New West in the red financially, but not giving up hope

By Sam Borsato - @BorsatoSam on Twitter
February 14, 2017 - 11:52am

LETHBRIDGE - New West Theatre is remaining optimistic in the face of some rough economic times.

In 2014, Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) grants were cut from $109,000 per year down to just $64,000 for the local group. Lethbridge city council quickly stepped in, awarding them one-time $10,000 bridge funding allocations for three years.
As was the original intent for the AFA grant, the City's gap money was used for full-time employee salaries among other administrative expenses.
However, the theatre still reported a loss of $77,474 during the 2015-2016 season to council on Monday (Feb. 13).
"We had kind of a challenging year. Some change in leadership, we had to cancel some shows, we had two productions that didn't sell as well as we expected," Derek Stevenson, New West general manager, explained. "But since that time, shows have really started to pick up. We've kind of built things back up. I think part of it is gaining the trust of the community, and I think we have that."

He added that New West staff have been hard at work securing new funding sources and partnerships, as well as coming up with different donation strategies, something that Stevenson feels is paying off.
Unfortunately, the end of the report expects another downturn for the 2018 fiscal year, stating that the theatre could be "facing one of the most difficult seasons in recent history."
"The Yates is closing for about seven to eight months, starting in September. So, we still get to perform our summer comedy reviews in the Yates, but then our Canadian series, our normal winter review and some of our other shows can't perform in the Yates.
"So, we have to find alternative venues, and there isn't a ton of spaces in our community," Stevenson continued. "City administration is working with us, and we're trying to find venues that we think will work for us... We have to find office space, storage space, rehearsal space, performance space, a little bit of everything we kind of have to juggle."
Stevenson noted that New West should have some exciting places to announce by the season launch party on April 22.

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