The Santa Monica Community College District board of trustees agreed Monday, August 14th, to establish an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization to operate and manage the new Madison Campus performing arts center and music academy.
The fine arts complex is currently under construction and is expected to open in fall 2007. Madison Campus is at 1310 11th St., Santa Monica.
Designed by Santa Monica-based Renzo Zecchetto Architects, the fine arts complex will cost approximately $42 million to design and build.
Funding comes from Measure S, which Santa Monica and Malibu voters approved in 2004, plus government and private foundation grants and donations from individuals.
The complex features a 541-seat main stage theater for multiple fine arts purposes, a 4,000-square-foot art gallery, a 99-seat classroom and rehearsal space, a multipurpose room, 29 practice rooms, a complete music academy with classrooms and offices, and on-site parking for 301 vehicles.
College district fine arts programs will use the complex to educate students, hold rehearsals and hold exhibits and performances.
Space will also be rented out for shows produced commercially in various fine arts fields and for corporate and community meetings.
Actor Dustin Hoffman, who attended the college when it was called Santa Monica City College, has led the fundraising campaign to build the complex and will house his acting troupe at the theater once it opens.
JoAnn Ortiz, executive director of the SMC Foundation, oversees all of the college district’s private fundraising programs, including the campaign for the fine arts complex.
“Great events will occur at this complex for many years to come,” said Adam Philipson, assistant director of the Madison Project, a group of college district professionals designated to oversee the fine arts complex design and construction phases.
“We are in discussion with several new and high-level funding contacts, thanks to Dustin Hoffman. We can’t thank him enough for the way he has made this project his own.”
Philipson, who has been with the Madison Project since its creation seven years ago, will manage the fine arts complex when opening season begins.
Once an independent nonprofit organization is formed, it will operate, manage and finance the fine arts complex and be responsible for securing additional rental revenue, preparing an annual work plan and scheduling events.
Legal consultant Donaldson & Hart was hired to provide the board of trustees with documents to form the 501(c)(3) and documents for ongoing operations of the fine arts complex.
“In any event, at the core, we [Santa Monica Community College District trustees and administrators] will retain ultimate authority,” said Don Girard, exec- utive assistant to district president Chui L. Tsang.
“We do not want to give up that responsibility. In the operating agreement to be developed, there will be a whole set of approvals we can agree to give to the 501(c)(3).”
The City of Santa Monica has made similar arrangements when it established nonprofit organizations to manage the Santa Monica Pier (Pier Restoration Corporation) and Third Street Prome- nade (Bayside District Corporation).
The city retains control of these corporations, appoints and reappoints board members and approves major board decisions.
“The college district owns the [fine arts] facility and will continue to own the facility,” Tsang said.
Specifically, the independent nonprofit organization will be in charge of managing daily operations of the fine arts complex, hire staff, make financial arrangements, establish performance schedules and negotiate use of the complex with outside producers and special event planners.
“This will be the mechanism to bring the right people together to evaluate the performances, operations and the numbers to financially run the facility,” Philipson said.
Philipson and Madison Project director Franzen presented the board of trustees with timelines of goals to be met between now and 2008 and a first-season operating budget based on 23 events and 37 performances.
Madison Project officials have spoken with their counterparts at Pepperdine University and UCLA and toured comparable arts facilities to determine a suitable first-season budget and schedule.
“The budget specifically shows that, through a combination of ticket revenue, interest on endowments, grants, opening season memberships and concession revenue, the facility can have a successful first season,” Philipson said.
“Beyond that, we expect future rental revenue and greatly increased endowment revenue from sponsorships and gifts.”
He said that by the end of this month, almost $750,000 in grant funding would be secured for opening season.
“We are very lucky to have gotten responses from international artists and have built over the last seven years relationships with incredible artists,” Franzen said.
“Will everything be perfect? Absolutely not. Nothing is in writing yet, but we need to move forward to get to that point.”
In addition to the three Madison Project staff positions held by Philipson, Franzen and Ortiz, new positions for artistic director, assistant director (producing director), managing director (box office/house manager) and technical director will be created at the fine arts complex.
Rounding out the staff will be stagehands, marketing and communications personnel, development (fundraising) personnel and an administrative assistant.
Trustee Rob Rader expressed doubts that the fine arts complex will break even or make a profit in its first season because of a busy opening schedule, lack of experienced staff and the tendency for theater productions to flop.
“I am just concerned that in a learning organization, which is what we are, it is a lot to bite off when I see the number of performances,” Rader said.
“This is one every ten days and I don’t know if we are staffed up with people who have enough experience for the first season.
“All entertainment projects are entered into with great enthusiasm and with incredibly high hopes and expectations, but lowered expectations help get things done and we should build on that in the future.”
Rader is an entertainment attorney and currently works as vice president of business affairs for MGM Television Distribution.
Madison Project officials have been careful in their budget estimates of audience numbers and ticket prices, Philipson said, and Westside residents are eager for a new fine arts complex.
“The level of programming that we have planned is outstanding and world-renowned,” Philipson said. “What we heard from the community is that we will sell out or have a 75 percent occupancy.”
The independent nonprofit organization, which is responsible for programming and scheduling each season, may consist of Tsang, one or more trustees, fine arts production experts and individuals with significant connections to fine arts industries, artistic talent or donor bases.