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All arts in Charlotte feel impact of ASC fundraising shortfalls

Children line up for a matinee of Cinderella at the Knight Theater.

The main fundraising organization for arts and culture in Charlotte is extending its annual campaign by two weeks, because it's still a million dollars short of its goal. WFAE's Julie Rose reports on what that means for the arts community. If the Arts and Science Council misses a campaign goal, dozens of cultural groups all over town miss their goals, too. Last year the ASC came up $4 million short and President Scott Provancher says the result was, "roughly a 9 percent decrease in head count for the sector." "Pretty much across the board with every organization there have been either salary cuts or furloughs in the range of 5 to 10 percent," Provancher told elected officials on Thursday. Groups like the Charlotte Symphony and the Children's Theatre-Charlotte rely on grants from the ASC to cover a big part of their operating expenses. Provancher hopes more steep cuts won't be necessary, if the ASC can raise another $1 million in the next two weeks and meet its $7.3 million goal. And since arts-related nonprofits are getting fewer donations directly from the community, there's extra pressure for the ASC to meet its goal. Provancher blames the recession. But he also kind of thanks it. "What we've seen with the down economy is that people have been kind of tourists in their own towns." Provancher says performing arts groups, in particular, have seen an uptick in sales. Right now, the organizations getting the biggest attendance bump right now are also the newest. Crews are still finishing construction on the new Mint Museum at the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus. But since January 1, 14,000 people have already come through the doors of the city's first modern art museum, the Bechtler. And the new Knight Theater has been holding sell-out shows since October. "I'm excited to go see the ballet," says 7-year old Alona as she heads into a matinee performance of Cinderella at the Knight Theater with her mom. Alona's dressed like another Disney princess: "Snow White. My grandma and me made it." A school bus pulls up and dozens more girls in frilly dresses and boys in ties file out. "We have our entire fifth grade," says Aron Rougeou. She teaches at Northside Elementary School of the Arts in Rock Hill. "We're actually a title one school so over 80 percent of our students receive free or reduced lunch," adds Rougeou. "So this is our opportunity to involve them in culture at a young age where they probably would not be able to have these opportunities on their own." These visits are also crucial to performing groups like the North Carolina Dance Theater and museums like Discovery Place. The schools pay for tickets and the boost in attendance helps the nonprofits qualify for grants. Unfortunately, the recession has taken a toll on field trips, especially at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools where more than $200,000 for arts programs were cut last year. For Robert Bush of the Arts and Science Council, the damage hit home when a major exhibit about Pompeii opened at Discovery Place. "CMS didn't have the resources to send any CMS kids to see Pompeii," remembers Bush. "So all of the schools in the systems around us sent busloads of children, but that didn't happen locally, and we needed a way to fix that." The fix, says Bush, was to merge with a nonprofit called Arts Teach which was the main giver of grants for arts programs and field trips in Charlotte. As a part of the ASC umbrella, Bush says the operation is more efficient. And perhaps more importantly, the grants will be divvied up more fairly. Rather than 40 or so schools getting big grants based on how well they wrote an application, Bush says every CMS school will get a grant in the range of $2,000 next year. They could spend it on a field trip, hire an artist in residence, whatever they choose. But like every other grant the ASC will make this year, everything depends on how much money is raised in the next two weeks.