The term "struggling artist" has taken on new meaning in today's economy.
An overwhelming majority -- 71 percent -- of Utah arts organizations and museums report being concerned about their financial health, a small Utah Arts Council survey shows.
The June 2009 survey follows an earlier poll in November that indicated the arts were insulated from the downturn, said Margaret Hunt, the council's executive director.
But that has changed.
Now, 51 percent of 80 groups polled say donation levels are down slightly or significantly. More than 60 percent say foundation grants are down in size and number. Public funding sources are also drying up along with ticket and membership sales and large-scale corporate giving.
More people are making private donations as organizations cast wider nets, but for smaller amounts.
"It's forcing artists and art organizations to retool and rethink how they're providing a public value," said Hunt, who believes the survey underscores the economic value of art.
Artists aren't just a creative force, but a work force, she said.
To weather the storm, organizations are furloughing and laying off employees and relying more on volunteer labor. Hiring freezes and pay cuts are common remedies.
Performing groups are renting their facilities and recycling costumes and props and scheduling fewer performances.
"We anticipated some of this and started the year with a three-quarter-million-dollar budget cut," said R. Scott Phillips, executive director of the Utah Shakespearean Festival.
But it's midseason for the Cedar City festival and ticket sales are down 12 percent.
Fewer people are purchasing tickets and when they do, they buy last-minute and hunt for discounts, said Phillips. "That makes it really hard for us to predict where we'll be in August or months from now."
The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at Utah State University has scaled back operating hours, except on Saturdays.
That's when families typically visit, and they're coming in larger numbers, "because we don't charge," said museum director Victoria Rowe.
Rowe has managed to preserve her already lean staff through heavy negotiating with administrators and private donors. But she expects tougher times ahead with more state budget cuts looming.
"We're definitely scrambling," said Rowe.