Butler University community members will see an increase in the number of ticketed art events next semester with the opening of the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Performing and Visual Arts, administrators within the Jordan College of Fine Arts said.
“We think,” JCFA Dean Ronald Caltabiano said, “that we will be able to charge some very reasonable fees to some of our largest events in Schrott to help us stay afloat.”
He stressed “we think,” as the discussions are still in the early stages.
Caltabiano could not provide a specific amount that might be considered a “reasonable fee” but was confident that the specifics would be worked out soon.
He also said there will be a student price—already the case with other Butler art events.
The change in ticketing will most impact the music department, as main-stage theater and dance productions already require paid admission.
Specifically, the change will affect large music ensembles like the Butler Symphony Orchestra, the Butler Wind Ensemble and the Lyric Theater.
Dan Bolin, chair of the music department, said charging for tickets to concerts is not new for JCFA. Both he and Caltabiano said previously it was just impractical.
With box office fees, explained Bolin, the music school was losing money by charging for tickets.
Bolin said it will be practical with the Schrott Center, which will not cost nearly as much to use as renting Clowes did.
Bolin estimated that a Butler Symphony Orchestra or Wind Ensemble concert costs $4,000 to $5,000 to produce in Clowes.
The Butler Ballet spent more than $51,000 on “Coppélia” last spring according to the dance office, and charged $14 to $28.50 per ticket.
Larry Attaway, chair of the dance department, said the ballet completely funds itself through its revenue. Ticket sales were around $16,500 for “Coppélia.”
Caltabiano said he thinks it is important that people put a value on art.
“Musicians don’t work for free in the real world,” he said. “We think that we need to clearly say that arts are valuable and worth paying for.”
Neither Caltabiano nor Bolin knows how the prices will affect attendance.
Caltabiano said that, in his experience, a professional ensemble that charges for admission sees higher attendance rates because people see it as valuable.
“The key is to keep it affordable for students,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
If the result of the change is a larger audience, Bolin noted that the entire audience interested in the performance may not fit in the new Schrott Center, which will only seat around 450.
This may cause scheduling changes for the JCFA ensembles, such as an ensemble playing two-performance weekends. He said that this is commonplace among professional ensembles.
Robert Grechesky, director of the wind ensemble, explained that because families already pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition each year, it does not make sense to ask them to pay extra to see the productions.
Grechesky said that there must be ticket packages for families, and Caltabiano seemed open to the idea.
The Collegian will report updates as the discussions begin to take more solid form. For now, it seems that no one quite knows how the fees will ultimately affect art at Butler.