Bloggers predicted that CEO/President Josiah Spaulding Jr.’s over-the-top 1.265 million dollar retention bonus would spark inquiries into how much money goes where at the Citi Performing Arts Center (CPAC). It does not seem too much to ask, given that the state and other funders are throwing much moolah at a troubled nonprofit arts institution whose best buddy is Citigroup, the second largest bank in the world.
The Boston Globe reports that the attorney general is considering investigating the operations of CPAC. The board of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which has tossed more than 1 million bucks at the CPAC/Wang since 1989, has suddenly decided to take a hard look at where its cash is going. The MCC wants CPAC to “provide more information about the organization’s finances and programs before receiving a $60,400 grant the council allocated for this year.”
The follow-up question is obvious. Hasn’t the MCC been watching how its funds have been used by CPAC for the past eight years? As CPAC insists, it is not a secret that, since 2001, Spaulding has been accruing his big fat bonus, partly because CPAC claims other national arts institutions threatened to scoop up its “visionary” honcho. And why wouldn’t other major nonprofit cultural institutions want to latch onto Spaulding’s impressive skills? As CPAC admits, over the past five years its CEO approved of a $4 million investment in Free Shakespeare, which now “faces an accumulated loss on production-related expenses during that time of $1.366 million.”
The Boston Foundation just handed CPAC $225,000, the largest single grant given to any institution for the quarter. Will BF seriously scrutinize how CPAC handles the cash before it kicks in more bucks, money that could go to other struggling arts organizations in Boston? One part of CPAC’s strategy to solve its financial problems is crystal clear – suck in as much grant money, especially from the state, as it can. Thus the half-hearted attempt (at least so far) at hatching plans to collaborate with other local performing arts organizations. For now, CPAC sees it in its interest to hook up. What kind of a partner will it be? The Globe story suggests that the state and the city’s arts groups should keep a close eye on their new best friend.
State money has become increasingly important with the center already struggling to attract support. Individual contributions fell from just over $1 million in fiscal 2006 to $650,000 in fiscal 2007, according to the center. Corporate giving rose from $1.4 million to $2.1 million, but $1.3 million of that came from the first year of Citibank’s long-term payment in exchange for naming rights to the former Wang Center.
Legislators have provided $350,000 in each of the last two years to pay for the free Shakespeare program and to help create “a pilot program to expand performances to Springfield and other cities,” according to the state budget.
But this summer the run of the Free Shakespeare program was cut from three weeks to one and the Springfield performances never happened. Some critics and legislators are wondering about where the $350,000 for this year went. And they are concerned about where the $350,000 slotted for Free Shakespeare next year will go. Spaulding offers reassurances that all is well.
The Center had planned to hold performances in Springfield this year until Governor Mitt Romney pulled most of its $350,000 allocation before leaving office, Spaulding said this week. By the time Governor Deval Patrick restored the money, Springfield officials and Spaulding determined it was too late to stage a production for 2007.
“The concept was, ‘Let’s postpone it to ’08 and do it right,’ ” Spaulding said.
If CPAC is ever going to do the right thing funders, bloggers, local media, and those concerned about the arts in Boston will have to watch Spaulding and company very closely.