NORTHERN HILLS, S.D. — Arts and Culture non-profits in the Black Hills are optimistic about their future, even though some are looking at hefty budget cuts.
Historic Homestake Opera House in Lead had no option but to cancel shows and events during the summer months over the COVID-19 pandemic. The non-profit follows a 40/60 business model; 40 percent of their funds coming from unearned income such as municipal funding and grants and 60 percent coming from things like ticket sales.
The City of Lead will be deciding during their September 8 Commissioner’s meeting whether to cut back on their funding of Homestake Opera.
“The city has always been very supportive of this place,” said Patrick O’Leary, Executive Director of the Homestake Opera House. “The city had said they were going to start backing their funding down. And one of the things we didn’t expect, I didn’t expect, was to hear we just cut you in half.”
Homestake is not alone in their struggle for funding.
Matthews Opera House has been sponsored by Visit Spearfish in the past, but due to a loss in hospitality tax revenue, Visit Spearfish may become obsolete. The City of Spearfish is not intentionally de-funding Visit Spearfish, but the budget, like many other city and county budgets, has to be cut.
“Unfortunately we’re not immune to the economy here at the Matthews as well as some of our other arts groups here facing these same struggles as we are,” says Kyler Flock, Community Engagement Director of Matthews Opera House.
Budget cuts are expected for most local governments with financial losses from sales tax and other tax revenue.
The arts are not as high a priority as a necessity such as public works, law enforcement and fire.
“Are we up there with childcare, with food banks, with all that, no,” says O’Leary. ” I would put that, as it is in my life, as a priority over funding the arts.”
Homestake and Matthews both received thousands in CARES Act funds from South Dakota Arts Council to help them buy more time.
The optimism remains with events planned in October for both Matthews and Homestake.
Homestake is even starting a Singer and Songwriters music series and hopes to start a bi-yearly concert music series. The first show will be a concert performance of Guys and Dolls in October.