Editor’s note: This is Part 4 and the final part in a series about different aspects of Sequim’s arts and entertainment community.
With Sequim’s entertainment venues, it’s the drama on stage audiences crave, not necessarily off.
Over the years, some of Sequim’s popular entities have weathered tough times like the Museum and Arts Center and Olympic Theatre Arts but some issues have come into the public’s eye.
The museum continues to recover financially and socially more than a year after a rift between former staff and volunteers and Sequim Pioneers over hiring consultants to help the museum recover from multiple years of losses and disputes over business practices. Much of the staff and volunteers for the museum left, including former Executive Director DJ Bassett, over the dispute.
It was revealed the museum lost $138,998 in 2013 and was expected to lose about half that last year until newly elected board members slashed expenditures and went with an all-volunteer approach.
Judy Reandeau Stipe, the new volunteer executive director, said they cut expenses by 90 percent since then.
“We took a common sense problem solving style,” she said. “We used what we already had and built a team with expertise in all these fields … We went into a rapid recovery because we collaborated with other nonprofits and utilized all of our real estate.”
The museum suffered losses in subsequent years from 2008-2013 and its operating fund was at about $40,000 in early 2014, leading the former museum board to close the Second Chance Consignment Shop to save $21,000 a year.
Bassett said “a culture of fundraising wasn’t set up the way it needed to be in this day and age.”
One of the museum’s successful fundraisers, MAC Night, was successful early on, he said, but as more nonprofits started fundraisers, the museum’s proceeds went down to almost nothing.
Bassett said some of his strategies included starting a tracking system for donors and campaign mailings for fundraisers but those could take five or six years.
“We were in process of putting together a long-term plan,” Bassett said. “We wanted to get grants to come in to make it a sustainable institution. We had a lot of irons in the fire and a number of trails being blazed.”
A new face
Aside from internal problems, other groups including Sequim Arts and Readers Theatre Plus spoke up about rifts with former museum staff and volunteers and broke off relations with the museum. They have since reconciled with the museum.
Financially, Reandeau Stipe said the museum is doing better and makes ends meet in a number of ways such as through rentals of its space.
“In four months this year, we made more at the schoolhouse than all of 2013.” she said.
“The schoolhouse subsidizes the expenses of this building (DeWitt) and itself. We take any extra money and put it into savings.”
Some small changes in practices are leading to savings, Reandeau Stipe said.
At the exhibit center, renters of its display space now rent from the gift shop to the back wall and they pay credit card charges on purchases for their items. Food at events is not allowed either to encourage people to eat nearby, too.
Thrifty measures haven’t stopped renters though. Reandeau Stipe said the exhibit center is booked through 2015 and most of 2016.
The pro-bono work continues to come too, she said.
“We have people coming in and asking us to do fundraisers; musical groups, clubs, and artists coming forward asking what they can do. It’s wonderful,” she said.
Volunteers have donated a lot of time and services, such as MAC treasurer Louie Rycklik, who helped build a flag display on Sequim Avenue that came at no cost to the museum and a recent grant from Sound Community Bank for a heat pump allows them to rent the facility more.
Looking ahead, the biggest goal for the museum’s volunteers, Reandeau Stipe said, is fundraising for and installing a vertical lift at the schoolhouse, which would cost about $55,000, which they have more than $28,000 for now.
“We’ll definitely have it in by the end of 2015,” she said.
Bassett, who continues to pursue photography and Sequim’s history on his own, said he’s not bitter following his time at the museum and may publish a book at some point about Sequim’s old barns.
“Because if you don’t, what good is it?” he said.
For more information on the museum, call 683-8110 or see macsequim.org.
One of Sequim’s mainstays, Olympic Theatre Arts, began in the schoolhouse long before moving into its own building in 2010 at 414 N. Sequim Ave.
The acting troupe grew from Richard Waite’s idea to create a community theater more than 35 years ago. Now, the nonprofit owns its building and offers support to other nonprofits.
Elaine Caldwell, a long-time supporter and current facility manager, said since moving into the building they’ve had eight full main stage and Second Stage shows a year along with several other offerings.
“Now we have a greater responsibility because the community helped us,” she said. “We needed to provide the venue for things like the Rainshadow Poetry reading that happened the other day and the Mosaic group who performs and Sequim Ballet recitals.”
She and former board president Sharon DelaBarre said the theater has seen some tough economic times.
“When the economy took a nosedive, the first thing people think about is not the arts,” DelaBarre said.
The theater’s ticket sales only cover so much of expenses in the new building, she said, so they added rental options.
OTA also has faced more competition.
“We’ve been doing it for 35 years and many other groups have popped up since then like the family theater at the high school and Readers Theatre,” Caldwell said. “I think it’s because community appreciates it and needs it.”
“When I moved here 30 years ago and there was one stoplight, we would ask what are we going to do tonight?” DelaBarre said. “Now it’s which of these am I going to do tonight?”
DelaBarre said she thinks Sequim is in a major transition.
“If we can bring the new people and young people along, they’ll support art of any medium including theater,” she said.
DelaBarre looks at OTA’s success in two parts — financially and artistically.
“You can make a lot of money with stuff that isn’t all that good,” she said.
“Paragon Springs,” a show from 2012, wasn’t well-known and shows weren’t packed, DelaBarre said, “but everyone involved was proud of the work they did. That’s part of the success of the theater.”
Caldwell likes what OTA is offering for all types of artists without fear of a fine from music companies.
“It feels good to have a facility being used for performing arts,” she said.
“We’re in an amazing town, inundated with the arts. With the new civic center, I feel we’re in a new cultural corridor.”
Up next for OTA, “Lark Eden” is running May 8-17. For more information, visit olympictheatrearts.org or call 683-7326.