SARATOGA SPRINGS — “Just over seven months ago, SPAC took the unprecedented measure of cancelling its whole Summer season in the face of the worsening coronavirus pandemic. Taking that step felt literally like walking off a cliff,” SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol explained, as the Board of Directors for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center gathered virtually Dec. 10 for its winter board meeting.
Like many cultural institutions around the world, 2020 at SPAC was remarkably different than initially planned.
As a result of the cancellation of SPAC’s classical season, the organization’s earned income dropped by $6 million, or 60% of its budget. SPAC had projected a potential shortfall of over $1 Million, “a breathtaking gap that brought our very survival into question,” said Sobol.
At the meeting, Sobol extended gratitude for the extraordinary generosity of the community, with which the potential deficit was eliminated leaving SPAC ending the year in the black.
The 2020 recalibration led to over 50 hours of online programming including: Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions in partnership with Caffè Lena; the SPAC Reimagined series of locally-shot dance videos that paid tribute to the 2020 classical season; the world premiere of Testament - a radio play about Beethoven written by Damian Lanigan and co-produced with Saratoga Shakespeare Company, as well as exclusive performances by Joshua Bell and Time for Three filmed in Saratoga and at SPAC, and a GPS-enabled work of public art in the Saratoga Spa State Park that used music to illuminate the natural environment created by Ellen Reid.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the venue was unable to celebrate the completion and opening of its transformational new construction project, The Pines @ SPAC. Nonetheless, The Pines and its various indoor/outdoor spaces allowed SPAC to open its gates for over 200 events. Over 8,000 attendees came through the doors from July to December, just 50 people at a time, abiding by strict COVID-19 protocols.
Fall of 2020 brought the launch of CulinaryArts@SPAC showcasing innovative chefs and restaurants in the region with safe, intimate dining events, and throughout the summer and fall, audiences attended wellness, art, dance and drumming classes; screenings of classic films, chamber music, orchestral music and dance; meetings and gatherings that could not have happened safely in their usual indoor locations. All proceeds from the culinary, wellness, dance, drumming and art classes went back to chefs, farmers, teachers and practitioners.
Given the uncertainties of what 2021 may bring with regard to the pandemic, SPAC is currently planning a number of potential scenarios to present a season that will be ready to meet whatever the prevailing conditions are this Spring and Summer.
“What we know is this,” said Sobol, “one way or another, there will be a SPAC season – and one way or the other, we are committed to ensuring a Saratoga presence by our beloved resident companies.”