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Managing Our Performing Spaces: Impact Study of the Costs Relating to the Management of Performing Arts Premises in Canada

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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This report examines the management of performing arts facilities in Canada, including a wide range of issues such as ownership, tenancy, operating costs and income, capital costs and funding, working capital, and improvements to physical infrastructure. The report provides information and guidance to managers of performing arts facilities, including a guide to conducting facility feasibility studies and indicators relevant to facilities management. The report also attempts to raise awareness among funders of the need to consider the life cycle of facilities and facilities’ operating costs in funding programs, including a number of recommendations regarding the treatment of facilities and facility-related costs in granting programs. Finally, the report makes recommendations on equipment life-cycles, equipment depreciation and the creation of capital reserves.

The study is based on a survey of 87 dance, theatre, music and opera companies in Canada as well as the results of 42 meetings, interviews and telephone conversations with representatives of performing arts companies. The study finds that a small minority of performing arts companies own their performance, rehearsal, workshop, warehouse or administrative spaces. The report provides significant detail about the costs and staffing related to premises, including breakdowns by organization size and artistic discipline.

Regarding working capital, the report finds that no category of performing arts company (i.e., small, medium or large dance, theatre, music or opera companies) has a comfortable working capital ratio (considered to be $2.00 in short-term assets for every $1.00 in short-term liabilities). Few organizations have set up capital reserve funds. The lack of reserves means that many organizations will be “unable to deal with contingencies that could destabilize their operations, stall their development and perhaps reduce the time spent on creating”.

The report outlines many problems and issues with current performing spaces, including “unwholesomeness, unsafe conditions…, lack of space, unsuitability for performing arts work, lack of professional equipment, and a sub-standard level of audience comfort”. Insufficient funding for construction, renovation, conversion or leasehold improvements forces many companies to compromise their projects and defer certain items, sometimes leading to perpetual “fundraising to complete each phase of renovations”. Overall, the report provides a fairly bleak assessment of the state of performing arts facilities in Canada. The report may serve as a catalyst for the improvement of Canada’s performing arts spaces.

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