Despite losses, JPAC is making progress, officials say

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Sunday, September 18, 2011
— The economic downturn has reached every corner of Rock County, some more than others.

That includes the Janesville Performing Arts Center, where Richard Marx rocked the house Saturday night.

All things considered, however, the historic venue on South Main Street is doing just fine, thank you.

“Our mission is absolutely on track,” said Frank Scott, past president of JPAC’s board of directors.

In the eight years since opening, JPAC has lost money for the last seven.

And while still preliminary, the 2011 numbers indicate that JPAC will lose less money than in recent years but still will fall about $100,000 short of breaking even. If depreciation is factored out, however, JPAC’s operating loss for 2011 is estimated to be only $4,000.

That would make 2011 the second consecutive year of shrinking operating losses. In 2010, JPAC’s operating loss was $19,658, down from $25,133 in 2009.

Smaller operating losses are significant, given the local economy.

It’s also reflective of the community, JPAC board members say.

“By the end of September, we will have set an attendance record for the year that it took us all of 2010 to set,” said Betsy Riemer, JPAC’s president. “The community supports JPAC and its user groups, and I just think people are keeping it local and recognizing the real value that we offer here.

“They know that art really does free the soul.”

By the end of this month, officials expect that 21,800 people will have taken in an event at JPAC this year.

JPAC’s annual anniversary party, which was headlined this weekend by Marx, and its ongoing “Arts Angels” donation program fund the majority of the organization’s annual budget. The rest comes primarily from attendance throughout the year, rental income from the variety of user groups that use JPAC’s stage, grants and contributions.

Other than infrastructure help from the city seven years ago, JPAC does not receive any city, county or state funding.

Expenses center on staff salaries and the typical costs of running a business: utilities, insurance, advertising, supplies and repairs and cleaning.

Since 2005, JPAC has been running a deficit that has ranged from about $12,000 to $122,000, including about $95,000 in depreciation each year.

A significant fund balance that took root in 2004—the year JPAC opened its doors—has offset those deficits. A good chunk of that, however, is tied up in building and equipment assets in the facility, which JPAC leases in a long-term agreement with Stone House Development, the owner of the Marshall Apartments.

Lynn Gardinier, JPAC’s long-tenured treasurer, said the center wasn’t conceived as a massive moneymaker.

Instead, she said, the board targets break-even operating budgets that provide the community with a wide variety of events at affordable costs for both the patrons and the user groups.

“Many of the events here are fee-reduced, and there are pay-what-you-can events as well,” she said.

This weekend’s Marx shows are an example.

As a major fundraiser, Saturday night’s concert offered tickets at $250 or $35.

Today’s matinee offers all seats at $10.

Gardinier said community support has helped JPAC weather the economic storm that has hammered larger performing arts houses around the county.

“With about 650 seats, we’re right-sized for the community,” Gardinier said. “This is what we can afford, and it’s helped us through this tough time.

“Some others haven’t been so fortunate.”

Scott said he, too, has been impressed that community support has helped JPAC through the downturn as well as could be expected.

“We’re continuing to attract new people to JPAC every year, and that’s critical,” he said. “The economy has hurt, but we’ve done OK.”

Like everyone else, JPAC’s board members now wait for a full economic recovery. When it happens, they believe they’ll meet it well positioned.

The board is considering a capital campaign to address some long-term maintenance and renovation issues, Scott said.

The time just hasn’t been right, he said.

Gardiner said JPAC needs more volunteers to help run the operation.

Its fall-spring schedule is close to maxing out on available dates for user groups.

Those challenges are indicative that JPAC is alive and growing, board members said.

“The original group of JPAC founders talked about it for a long time before it ever got started,” Scott said.

“It took awhile, but JPAC came together and has become a cornerstone for not only the downtown but also the community.

“I think they really got it right.”

Last updated: 6:19 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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