The world-known Spoleto USA starts this weekend and Charleston’s own Piccolo Spoleto, known as Spoleto’s outreach arm, is kicking off with less money this year. Piccolo founder and director Ellen Moryl says the economy has sure taken its toll on the festival.
“Oh, it’s hit us profoundly, it’s hit everybody. But, ya know, that has made us take a look at our budget, we have become very, very cost conscience, as we always have been that, but exceptionally so now. And we are maximizing the use of the dollars that we get donated,” says Moryl.
Spoleto USA and Piccolo Spoleto are financially separate, as Piccolo Spoleto’s budget is fundraiser-based, and this year, it was cut by one-third. Last year the festival had $1.2 million and this year, Moryl says they only had $830,000 to work with. Most of the cuts were in the marketing department, such as brochures and mailings. Most of Piccolo Spoleto’s shows are free of admission.
“We take a lot of things to outlying areas, to hospital wards, to senior citizen centers, to nursing homes, and community centers, like in Ridgeville, to many, many places where people don’t even know that Piccolo Spoleto Festival is even going on, and if they did, they might not be able to afford the ticket prices of Spoleto Festival,” says Moryl.
Despite the bad news the economy may have brought the festival, Moryl says they have reason to be excited. The National Endowment for the Arts will study Piccolo this year as part of a national survey going to seven different outdoor festivals around the country to ask attendees a variety of questions.
“What they think of the festival experience, how it impacts them, how it impacts the community, I’m sure they will be doing a demographic study as to who is responding to these survey questions and I know they will be doing a study of the economic impact,” says Moryl.
Moryl says the significance of the study is to find out how these outdoor festivals provide artistic excellence to citizens.