With a decimated budget, McCain canceled over 20 performances for fall semester

McCain Auditorium cancelled over 20 of its performance series events this semester. Because of these cancellations, McCain's revenue for the year has decreased significantly. (Archive photo by Evert Nelson | Collegian Media Group)

McCain Auditorium canceled over 20 of its McCain Performance Series events this semester. Because of these cancellations, the auditorium’s yearly revenue decreased significantly.

Todd Holmberg, executive director of McCain, said 15 of the events were canceled before they were even publicly announced.

“We also canceled about 10 School of Music, Theatre and Dance events and several rental events from other campus and community entities,” Holmberg said.

McCain typically receives funding as part of the Fine Arts privilege fee entity. This year, McCain lost their original $84,000 allocation because of budget callbacks brought on by insufficient revenue received from the campus privilege fee.

With many classes moving online this semester, there is an over $2 million deficit in the campus privilege fee budget.

As a result of the loss, the Privilege Fee Committee adjusted the budgets of the 16 benefiting entities around campus, including Counseling Services, Lafene Health Center and the K-State Student Union.

In the spring, the Fine Arts entity received a $9,467 cut. This fall, the entity received a $182,218 cut.

“Due to decreased enrollment and decreased revenue due to COVID this past spring and fall, the K-State privilege fee essentially redid all allocations and decreased entities,” Madison Brown, senior in finance and Privilege Fee Committee chair, said. “One reason that we decreased entities was because a lot of them had different services.”

The Privilege Fee Committee used funds normally allocated to McCain and other entities to offset this semester’s privilege fee deficit.

Hopefully, this short-term decision will allow the committee to go back to funding entities like McCain in the future, Brown said.

“We are currently in the process of reviewing the Fine Arts fee, which McCain is under, for regular privilege fee review, which will be for the next three fiscal years,” Brown said.

Because of limits to gathering sizes and health orders, in-person performances at McCain would have likely been canceled whether the funds were available or not.

Jeff Ward, director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, said these circumstances meant the lack of live performances was positive in some ways.

“The SGA Fine Arts privilege fee had a 40 percent cut, for us it was 40 percent callback,” Ward said. “For the most part, we’ve been able to manage that well because we have not had the live performances that we would have normally done in a season.”

The Privilege Fee Committee’s main concern regarding McCain is its yearly budget, Brown said.

The budget is normally based on revenue from ticket sales, rentals to outside clients, sponsorships and private donations, some of which can’t take place during the pandemic. Many employees in McCain are supported by this yearly budget.

“Many of our salary expenses are paid by earned revenue,” Holmberg said. “This has resulted in the freezing of open positions and putting some employees on emergency furlough status. We are also not able to hire college students to help us in administrative, ticket office, backstage and front-of-house positions.”

Although McCain experienced significant losses this semester, many outside influences have provided extra help.

“McCain has received an outpouring of private funds to help sustain us through this pandemic, make virtual shows possible and get us to the point where we can do live shows again,” Holmberg said.

McCain created a podcast and Youtube channel this semester to help anyone can experience shows from home until live shows become available again.

In the meantime, employees at McCain work to provide the same quality and opportunities for its fine arts students and patrons with limited resources.

“I believe the campus and community are counting on us to make it through this difficult time,” Holmberg said. “Our donors know and appreciate the transformational power of the live performing arts and will continue to support us even while we are not doing live shows. They understand that it is not safe for large indoor gatherings during a pandemic.”