:

      There are very few one-sided controversies in the world. We’ve heard LexArt’s version. Soon I expect we’ll hear Actors’ Guild’s.

      We’ll have to rely on you, Rich to help us put the pieces together.

    16. Jane S. says:

      Although I hate to seeing funding for arts cut under any circumstances, I have to support LexArts decision. Money should be allocated to groups supporting and encouraging community theatre. AGL is a professional theatre who is seeking to further their relationship with the Stage Actors Union and will make local talent even farther removed from appearing on their stage.

      I wish AGL all the success in the world, but I’d rather see government support going to theatre that brings more people into the art through involvement and education on and off stage.

    17. Auditor says:

      I think many of AGL’s financial problems would have been less traumatic if Lexarts had made their allocation payments on time. If AGL is going to be criticized, then I think Lexarts’s finances should be questioned as well. I wonder what would be found if Lexarts was put under a microscope and audited.

    18. Kim Dixon says:

      Jim Clark\’s salary is not the issue here.

      I\’m guessing that LexArts has criteria that must be met for all of the groups that receive funding. From what I\’ve read, Actors Guild did not meet this criteria.

      LexArts receives and distributes money that comes from the taxpayers, and I\’m guessing LexArts wants to use my money and your money to fund organizations that can use the money well. It does not seem that LexArts believes Actors Guild is using our tax dollars wisely. I do not believe that Actors Guild is using our money wisely.

      The groups that did receive funding must be doing something right. The Lexington Children\’s Theatre is a model organization of good theatre management. Yes, their programming is mostly aimed at kids, but I would think that some of the fundamental structuring could apply to any kind of theatre.

    19. Brett Stevens says:

      It is also of public record that Mr. Clark has backed out on many challege payments to organizations. If you ask any arts group here in town off the record you will be told of their true feelings about his leadership. Why does Arts place need new walls, and floor finishing when Actors Guilds offices dont have HVAC, an issue that was exposed by Business Lexington?

      Jim Clark not the problem? Ask the many many MANY former employees under his tenure. Many of them work throughout the ARTS COMMUNITY.

    20. Kim Dixon says:

      There is probably more to the heating and a/c issues than was posted by BizLex. Maybe there was a good reason for LexArts’ lack of action.

    21. Brett Stevens says:

      hmmmmm someone sounds bitter…huh huh huh??

    22. Kim Dixon says:

      Do not assume I am bitter, if your comment was directed at me. I am happy to discuss what I know on a non public forum. Let me know.

    23. Fred Williams says:

      I actually think Actors Guild will be much better off without the so called funding from lexarts. Many Lexington groups survive without it and do just fine. I support all arts groups in this community except lexarts for this very reason. Giving directly is the way to go to make sure that trusted folk are fine stewards of your personal funds. Cant wait to see the mayor get involved her since lexarts is allocating less that the cities entire allocation to lexarts.

    24. Auditor says:

      Yes! Donating directly to the arts organizations you want to help is MUCH more effective than donating to Lexarts. I’ll NEVER trust Lexarts again.

    25. Fred Williams says:

      I presume that the expenses of the above mentioned group will be looked into with much scrutiny by the council. I also think that the five groups that were funded should be protected with safe guards set forth by the mayor so they are not dropped like AGL if they have one bad year or make a decision that will be held against them. Everyone please donate directly to the charity of your choice. When mismanaged united Arts funds do not work.

    26. robin ward says:

      remember way back when dee fizdale(then lexarts director) SAVED the guild..by forcing the hand of the board to sent the director of the guild packing?? with a promise of a new home at the downtown arts center..well chickens may have come home …the downtown art center is not a center at all but one black box (white elephant) for tax payers to pay utilities on..an unfinished third floor, subsidized rent to private enterprise venues..and very little art center..at and nobody else can afford to use the space..the guild is on its own along with the big empty box(center)..

    27. landedg says:

      remember way back when dee fizdale(then lexarts director) SAVED the guild..by forcing the hand of the board to sent the director of the guild packing?? with a promise of a new home at the downtown arts center..well chickens may have come home …the downtown art center is not a center at all but one black box (white elephant) for tax payers to pay utilities on..an unfinished third floor, subsidized rent to private enterprise venues..and very little art center..at and nobody else can afford to use the space..the guild is on its own along with the big empty box(center)..

    28. Sarah says:

      I find it amusing that everyone immediately blames LexArts for being poorly managed when anyone who has personally worked with Actor’s Guild will tell you that this has been a long time coming.
      The poor decisions both financially and artistically by Rick St. Peter have left a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. After finishing shows with them, it would take months, and persistent phone calls and emails for the actors and crew to be paid for their work. This would happen with crew members who worked on every single show, and yet AGL could never get their act together enough to function the way they should. How can you tout your organization as a professional theatre company, and yet not function as one?

      And yet, no matter how much money the community and LexArts threw at RSP, he would continue to whine that it wasn’t enough. Maybe their productions would turn out better if he was forced to rely on creative spending, rather than treating the community like we owe him something for his terrific artistic contributions.

      Get rid of RSP. Maybe then I’ll send some donations your way. Thank God for Kim Shaw, though, maybe she can get them out of the grave they’ve dug for themselves.

    29. Sarah says:

      EDIT: I do want to say, however, that I agree with the statement that direct contributions to organizations are far more effective. There are plenty of deserving arts organizations in Lexington that are completely ignored by LexArts. But my motivation, it seems, differs from most on this board here. I personally have not contributed to LexArts in recent years because of how much money they were giving to AGL–essentially flushing it down the toilet.

    30. Kim Dixon says:

      There are a lot of people like you, Sarah, that have been burned by AGL/RSP. Thank you for stepping up and saying what many theatre artists are thinking.

    31. Auditor says:

      It seems like some people choose to make this about a personal grudge against the AGL staff rather on focusing on an arts organization that produces quality theatre. It’s sad that AGL doesn’t have greater ticket sales. I’ve enjoyed every production of theirs I’ve ever been to.

    32. POGUE says:

      There will always be those who are disgruntled or disaffected, perhaps even legitimately, but it is interesting to note that the artists, both onstage and behind it that AGL respects, admires, and enjoys working with, return to work at the theatre again and again.

    33. Fred Williams says:

      “Artists” who dont get cast in shows are very emotional people arent they. Listen, there are two sides to every and I mean EVERY story. The one thing I will say about AGL is that they are here for our community as opposed to the elitist united arts fund that doesnt throw a darn penny into the underserved segment of our community.. hello….. Audit please.. look at those conferences and spending….

    34. PistolPete says:

      AGL for the past several years has gone out of its way to alientate 90% of the theater community in town. I wouldn’t return to work there again and again. In fact, the last time I worked for AGL was such a horrible experience that it made me not want to do theater ever again

    35. Pogue says:

      I’ve seen over seventy local theatre shows in the last three and half years since I moved here… over 50 of them non-AGL shows. If AGL’s dedicated, talented, professionally-quality performers constitute only 10% of the “theatre community”, then it’s sure the right 10%.

    36. Fred Williams says:

      Golly Gee… These actors get really mad when they are not cast in shows. Not one of them has opened a pocket to support lexarts either.

    37. Kim Dixon says:

      Fred, how can you be sure that many of these comments are from disgruntled actors? And how do you know that none of these people support LexArts or local theatres?

    38. PistolPete says:

      I am not an “actor” and never have been. I donate generously to arts organizations in town, just not AGL. And if AGL does not view all of the artists (and I don’t mean me) that refuse to work for them now as a loss, that just goes to show how out of touch they are to not realize what they are missing.

    39. Sarah says:

      Fred–what are you talking about? This has nothing to do with “disgruntled” actors…judging by the names I see on this board, there are several people on here who have worked with AGL and/or been in their shows.

      Second–I have a hard time agreeing with the belief that AGL produces the best shows in town. Yes, they have their decent and even good productions every so often, but it’s inconsistent at best. Truthfully, there isn’t a theatre group in town that hits the mark every time, but with the amount of money poured into AGL, their grouping should be a bit tighter (now that I’ve run that metaphor into the ground…)

      In my opinion the best theatre in the region comes out of Woodford County. But maybe that’s just me.

    40. Betty Lambert says:

      I certainly understand that the artists on this page are emotional and you have a right to that, however, as a tax payer and citizen I have to say, “open your eyes”. Pleas eget past your personal disdain for AGL. LEXARTS would surely be “putting up” with Actors Guild of they didnt try to break free and move their admin offices as well as their box office. LEXARTS made quite a bit of money from the earned revenues. Please go read their 990 which is public record and scan the earned reveune section. Someone really needs to look into this and now. The deficits that have been totalled by LEXARTS over the last three years are too very shameful. How extravagant your spending is. How elitist they are.I am not attacking anyone on here becuase we all have aright to speak but really…. can you all honestly say LA is a well run organization.

    41. Robert Parks Johnson says:

      robin ward,

      Your memory is of rumor, not of facts. LACC did not force the board’s hand in 1998, nor was Actors’ Guild offered the quid pro quo that you imply here…

      Actors’ Guild’s restructuring was a result of internal, collective management breakdown, and the board acted with integrity and independence. The entire management team was terminated, no one of us was made the scapegoat for our mutual failure. The hoped for move to the DAC was put in real jeapordy by the controversy and without the board’s hard work, and the personal sacrifices made by Deb Shoss and her transition team, the company would have failed. Instead the company stayed alive, the debts were cleared, a surplus was built, and Actors’ Guild was ready when the opportunity came to go to Main St.
      It is human nature to try to fill in the blanks and assume conspiracy. Without real information from the parties involved, we on the outside are likely to create new fictions like the ones you believe to be true history. I hope this helps,

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