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University of Iowa could help Hancher ‘fill in some funding gaps’ despite self-sufficiency fees

IOWA CITY — One year from when Hancher Auditorium was supposed to become autonomous — a charge that former University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld announced amid pandemic cuts in 2020 — trustees have changed hands. your.

In pursuit of a new performing arts vision for campus that merges a new name “Hancher Presents” into a new office of performing arts and engagement, UI spokesperson Tricia Brown said, “The need for general funds to support the operations of the new office will be considered.

“After the hiring of the new executive director and the start of plans for the new office, it became apparent that the university may need to continue to help fill some funding gaps to allow plans for the new office to materialize. “Brown said. .

UI did not share details on how much it could continue to allocate from its general fund to Hancher in 2024 or possibly beyond.

For the new budget year that began Friday, the university will continue to provide Hancher with $1.29 million in general education support – the same amount it provided in the budget year just past. end and the 2021 financial year.

This continued support runs counter to the withdrawal of funding that former Hancher executive director Chuck Swanson described in an interview last summer with The Gazette. At that time, Swanson said he was told UI would cut its $1.5 million annual support for Hancher from $200,000 for the 2021 season, $500,000 for the 2022 fiscal year. , $800,000 in 2023, then entirely by 2024.

Faced with $3.1 million in mid-year state appropriation cuts in the summer of 2020, then-UI President Harreld said he was “confident that the “Hancher Auditorium can maintain its position as the national leader among academic performing arts centers while slowly transitioning to self-sufficiency.”

And UI reduced its general education support for Hancher from $1.6 million in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to $1.5 million in 2020 and $1.3 million in the fiscal year 2021, according to budgets provided to The Gazette following public records requests.

But Hancher’s UI allocation remained at $1.3 million in the fiscal year just ended – a year that saw Swanson announce his retirement and UI hire Andre Perry. to succeed him.

Prior to taking the helm at Hancher, Perry served as Director of UI Arts, Engagement and Inclusion as well as Senior Advisor to the General Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Perry, who also served as executive director of the Englert Theater in Iowa City, is not only executive director of Hancher, but of the new Office of Performing Arts and User Interface Engagement.

Among the goals of this office is collaborating with other locations across UI and Iowa City. Perry earns a starting annual salary of $210,000 in his new role.

“The activity fell significantly”

An initial budget for the new Office of Performing Arts and User Interface Engagement will reflect Hancher’s overall budget in its first fiscal year as Perry works with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in user interface “to develop the long-term framework of the office,” according to spokesman Brown.

“By FY24, the Office of Performing Arts and Engagement aims to have its structure, budget and programs fully in place,” she said.

A review of Hancher’s budgets over the past five years shows the site generated more than $8 million in revenue in 2018 and 2019, exceeding its expenses. When the pandemic hit in fiscal year 2020 — July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 — Hancher’s income plummeted to $5.5 million, while his $7 million in expenses put him $1.5 million in the red.

Hancher’s earnings fell further in fiscal year 2021 which began July 1, 2020 — when much of the country and community was under lockdown or pandemic restrictions — to $2.6 million.

With costs that year still above $3.4 million, Hancher was $866,568 in the red. Combined, Hancher’s expenses for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 were $2.4 million relative to his income.

Through February of fiscal 2022, Hancher was reporting a slight rebound of $4.8 million in revenue, above his $3.4 million in expenses.

Hancher’s biggest line item each year is programming revenue and expenses — which primarily encompasses his main attractions and performances. Where the venue earned $4.7 million from programming in 2019, that figure dropped to $2.2 million in fiscal year 2020 and just $194,364 in fiscal year 2021. .

“At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, business dropped significantly and affected these revenue streams,” Brown said.

Programming revenue for the budget year just ended – through February – rose only slightly to $420,129, while programming expenses were $1.4 million.

“During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hancher incurred programming expenses in virtual programs (like many national arts organizations), in live performances when possible, and in certain artist-related fees that do not could not be recovered even if the events were canceled,” Brown said. performing arts industry.

Hancher’s budget does not include annual unemployment insurance plans of $750,000 to continue to support its facilities and maintenance costs.

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