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Fiscal Realities Prompt Changes for PTAC
By Tourism Industry Partner
BARTLESVILLE, OK – Price Tower Arts Center, in downtown Bartlesville, announces changes to its operations. The non-profit Arts Center, located inside Frank Lloyd Wright’s only realized skyscraper, is looking to enhance visitor experience and also reduce the impact of a tight economy on its annual budget.
“We have achieved many great things during the past year,” noted Tim Boruff, executive director of Price Tower Arts Center. “Our attendance numbers are up across all categories. More guests are staying at the Inn at Price Tower. And, we are seeing more people enjoying themselves in Copper Bar and the Wright Place Museum Store.”
The amenities of the building are not enough to fund the preservation of the National Historic Landmark.
“Our primary goal is to save the building. The Price Tower, as a building, could become a World Heritage Site, along with nine other examples of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. We want this distinction for our community. However, as much as it is for Bartlesville, the honor is also for Tulsa and Oklahoma City. A World Heritage Site in Oklahoma will be of great benefit to Oklahoma and all of America,” said C.J. “Pete” Silas, chairman of the board of trustees for Price Tower Arts Center. “This building needs continuous support, not just locally, but also at the state and national level.”
Boruff says Price Tower Arts Center will increase admission prices and reduce the number of exhibitions offered annually from three to two. The standard gallery admission price for adults will increase from $4.00 to $6.00. Discounts will remain available to those over age 65. Children 18 and under will be admitted to the gallery free of charge. Admission for the Historic Tower Tour will increase to $12.00 for adults. Historic Tower Tour rates for seniors and children will be $10.00. Staff reductions will also be a part of the equation to help sustain operations.
“We are not happy about these changes, but unfortunately, we are doing what has to be done to protect the future of Price Tower Arts Center,” Boruff said. “We have been very fortunate in having a very generous donor, but due to the state of the economy that family cannot maintain their giving at the same level as in years past.”
“These decisions have been made after careful consideration,” said Silas. “We could be just a building without the hotel; although, the inn allows us to be one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright buildings to host overnight guests. We could not offer any exhibitions in the museum; however, that is one way we are able to give back to the community. We want to share art, architecture and design with all the school children and we believe that should be an important part of our mission.”
According to its 2010 Financial Report, Price Tower Arts Center listed total support and revenue at just over $1.6 million, less than the $1.7 million reported in the 2009 Financial Report. In 2010 Price Tower Arts Center received $1,245,000 in support from individual donors. Another $54,000 was received from corporations, primarily for sponsorships of exhibitions and programs. Private foundations provided $20,000 in support. Government agencies supplied only $13,000 in grants for direct support of the Arts Center's programs. Additional revenues were collected through memberships, admission fees, museum store sales, rental income and special events.
“There is a very bright future for the Price Tower, but it is not going to happen unless we all make it happen. We share in this responsibility,” said Silas. “Now, some would say undertaking a World Heritage nomination is too big for Bartlesville, but this is where the building is and we, as a community, must show a willingness to preserve and protect it.”
Price Tower Arts Center is one of the top tourist destinations in the area, hosting nearly 30,000 visitors annually. That number is expected to double if it is confirmed as a World Heritage Site.
“We want our visitors to understand that we are still committed to providing them with a great experience of art, architecture and design. Those coming to the Price Tower will still be able to enjoy our Historic Tower Tour and our permanent exhibition that includes treasures from our own building and other Frank Lloyd Wright projects,” added Boruff. “Of course, if we are named a World Heritage Site, we will have to find ways to finance necessary upgrades and continued preservation efforts while dealing with a diminished budget and smaller staff.”
Scott W. Perkins, the curator of collections and exhibitions for Price Tower Arts Center, estimates that it costs between $30,000 and $60,000 to install an exhibition. He says those costs do not include the budgets for associated programming or marketing.
“I think some people don’t realize how expensive it is to stage the types of exhibitions that our audience expects of us. Visitors to Price Tower Arts Center really do want to see the types of shows they see at other, larger museums, and we work very hard to make sure they are not disappointed,” said Perkins.
“Visitors to the Price Tower have an estimated $3 million impact on Bartlesville’s economy,” said Boruff. “And, that number could double within a number of years, if we are honored with a World Heritage Site designation. It really is the community’s best interest to help us sustain Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece.”
Price Tower Arts Center employs a staff of 14, while the Inn at Price Tower and Copper have 13 full and part-time employees. Boruff agrees it is a very small staff to offer the array of activities and services that are available at the Price Tower.
“Honestly, we wouldn’t be able to maintain all of our programs without a strong corps of community volunteers. We estimate that nearly 2,000 hours are completed each year by the nearly 40 people who graciously donate their time to Price Tower Arts Center,” said Boruff.
The budget reductions are not new to Price Tower Arts Center. Boruff notes that there were lay-offs and budget cuts in 2009 that were followed by additional budget reductions in 2010. He says the organization has also taken other money saving steps including digitizing annual reports, reducing the number of member newsletters to two mailings a year and a move to self-management of Copper and the Inn at Price Tower in April of 2010.
About Price Tower
The landmark destination for art, architecture and design, Price Tower Arts Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, provides local, regional and global audiences with the experience of great art, architecture and design in an arts complex whose centerpiece is Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper, the Price Tower.
This National Historic Landmark building, completed in 1956, contains a museum with permanent and changing exhibition galleries; original and restored historic Wright interiors (available by tour); and The Wright Place museum store.
Visitors may also experience Wright's masterpiece as guests of Inn at Price Tower, a high-design hotel that the Arts Center has created within Wright's skyscraper, along with the Inn's eclectic Copper Bar.
Historic tours are available with advanced reservations. Admission is $10 adults, $8 seniors (65+), $5 students and children 16 and under and includes admission to the museum exhibitions (tax not included as may be applicable). For more information, the public may call 918.336.4949 or visit the web site at www.pricetower.org.
p. 918.336.4949 x119