The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is in the red by $1.3 million after its 2022-23 season.
At the WSO‘s annual general meeting this week, the board of directors’ treasurer, Jon Kliewer, announced the financial hit.
The silver lining, Kliewer says, is that the WSO was able to offset the deficit entirely after using COVID stabilization reserve funds from the 2020 and 2021 federal rent and wage subsidies.
“The WSO realized a substantial deficit in 2022-23 and will be challenged to break even in this fiscal year even using the remaining COVID stabilization fund balance,” says Kliewer. “Management and staff are dedicated to achieving a sustainable business model over time but will need substantial increased revenues to bridge this and the next two years.”
Officials say despite gradually increasing audiences, the WSO’s financial future is “extremely concerning.”
“We are in the eye of the storm,” said board chair Curt Vossen. “No solution is possible without the collaborative efforts of government, the private sector, patrons, the administration and musicians. The reality is… this is a challenge to which the entire community must rise.”
The WSO, which recently held its 75th anniversary season, saw audiences rebound to about 67% pre-pandemic levels. Ticket revenues were still down $1 million compared to several years ago. At the same time, government COVID-related support programs worth close to $2.1 million in 2021-22 ended.
Executive director Angela Birdsell is hopeful the incoming provincial NDP government‘s pledge of $8 million in annual grants and funding to support Manitoba’s arts and culture community wasn’t just a campaign talking point.
“We intend to hold the new provincial government to that promise,” says Birdsell. “And we hope that our new leaders will work with us, and our supporters, in creating an even more vibrant symphony orchestra that will serve our entire community.”