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Arts Groups to City: Please Help


"I think it's just common sense that this kind of gypsy existence that they've been forced to lead has been extremely difficult on them and, alternatively, very disappointing," Pantele says.

It's not clear how much money each group would get. The Richmond Symphony, being the Carpenter Center's primary tenant, has been hurt the most by the theater's prolonged closure. So should it receive more funds?

The symphony found more success raising money this year than last, says Executive Director David Fisk, from selling more tickets for concerts — now held in churches — and from donations, including $250,000 from an anonymous benefactor. But moving around is expensive, he says. Collaborating with the other arts groups to raise extra money, Fisk says, will help ensure that "in the end, in 2009, we have healthy organizations and healthy buildings."

Likewise, the Virginia Opera has lost a primary Richmond venue. But the ballet typically performs at the Landmark Theater, while Theatre IV — which specializes in productions for children — is based at the Empire Theatre on East Broad Street.

Although Theatre IV was not physically affected by the Carpenter closing, "what hurts the performing arts hurts all of us," says Managing Director Phil Whiteway.

The ballet has had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to rent new sets to fit the Landmark's larger stage, some of which have been shipped from Nevada and Canada, says Keith Martin, the ballet's managing director. And the Landmark is now in use nearly every week of the year, he says.

Private citizens and corporations are also trying to raise "more extraordinary dollars" (i.e., hundreds of thousands) for the arts groups, says G. Larry Moffett, interim director of the Arts Council of Richmond, on top of the money normally donated each year. That money would be divided among the groups by a community panel.

The performing arts advisory group set up by Mayor L. Douglas Wilder recently came up with a $45 million base plan (including $23 million in city funds) to expand and renovate the Carpenter Center. If another $20 million can be raised privately, the committee found, it will recommend a 75,000 square foot addition to the Carpenter Center to be used as a jazz club and "multipurpose performing arts area." S

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