But it’s not all picnic blankets and beer gardens in the local arts scene. As we move into the dreamy days of summer music festivals, some Northwest organizations are showing severe signs of financial stress. 

Taproot Theatre’s current production — Sherlock Holmes and the Precarious Position (extended through June 22) — is a lighthearted whodunit. But this week the organization sent out word of its own precarious position under the headline, “Costs of producing theatre surge, outpacing Taproot’s ability to keep up.” 

The press release reports that Taproot, founded in 1976, must raise $1.95 million (an increase of 62.5% since pre-pandemic budgets) by the end of December in order to produce the next season. The company has taken cost-saving measures such as reducing full-time hours and selecting plays with small casts, but director Karen Lund said she worries “Taproot will be forced to shrink to stay open,” and in the process will lose special arts initiatives such as those for youth and people with early-stage memory loss.

This news echoed a similarly urgent tone coming from Hugo House, which in late April sent out a press release from acting executive director Pepe Montero, who explained, “… we ended 2023 with a significant deficit and financial uncertainty looming.” The longstanding literary center has done some belt-tightening “in an effort to right-size the organization,” Montero wrote, including reducing staff and “streamlining” the board. It is also opening the venue to rentals.

And back in February, Bellevue Arts Museum issued a dire financial alert in the form of an emergency fundraising campaign called “Save BAM: Keep Bellevue Alive.” (Earlier this month, The Seattle Times took an extensive look at the organization’s history of financial woes.) In the press release, newly appointed executive director Kate Casprowiak Scher noted, “I think it would surprise my neighbors in Bellevue and beyond to realize we are so massively underfunded.” 

Meanwhile, Theatre Puget Sound announced “signs of hope amidst financial struggles” last week, when it avoided “imminent closure” after the board of directors voted to keep the nonprofit running. Executive director Crystal Yingling said the success of the recent “SAVE TPS” campaign offers “a longer runway to continue rebuilding from the ongoing effects of COVID closures.” That runway now stands at 18 months.

While raising the alarm, the directors of each of these organizations expressed optimism that the necessary funds would come through — via grants, sponsors and individual donors. But the rush of critical financial news reveals the perilous post-pandemic state of many local orgs.

Related: On May 21, ArtsFund and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation announced the recipients of this year’s Community Accelerator Grant program, totaling $10 million in unrestricted awards divided among 811 Washington state arts and culture groups. Of the abovementioned orgs, Taproot and BAM each received $2,500; Hugo House and Theatre Puget Sound each received $17,500.

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