The first meeting of the newly formed San Antonio Performing Arts Collective drew representatives from 25 performing arts organizations, all inspired by the possibility of a more collaborative future.
For years, a disparate group of theaters, ballets, operas, and music ensembles across San Antonio have worked individually to vie for the limited time and resources of San Antonio’s residents and visitors. The brain child of Mark Richter, general and artistic director of the Alamo City Opera, the Collective’s goals are to create awareness through collaborative actions that will “enhance each organization’s performance experiences,” promote a “spirit of non-competitiveness,” and create “opportunities that foster inspiration, dialogue, inclusion and discovery,” according to Richter’s outline for the Aug. 15 meeting.
Richter said he hopes a website listing the various organizations’ events in one place will soon come to fruition, followed by joint marketing and fundraising efforts.
“It’s very necessary,” said Frank Villani, executive director of the Magik Theatre, a children’s theater. “The arts have so many needs and such limited resources. My hope is that the Collective builds a strong alliance.” The city’s sprawl proves a challenge in luring people, many of whom have already traveled far to and from work, out again for the sake of a performance, he said. “We need to get the word out about how exiting these events are.”
“The spirit of the first meeting was very positive,” said George Green, CEO of The Playhouse and a San Antonio newcomer drawn by the “vibrant momentum” of the growing city. “The large turnout of those invited shows that the San Antonio arts want to be collaborative. An organization like this could convince the city and its residents of the importance of the arts.”
“There’s a wonderful opportunity here,” said John Toohey, CEO of Arts San Antonio. “It’s a big city with rich cultural roots, wonderfully diverse performing arts, and a lot going on. We want to work together to leverage our various efforts, to amplify appreciation through exposure.”
Toohey emphasized that the Collective is still in its infancy, and that progress needs to be organic. It won’t resolve everyone’s issues, he said, but “there’s an immediate benefit to getting these people together. Nothing is lost in collaboration.”
“Collaborating with other performing arts organizations opens up positive possibilities and opportunities for us all,” said Ballet San Antonio Executive Director Evin Eubanks.
The Collective will consist of nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations that have a season of performances taking place in and around the San Antonio and Bexar County area. As of Aug. 15, the group included: Alamo City Opera, Arts San Antonio, Ballet San Antonio, Cactus Pear Festival, Camerata San Antonio, The Carver Community Cultural Center, Children’s Chorus of SA, Classic Theatre, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Harlequin Theatre, Jumpstart Performance Company, Magik Theatre, Musical Bridges Across the World, Overtime Theater, The Playhouse, San Antonio Brass, San Antonio Chamber Choir, San Antonio Choral Society, San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet, Performing Arts San Antonio, San Antonio Wind Symphony, Sheldon Vexler Theatre, Soli Chamber Ensemble, Urban-15, Woodlawn Theatre, and YOSA.
Two major local performing arts institutions have yet to join. The San Antonio Symphony is being reorganized under a new nonprofit called Symphonic Music for San Antonio (SMSA) in order to stabilize the symphony’s finances by broadening donor support. SMSA Executive Director Tom Stephenson told the Rivard Report that the organization was undecided about joining and “need[s] more information before making a decision.”
Opera San Antonio, which also is not a part of the Collective, did not respond to a request for comment.
Richter hopes the Collective might play a role in its organizations adapting for the future and capturing the imagination of the next generation.
“Performing arts are so much better than a movie or a television show,” said Toohey. “They connect directly with the viewer, without barrier. It’s beautiful.”
“You’re trying to inspire people, through beauty, excellence, and wonderful venues,” said Richter. “We’re talking about live performances for adults and children, locals and visitors. The performing arts go straight to the heart.”