E-mail message to the
December 13, 2005
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
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.
Office of the Chancellor
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Green Bay, WI 54311-7001
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