October 7, 2021
Thank you for your unwavering and enthusiastic support during the past 20 months! Tacoma Arts Live has remained strong thanks to generous support from patrons such as you. Your expressions of endorsement, kindness, and financial gifts have been a true buoy for our organization. We appreciate you, our private and public funders, so much.
There are many Tacoma Arts Live updates to share including the change in our 42-year long venue management partnership with the City of Tacoma; the economic impact of the global pandemic, and equally important, many new opportunities we have on our horizon.
Our non-profit arts organization has always been nimble and able to navigate big challenges. That ability has been vital as the pandemic hit our organization hard, forcing staff and budget reductions equaling more than $2 million. We have been able to stay strong and never waver from our vision, mission, and values.
The past four decades of Tacoma Arts Live’s work stand as proof of our integrity and dedication. Our commitment hasn’t changed. Our work is about building community, celebrating our diverse society, and sharing joy. Our board and staff will continue to deliver at the highest levels of inclusion and community service. We are humbled to be nationally recognized, and further affirmed by you locally, as a vital leader in the arts and community development. Tacoma Arts Live strengthens the social fabric of our South Sound region.
Despite the recent dissolution of our venue management agreement with the City of Tacoma, we remain committed to serving as a vital part of Tacoma’s Historic Theater District. We will continue as a voice of advocacy and progress. There is no doubt that navigating the City of Tacoma’s intentions has been challenging. After four decades of service, the citizen-owned venues are part of our DNA. We led the Theater District’s restoration, and sustained it with time, talent, and treasure. We had true passion for the many community events we helped bring to life: the annual Holiday Tree Lighting, First Night, Tacoma PRIDE Festival, Downtown Merchants Group, Tacoma’s Farmer’s Market, and so many others.
A new venue manager has taken the reigns of those responsibilities. We need them to succeed. We will do our part to lend a hand, and at the same time, the new venue manager and the City of Tacoma must meet a promise of quality, openness, and fairness. (As always, in our commitment to transparency, even as the final details are navigated through, all communications related to our negotiations with the City of Tacoma may be found at tacomaartslive.org/updates.)
Joy of LIVE Events
Please know, as the largest of Tacoma’s Resident Arts Organizations, Tacoma Arts Live will continue to be the primary renter and energizer of the Pantages Theater, Theater on the Square, Tacoma Armory and beyond. We are ready to start anew presenting and producing the same high quality artists in Tacoma’s venues that you have supported and enjoyed. We have adopted up-to-date best practices for patron safety regarding COVID-19. Now, we are ready to emerge from the pandemic with a full 2021-22 Season. First up is the award-winning play, TRIBES, which will open November 4 with eight performances at Theater on the Square. Please join us for this play and many more events in the season ahead!
Increasing Investment in our Youth and Social Programs
During the pandemic, our team members have had a deeper focus on building community. We partnered with school districts and social service agencies to reach beyond the arts and to weave a safety net for all. For instance, our team found unique ways to partner with social service providers such as Emergency Food Network, Cascade Regional Blood Services, and others.
As we are now back at school, Tacoma Arts Live has more than doubled our “beyond the bell” extended learning opportunities. Our access and education through the arts programs have grown tremendously and continue to serve tens of thousands in the region. We have learned new skills, too, in video production (often with our partner, Tacoma’s public station, KBTC) and through presenting virtual events. We invite you to enjoy these works available to view on our website.
Furthering Our Commitment to Anti-racism
We are diversifying our staff and examining policies to ensure Tacoma Arts Live may further our commitment to being an anti-racist organization. With your help, we will carve out the path ahead while we continue to consciously and intentionally keep access and equity at the forefront of our decision making and business model.
A New Home at Tacoma’s Historic Armory and an Ambitious Future
Thanks to the tremendous generosity of our patron Fred Roberson, Tacoma Arts Live will one day inherit and own Tacoma’s Historic Armory at 11th and Yakima. For now, we have signed a 25-year lease allowing us to invest in the facility. At our new home, we will further unlock our creativity and share our services with neighborhood schools, business districts, community centers, and beyond. We look forward to building new relationships in Hilltop as a listening and collaborative neighbor and partner.
With all these changes, Tacoma Arts Live finds new freedom and capacity. We are channeling great energy into our community programs. We are in the midst of preparing our next five-year strategic plan. Soon, we will be sharing a draft version with you, inviting your comment and participation as we test ideas, and listen deeply.
Thank you again for your continued loyalty. We are grateful for the many voices of support that emerged in multiple ways during this significant time of change for Tacoma Arts Live. Please stay in touch and stay tuned as we continue to pave the way toward an even more impactful and dynamic future.
P.S. - Free Open House at Tacoma Armory on 11th and Yakima
Join us on October 16 and 17 for Tacoma Arts Month’s Arts at the Armory celebrations and open house from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. See you soon!
On June 16, 2021, after a 42 year private-public partnership, Tacoma Arts Live announced that the organization will no longer continue as the performing arts venues manager for the Pantages Theater, Rialto Theater, and Theater on the Square on behalf of the City of Tacoma. The news arrives after the City of Tacoma issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) (reference Specification No. PF21-0466F) in April 2021 for management of performing arts venues. The existing agreement between the City of Tacoma and Tacoma Arts Live will expire on June 30, 2021. Tacoma Arts Live’s Box Office and administrative offices remain in operation and will relocate to Tacoma Armory later this summer.
In the span of a year, the City Of Tacoma has twice broken contracts with Tacoma Arts Live. It’s difficult to negotiate with an untrustworthy partner, but we certainly did try. Our Board of Trustees and executive team were ready to respond to the RFP until its publication declared highly proscriptive terms, including the demand that all respondents substantially adhere to the stated requirements or be disqualified. There were five issues that were radical departures from the past 42 year practice. Tacoma Arts Live communicated our objections and then opted out. The ONLY request made of Tacoma City Council was to rescind the demotion of Tacoma Arts Live’s status as a Resident Arts Organization. Council supported that reinstatement. There was never an offer to remedy our objections or remove the stipulation to adhere to the RFP’s terms which allowed no framework for negotiation. Certain Council Members offered mediation toward the renewal of contract terms. City staff quashed that offer and instead offered mediation toward "healing". Tacoma Arts Live declined, instead recommending that healing would come through time and through the keeping of contractual commitments. In an effort toward transparency, Tacoma Arts Live documents all of this below.
Rest assured, Tacoma Arts Live will rise up and fight for our place in serving you, our community, by bringing world-class, diverse performances and special events to the Pantages Theater, Rialto Theater, Theater on the Square, as well as other local venues. However, we will not serve as the venue manager of the City-owned theaters once this current management term expires on June 30, 2021. We are excited by our future, both at the City theaters, and at the historic Tacoma Armory which will become our new focus for special events and community engagement.