Dear Mayor and City Councilors,
Much has been said about the future management of the Rio Grande Theatre, both privately and publicly. The Doña Ana Arts Council would like to respond so our constituency is fully aware of our position.
In reviewing the events as they have unfolded since Dec. 12, 2016, the Doña Ana Arts Council Board of Directors held a special meeting and unanimously decided that it is in the best interest of the arts community and the Arts Council to not continue with the management of the Rio Grande Theatre.
To that end, a historical perspective is helpful in identifying where we have been, and where we plan to go in the future.
On Dec. 12, 2016, City staff made a presentation to the Las Cruces City Council and proposed five options for the management of the Rio Grande Theatre (RGT). One option included the continuation of year four of the current five-year contract retaining the Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC) as the manager. Another option was for the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to assume the management responsibilities of the theater.
Since that time, Arts Council staff and Board members have attended numerous public and private meetings to answer concerns voiced by City staff and city councilors. Additionally, over the last few months and in various public forums, city staff has articulated concerns related to DAAC’s 2016 independent financial audit.
DAAC supplemented the audit to adhere to the City-requested format and has answered all questions regarding the audit, including questions which were not relative to a financial audit. Surprisingly, the City felt a need to address these questions in public when they could have been resolved in a respectful and meaningful manner by meeting directly with the Arts Council.
On March 20, 2017, Phillip San Filippo made a power point presentation to the City Council stating that, under his management and while providing the same level of service, he could bring the operations of the Rio Grande Theatre to a break-even point with the same general fund contribution from the City of $120,000.
Given our expertise in operating the theatre for the past eleven years, we have reviewed his presentation, and while we have doubts regarding the budget proposed and (whether) it is an attainable goal as presented, we understand that the City may want to proceed with the option to internalize the management of the Rio Grande Theatre. Perhaps the City has other resources that can and will be used for the RGT that are not reflected in the proposed budget.
As many might imagine, this has been a heart-wrenching decision that has been reached only after much discussion and analysis. We feel that under the circumstances in which this situation has evolved, this is the best approach for the continuation of the Arts Council’s mission and the community we serve.
Too much of our staff and Board of Director’s resources has been spent away from our mission and, instead, in time-consuming defense of our theater operations and contributions to the arts community.
We are extremely proud of our accomplishments at the Rio Grande Theatre since 1998, including the grand reopening in September 2005. In the past eleven years of continuous operation, we have managed over 1,500 events for the community (approximately 3 events per week) and have had the exceptional support of approximately 22,000 hours of volunteer contributions (2,000 volunteer hours per year for 11 years). Programs have included local and regional performing arts events, national touring shows and, of course, multiple free programs every month.
As the Doña Ana Arts Council looks to the future, we feel that allocation of our human and financial resources are better directed toward other objectives. Foremost in our mind is how we can best serve the people of Doña Ana County. We fully intend to be involved in the performing arts through our collaboration with the Santa Fe Opera and local artists as part of our New Mexico Heritage Series, plus national touring shows. We will also continue the art festivals – the Renaissance ArtsFaire and the Las Cruces Arts Fair and the numerous children’s arts education programs. We plan to expand our outreach and support of visual artists. Let there be no question, we are excited about finding new ways to serve the community through all the arts.
It has been both a privilege and pleasure to have played the major role in renovating the Rio Grande Theatre and to have been an important part of the downtown revitalization. We are both humbled and grateful to our hundreds of patrons, donors, volunteers and arts advocates who have provided encouragement and loving support over the years.
And, we’ll never be able to express enough thanks to those who have articulated support for the Arts Council and acted on our behalf – in letters to the editor, attendance at City work sessions and Council meetings, public meetings – and more. Your unwavering support and encouragement have sustained the staff and the Board of Directors these past months.
The Arts Council will emerge from this ordeal a stronger, more cohesive organization that is optimistic about our continuing mission and the future of the arts in Doña Ana County. And we will, of course, be watching with great interest the new operational management of our beloved Rio Grande Theatre.
The Doña Ana Arts Council Board of Directors
Scott Breckner, President
Barbara Reasoner, VP/ President-Elect
Michael Mandel, Secretary
Jim Vorenberg, Treasurer
Bruce Begin, Director
Emmitt Booher, Director,
Glen Cerny, Director
Patti Havstad, Director
Frank Hernandez, Director
Eric Rivera, Director
Deret Roberts, Director