The future of Island Aerial Acrobatics at Orcas Center is up in the air until a contract is signed.
Members of the community met with Orcas Center Board of Trustees President Tom Fiscus and Executive Director Brian Kemp to discuss the silks’ group partnership with the center following an e-mail stating that the program could not continue because the cost of rent was increasing.
“What’s important to bring into the Orcas Center?” asked Krista Bouchey, a parent of an Island Aerial Acrobatics student. “Is the silks program important to you guys?”
For nine years Maria Bullock has taught the silks class at Orcas Center. There are more than 100 students ages 1 and older enrolled in silks classes taught by Bullock or one of four other instructors. According to Bouchey, the center is the only location on the island that is suited to host the classes and shows because of ceiling height and hanging capabilities.
Fiscus explained the finances of the center and the need to increase rent. He said that the rental fee increased 30 percent between 2001 and 2015. Kemp added that the cost to rent the main stage in 1996 was $750.
“Today it would be around $1,200 [with inflation] and so – for some odd reason — the administrations over the last 10 years did not account for that,” said Kemp. “Only 2 percent is contributed through rentals and three-quarters of the activity in this center is rentals. So the math doesn’t work.”
According to Kemp, membership accounts for approximately 26 percent of the center’s budget. He also noted that the membership numbers have decreased recently — a trend he attributes to the large number of non-profits on the island.
“It’s dropping off because you have a group of people here that feel like the Orcas Center is leaving them out,” said Bouchey.
Fiscus said the center strives to appease its many stakeholders, but that their interests are varied. He added that if it is possible for the center to increase revenue without raising rent prices, the board and staff are willing to pursue it.
As for silks, the uncertainty remains for owner-instructor Bullock. She said that since Island Aerial Acrobatics began its partnership with the center, it has always produced a yearly show.
“There was never a question about that. When we approached the subject this year, we were told ‘No we can’t produce the show; it costs us too much money,’” said Bullock, adding that for three months while the center debated its involvement, silks organizers devised a way to produce the show without Orcas Center.
“At that point, we’d already put so much work into it, we didn’t really see an advantage for [the center’s] producing it, so we decided to do it ourselves,” she said.
Both Kemp and Fiscus said they are open to discussing the silks program’s future at the Orcas Center in more detail, but as of right now, no contract has been signed.
“If we are approached to have it continue, we will make sure to have it continue,” said Fiscus.