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State grant will ease some of the financial loss for Spencer’s Tack Center

State grant will ease some of the financial loss for Spencer’s Tack Center State grant will ease some of the financial loss for Spencer’s Tack Center

When The LuCille Tack Center for the Arts in Spencer had its 2020-21 performance season brochure printed months ago with an “On With the Show” header, no one could have known that most of the shows actually wouldn’t go on. Instead, the Tack Center is idle as winter comes into view, except for the Spencer High School music classes that use the entire large space to sing through masks while social distancing.

Most of the Tack Center news has not been good this year, with 10 shows cancelled so far, beginning last spring. The latest to fall due to coronavirus concerns was a Dec. 5 holiday show featuring Helen Welch performing classic holiday tunes from the Carpenters.

A bit of good news did come the Tack Center’s way last week, when Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced the list of venues in the state that would receive Cultural Organization Grant funds. The Spencer venue was on the list of 385 grant recipients, and will receive $20,305 to help defray the money it has lost due to COVID-19.

Tack Center executive director Diane Veale said those revenue losses have been significant. With 10 shows off the schedule (some have been rescheduled for next year), the Center has seen almost $140,000 in lost revenues. With donations also off by about one-third, the funds are growing tighter as venues like the Tack Center hold their breath to see how long crowd sizes will be limited.

“We planned on all of these,” Veale said of the show cancellations. “In spring, who knew how things were going to go?”

Of course, with the performances not being staged, the Center does not have to shell out large payments to bring them in, but there are still ongoing expenses to be covered. The Tack Center is fortunate that the Spencer School District covers its basic facility needs, but there are costs such as salaries for a small staff, insurance, marketing and ticket costs, credit card fees, etc.

For two of the shows that have been cancelled but rescheduled for 2021, the Center was able to keep most of the ticket revenue it had already collected for those performances.

“Many people were very gracious in just rolling over those tickets to the next show,” Veale said, but the Tack still has to keep the funds on hand in case folks change their minds and want refunds.

For the $15 million Cultural Organization Grant pool, venues had to submit documentation of their COVID-19 related losses. Centers had to supply their average revenues over the last three years, and could then ask for a grant of 25 percent of the losses, which in the Tack’s case would have been about $37,000. The grant awards were lowered for everyone, though, when the list of recipients was expanded.

The Tack Center is also investigating two other possible grant sources, and Veale said those monies plus the cash balance the organization keeps will be enough to see it through for a while.

“We’re hanging in there,” she said. “We’re still doing OK because people have still given us money and we haven’t had a ton of expenses. We’ve just been continuing our usual frugalness.”

Veale has heard of some venues being forced to close. Also, she recognizes that the performers who draw the audiences to houses like the Tack Center depend on those shows to fund their own lives. She said she’s grateful for the governor’s grant program (which is funded by the federal CARES Act passed by Congress last spring), but feels that the artists should be considered, too.

“All of the people that make a living by this, I don’t think any of them have gotten any relief,” Veale said.

The biggest relief for performing art centers will come when audiences can once again fill the seats and get a break from their daily lives. The next show still scheduled for Spencer is a a Jan. 23 concert by Fox Valley musical act Copperbox, but time will tell whether or not COVID-19 rates fall enough by then for that one to happen.

Veale said the Tack Center will do what it has to to hold on until some normalcy returns.

“We’re in a better place than a lot,” she said. “I think our support is pretty strong and if we were ever to get to that point to where we were going to close up, we’d pull that support from somewhere.”