Adelphi is situated in a large regional centre about 100kms from the capital city. It has a population of 150,000 in the regional city itself and the surrounding area, predominantly rural, accounts for a further 20,000 people. Adelphi is home to a large regional campus of a well-known university and has some 3,000 students living on site. The university offers performing arts courses, visual arts and communications courses as well as horticultural courses.
The city, like many regional areas, has a culturally diverse population: 20% of the population are first or second generation Australians. Of these, 8% are from Italian speaking background, 4% from Spanish speaking backgrounds and 3% from Arabic speaking backgrounds. Chinese Australians have lived in the area for many years (since the mid 19th century gold rushes) and form a substantial part of the population (5%). A small Aboriginal community lives nearby and members of this community earn their living predominantly from working on properties. Some also produce souvenirs and small craft items which are sold in the regional city. The surrounding area has some significant environmental attractions successfully marketed to an increasing number of tourists by the local Tourist Office.
The Adelphi Arts Centre (AAC) is a modern, purpose built complex and has been in operation for 4 years. A prominent architect, designed the complex but it has had a mixed reception by the residents. Many of the residents felt the Councillors were suffering from edifice complex and saw no real benefit in having such a centre, particularly when they felt the regions had been suffering extreme economic hardship. The design seemed improbable and did not seem to fit in with the city streetscape.
However, it has won the Australian Institute of Architects award for innovation and has attracted international acclaim.
In any event, the main activity in the area is football, for which the team is famous and successful nationally. Some members play for Australia internationally. The Adelphi Football Club is in a healthy financial state and is one of the main attractions for local leisure activity.
The other major event is the annual Adelphi Festival, which is a nationally acclaimed cultural event. The cultural component consists of country and western music devised by a local entrepreneur who heads up a tourist resort in the area. The Adelphi Festival has been operating for 10 years and attracts both professional and amateur country and western groups and individuals. They perform all over the city but tend to avoid the Adelphi Arts Centre because of its high-brow feel and sense of preciousness projected by the Front of House staff.
The Adelphi Arts Centre, itself, consists of a two-storey complex of some 1,500 square meters. The ground floor consists of a foyer, box office and performing arts theatre with a seating capacity of 700. There are dressing rooms, a green room, a small studio space (black box) for more intimate productions (seating capacity 150-200), conference or meeting room usage, prop making and construction spaces, technical facilities, utility space, public and staff amenities and office space. A mezzanine area winds off the ground floor with a café/bar and bookshop and other merchandising, including original craft objects and prints produced by makers and artists living in the area. The café/bar and bookshop overlook the foyer area on one side and the exquisite mountains on the other side. The first floor consists of an exhibition space/gallery and a small cinema, seating 200. The complex is fully accessible for people with disabilities.
Both the local council and the State Ministry for the Arts have championed the Adelphi Arts Centre. It was seen as a hallmark of cultural, economic and social regeneration when it was first conceived. However, this promise has not been fulfilled and slowly, the Ministry and the Council fear that the Adelphi Arts Centre will become an increasing burden on the public purse. This has been compounded by the recent dismissal of the general manager who was unable to resolve a number of conflicts and challenges facing the organisation. Among these challenges were:
- Decreasing box office
- Inability to attract corporate sponsorship
- Small visitor numbers to the gallery
- Complaints about the quality and type of food available in the café
- Complaints about the expense of goods sold in the bookshop
- A continuing deficit brought about by an ambitious and seemingly irrelevant program to which insufficient audiences were attracted
- Very unfavourable local media comment which has reflected badly on the Councillors
- The deficit for 2008/2009 was $117,300 although a small $6,540 surplus had been budgeted (the budget and notes to the budget are attached for information)
Performing and visual arts product is normally purchased from touring programs. There is an annual schools program which is popular with parents. The higher education students generally see the programming as 'traditional' and 'safe' while the local residents consider it too 'high-brow'. The students have not been able to produce either performing or visual arts shows in the venue because of the prohibitive hiring fees.
Compounding the ongoing decline of the centre is the increasing tension and de-moralisation of the staff. They have been through a great deal of turmoil in the past 2 years in particular and have endured personal opprobrium directly from Councillors and Board members. The Artistic Director applied for the position of General Manager but was passed over for an outsider (you). The Curator who did not go for the position was particularly relieved that the Artistic Director did not get the job. It is a well known fact that there is intense rivalry between the two sections of the centre brought about by competition for scarce resources, long hours and little reward or acknowledgment for the sacrifices both perceive they make relative to the other. However this has spilled over into a personal vendetta and professional undermining.
The Marketing Manager is under-performing and the rest of staff feel that they drum up what little business there is. In any event there are no marketing data or resources to develop a marketing strategy.
The Technical staff feel that they are the backbone of the organisation and that 'management' does not understand their requirements or their working culture. Often decisions are made by the Artistic Director and Curator which ignore the technical capability of the staff.
The cafe manager would like to introduce a more interesting and varied menu but has been saddled with a cook who was transferred from the local primary school and is the brother of a local councillor.
The Bookshop manager, who is on a short-term contract, keeps a low profile and does not want to take sides in any conflict that arises between the differing sectors.