Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) faced many challenges and also grasped opportunities over the last two years, emerging in 2021 with an economic statement in the black, while making many necessary improvements.
Officials said they anxiously awaited the return to normalcy in 2022, which is already underway.
Following a reduced season in 2021, SPAC will welcome back New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for their full productions and residencies. It will also host the iconic Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, a popular concert lineup presented by Live Nation, and the return of Caffè Lena @ SPAC.
“Like so many individuals and organizations, the last two years have tested us mightily, but they have also called upon our deeper wells of creativity, compassion, resilience, and imagination,” said Elizabeth Sobol, SPAC president and CEO. “Now, in summer 2022, in a full return of a SPAC Renewed and Rejuvenated, we are like our region’s endangered Karner Blue butterflies—re-emerging beautiful and glorious after being cocooned for so long. This splendid re-emergence is accompanied and made possible by a historic and unprecedented confluence of favorable financial factors.”
SPAC announced that it ended the year with $4 million of operating reserves, attributed to a significant reduction in programming expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, fundraising efforts supported by members, the board of directors and the general public and the utilization of critical funds received from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and Paycheck Protection Program.
Some $2 million was committed to immediate capital improvements and critical operational needs, while the remaining $2 million will be used to establish a Fund for the Future, she said.
“What COVID taught us is that arts organizations live in fragile ecosystems – with subsistence survival from year to year. For years our financial outlook, which was largely one of scarcity, led us to defer important organizational and infrastructure investments, leaving us exceedingly vulnerable and exposed,” Sobol said. “This unprecedented situation has meant that for the first time ever, SPAC has been able to restore and renew itself across its whole operation including reinvestment in our resident companies, restoring our staff, and completing vital infrastructure and capital improvements.”
She said the Fund for the Future will help to ensure that the classical arts at SPAC can thrive, while deepening the center’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and access initiatives and arts education. It will also help to offset the skyrocketing costs associated with supplies and equipment, continued caution related to the public health crisis, and its annual shortfall on its four weeks of classical amphitheater residencies, which regularly exceeds two million dollars and is projected to be even greater in 2022.
Growing the Fund for the Future will be one aspect of the long-range strategic planning.
She also said SPAC is also “taking the first step to simply and boldly reaffirm our commitment to our signature programming— and to what has become our most important work in the community—arts education.”
Following the official opening of The Pines@SPAC in 2021, SPAC continues to invest in the organization with important updates to its infrastructure, physical campus, and amphitheater.
Sobol noted SPAC will welcome back the full New York City Ballet company this season with a new dance floor made specifically for NYCB, and a new performance curtain, which replaced a curtain that was almost 40 years old. The Philadelphia Orchestra will return this July for its three-week residency with 150 new music stands and chairs, which SPAC has never owned and has historically had to borrow for the past 55 years.
Sobol said that thanks to SPAC’s partnership with Live Nation, significant work to the backstage of the venue will be completed to modernize the dressing rooms and workspaces for artists and crew members. Additionally, the performer’s gate and road area will be reconfigured, addressing important safety issues.
In a continuing effort to improve accessibility, SPAC has installed an Assisted Listening System in the amphitheater as well as a new sound system, replacing equipment from the 1990s.
To enhance the online patron experience, SPAC completely replaced its antiquated ticketing and donor software and plans to unveil a new website in the fall.
At the meeting, the board welcomed Raimundo C. Archibold Jr., CFA, as a new member. Archibold is the managing director at Schwartz Heslin Group, an investment banking and advisory services firm located in Albany. He brings over 25 years of experience in equity research where he covered primarily the technology and telecommunication sectors.
Sally Bott, operating partner at Atlas and recent resident of Saratoga Springs, also joined as a new board member. Bott is an experienced human resources professional with more than 30 years of HR experience.
More information about SPAC is available at spac.org.