Office of the Chancellor

 

E-mail message to the Campus
December 13, 2005

REMARKS AND ESSAYS

Colleagues,

Many of you know – through the Log or the news media – that I have announced a programming transition for the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. This action is needed to address serious financial challenges facing the Weidner Center, challenges similar to those facing performing arts venues across the country. Moving forward, we will build a programming base around campus and community fine arts performances and educational programming. More will be built on that base as we and community leaders explore additional innovative options responsive to the area’s cultural needs.

I want to take this opportunity to offer a few additional thoughts about this decision, and how, and why it was reached. First, this decision is not about failure. It is about continuing to lead through responding to changing marketplace realities. The professional leadership of the Weidner Center is highly respected in the industry and has worked diligently to meet new challenges through a variety of strategic efforts. We greatly value the contributions they have made to the campus and community. But despite their admirable efforts, the rapid changes in the performing arts business have made it impossible to continue with the operational model that evolved in the heyday of Broadway. Without changes in that model, the Weidner would lose about $2 million this year.

During that heyday, a time when the Broadway shows were filling the Weidner to capacity night after night, simple operating matters like maintaining the facility and heating and cooling it did not pose serious financial challenges. Times and circumstances change. The University will have to take on greater responsibility for maintenance of the center and keeping it in the topnotch condition familiar to the public.

The commitment I have made for our university will have implications for the university’s far too thinly stretched resources.  Essentially, we will be returning to the level of financial support to the Weidner Center that the university chose to provide as the Weidner Center was beginning and before it entered a period of significant profitability.  In making the commitment, I have been guided by two thoughts.  First, we simply cannot let the Weidner Center go dark.  Second, our use of resources should be for those programs most clearly connected to UWGB’s core mission.  Here, I place meeting community needs for fine arts programs, providing performance opportunities for our fine arts programs, educational fine arts outreach to youth, and, as opportunities arise, educational speaker series. 

More in the way of programming is certainly desirable. For us all.  Several groups are exploring possibilities here.  Innovative approaches will be required.  As this is also and importantly, the community's Weidner Center, the community is and needs to take the lead -- in forming a vision and in financing that vision.  Our campus will be heard as those additional opportunities are identified, certainly, and each of you share in the responsibility to help shape the vision.  However, whatever proposals may result, they must be built with no expectation of further subsidy from the university.

To say that the Weidner Center has been a campus and community jewel since it opened its doors in 1993 is no exaggeration. We are all rightfully proud of its contributions to this region’s high quality of life. I was heartened by the comments of my good friend, UW-Green Bay founding Chancellor Edward Weidner, in response to questions from the news media. The Weidner Center, with its emphasis on Broadway productions, had a remarkable, exciting first 13 years, Chancellor Weidner said. But he added that the promise of the next 13 years, with a new operating approach, is just as exciting. Well said. Working together – campus and community – we will make sure this jewel shines brightly for years to come.

Bruce

 

 

photo of Cofrin Libary
Office of the Chancellor
David A. Cofrin Library, Suite 810
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
2420 Nicolet Drive
Green Bay, WI 54311-7001
Phone: 920-465-2207
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Revised 7/31/06
E-mail: shepardb@uwgb.edu

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