Behind the scenes at FCA, the year started with the budget cuts, announced as we were picking up materials for the annual meeting, by meeting time next day, our budget would be obsolete. But even before that it was clear that this was not to be anyone’s normal year.
For one Carolyn Soderlund retired. Carolyn created our ushering program with her Lathrop high school students. Also there was our outlet, Grassroots Guitar, which was starting to fold, and Joyce, our community contact in Delta was retiring too, and Jack Morris, our house manager for 26 years was also going away, so we knew starting out the summer that we had some work ahead.
The budget cuts hit us hard. Losing the state arts council and with it, operating support, touring support, connectivity with our fellow presenters from across the state – they were our friends, our allies, our greatest source of support in every way. We spent the summer advocating, worrying about our patrons, especially those at the university and did everything – except sell our upcoming season.
In September, Rhonda, operations manager for 14 years announced she, too was heading out, seeking greener pastures at the borough library. You couldn’t blame her.
With great loss comes great opportunity: We welcomed Sarah Manriquez as our new sales and operations manager and Vicki Stegall as our bookkeeper. Sarah brought a new level of expertise in digital marketing we desperately needed. She created a new volunteer program and learned our ticketing program fast. After a rocky start with only three days training before our first event, she had things in hand by the time we had our second show. Meanwhile, our box office crew, Trudy’s kids Molly and Liam, a constant, capable presence, began to have lives of their own. Over the summer, the Blue Loon, where we had planned to present several events, burned down. We moved these events to the Civic Center… and then moved them again when that was closed for emergency renovations.
Our season was oddly balanced, with eight events planned for spring and another event with Caitlin Warbelow added and our biggest engagement project looming, we hired Mary Conlin to help with shows. We had a great crew going – and then of course COVID-19 hit and the season ended as oddly as it started.
Far from wrapping and leaving us with nothing to do, COVID closures kicked us into a frenzy of paperwork: 9 grant/relief applications, 3 grant reports, along with renegotiating artists, shoring up our resources after losing an estimated $135,000 in lost ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and grants for projects which would not come to light. We also started the FCA Fantasy Season, produced 20 educational videos, and held oud our first-ever watch party.
Even before the shut down we had completed 16 performances, a school show, outreach to a rural community, the Pioneer Home, and for music students from North Pole HS, West Valley HS, a community/University workshop, and master class for the Fairbanks Youth Orchestras. I can’t help but reflect that just a few years ago we would have considered this a full season.
In all, you’d have to say that this has been no ordinary season but FCA has met and triumphed over these challenges!