by Susan Cohen
That was the question posed at this morning's meeting of the Spoleto Festival board of directors by Treasurer Ronald Abramson. Opera, theater, jazz, dance, and New York Times-worthy classical selections of the event aren't nearly as costly as similar festivals around the world. And not only was last year's budget balanced, but it managed to squeak into the black by just $739. As Abramson explained, he's hopeful the 2013 festival will be just as successful, if not moreso.
And so far, so good. There has been an increase in net assets due to fundraising — like the annual Spoleto auction, which raised $211,000 — and Abramson hopes those efforts will put the festival in a good position before the new Gaillard opens. He's also optimistic about ticket sales, which started out $100,000 ahead of last year, although they did eventually plateau. Still, now that the festival has started and sales have increased again, the board is hoping to make up the difference. And Abramson pointed out that there are also 25 percent more tickets to sell this year, due to extra performances and additional venues.
Director of Development Julia Forster pointed out that before 2013, individual giving to the festival hadn't increased in 10 years. But Spoleto tinkered with its tiers this year, which helped raise more than $57,000 in new money. There are now 495 donors (as opposed to 483 last year), and the average donation increased from $1,155 to $1,364.
There's also been a big marketing push this year. The festival installed 100 banners downtown, plus 15 street signs, and the Charleston International Airport is currently decorated with Spoleto signage. Sixty-five local, national, and international journalists are attending the shows, and the festival has gotten national press from the New York Times (who wrote a glowing profile of Geoff Nuttall in Sunday's Arts & Leisure section), the Huffington Post, and the Today Show.
Overall, the 2013 forecast was as encouraging as the weather we've had so far, as the Spoleto VIPs were quick to point out.