Theatre, spared this year by private donation, deserves
By Jenn Pulham
December 15, 2006 | The Ellen Eccles Theater on Main
Street in Logan will most likely see a cut in budget
this coming year from the city, says Wally Bloss, executive
director at the Cache Valley Center for the Arts. "I'm
not sure we've been able to show the mayor the value
of the arts," he said.
The theater, under threat of closing in 1988, was
bought by the city, and therefore subject to the budget
the city sees fit. Bloss says Mayor Randy Watts, who
has been in office since January, had told him his intentions
of cutting the budget for the arts from when he first
took office. But if the city owns the theater, shouldn't
its citizens have a say in what is done with it? That
sort of makes sense.
Mayor Watts grew up in Cache Valley and has a lot
of respect for the arts. "My family contributed to the
arts many times," he said. Unfortunately, the cuts had
to come from somewhere. Watts has been to every department
head and asked them to make significant cuts and personnel
changes in order to assist the budget. He had to ask
the arts department for something, even if, oh, they're
not actually a department of the city.
The arts center was next on his list, or first on
his list, depending on how you look at it. "If I'd had
been at it longer, I'd have made the cuts even sooner,"
he said. Watts reasoned that the citizens would rather
have the money going to fixing the roads. In fact, Watts
said the roads went two years without being chipped
and sealed, whereas the theater received the same budget
The theater was built in 1923 and rumors were that
it would be demolished until the public spoke out. With
more changes looming, will the public speak out again?
Bloss says an article published in The Herald Journal
Sept. 21 was most likely the first time the public heard
of the budget cut. You would think that with word out
that plans for the theater are changing, people would
be more willing to put some effort into saving this
Cache Valley treasure.
The cut is not final yet, and must be discussed by
city council members. The cut would take effect next
fiscal year. The city provided $246,000 last year for
operation of the theater. This money went to the upkeep
of the building, such as paying electric bills and fixing
Bloss says the Center for the Arts spends around $200,000
bringing in the artists every year. With the cut from
the city, they will most likely be required to use some
of that money to make up the difference. "Our goal is
to find a way not to do it," Bloss said.
That's good, Wally, and good luck. Chances are, unless
Cache Valley citizens cough up some money, there's nowhere
else for it to come from. But judging by the frugality
of a lot of people in Cache Valley, it is unlikely that
they will put their money into a theater, even if it
is a landmark. They would rather see the money go to
a new movie theater then something that would bring
culture to their lives, perish the thought.
If the cut goes through city council, Watts believes
that the cut will reduce the arts budget to far below
$200,000, a cut of more than $50,000.
Lucky for them someone did step up to the plate. Dell
Loy Hansen of North Logan, who has donated money to
various organizations in the city in the past, came
to Bloss to discuss options. In the end, Hansen and
several of his partners agreed to set up what will basically
be a trust fund for the Ellen Eccles Theater. The amount
totals more than $1 million and saves the theater from
having to cut any of its programs this coming year.
Bloss is hoping that with the end of the year approaching
there will be more contributions. He says the public
is likely to give more money to the arts. "They look
at it as giving money to the local community as opposed
to the IRS," he said.
The cut from the city is still in the future, and
Bloss is unsure of how much it will be. "They may cut
half, all, we don't know."