Orpheum meeting was only a good first step

I was among the community people invited by Chancellor Duree to meet this Monday, July 22 to discuss the financial future of the Orpheum. I would like to thank him and IVCCD for hosting us. For four hours we listened, learned and questioned. My impression of Chancellor Duree and the board is that they are sincerely committed to keeping the Orpheum open while also trying to be responsible to the wide interests of the taxpayers and the community.

So, what is the problem? As I see it: 1: Simple money! The cost of renovating the Orpheum, outfitting it, hiring quality staff and creative programming cost more than the bond issue covered. Hindsight would say there was not adequate planning and forethought on the part of IVCCD. When Ms. Gordon was hired, she was told to go build a program, but there was no budget and no strategic plan. Despite requests, she was not given a budget until last fall and a strategic plan was not in the process of being developed until this year. Now IVCCD is looking to address the past deficits as well as the future costs. 2: The Orpheum has developed excellent programs, and no one disputed this. Given the job of creating and responding to the community in keeping with the IVCCD mission statement, the Orpheum now has many facets that do not neatly fit into the IVCCD funding categories nor does it fit into a narrow educational definition and program, which Ms. Gordon addressed. 3:The Orpheum falls under the broader category of “the arts.” For centuries the “arts” have needed patrons (or, in today’s world, grants) to support them. There is no question the Orpheum is something special, recognized not only here but across the nation and abroad. The question is, as a community, do we have the will and financial ability to support it?

I came away thinking IVCCD now finds itself in the awkward position of trying to fund and manage an entity which is really bigger on so many levels than what perhaps was originally anticipated. I give IVCCD credit for taking the Orpheum on and getting things off the ground. But trying to remake the Orpheum to fit the IVCCD definition at this point in time is a problem in itself. Monday’s meeting was indeed a good first step, but it is only that. There needs to be a working committee made up of IVCCD, Orpheum and key community people who will take time to educate themselves on both institutions needs and who have enough business knowledge to bring expertise to this complicated situation. I want to cheer them all on.