Our job isn’t just to make sure we have great shows available for you and your family — even though that is the primary aspect of what we do here.
Our reason for being goes quite a bit further, with our reach and impact extending far beyond the footlights. That’s how it’s been ever since the notion of a performing arts center in Tampa took root more than three decades ago.
The whole idea behind funding, building and supporting a performing arts center in Tampa was a conscientious move on the part of the people and their public officials to initiate a vibrant cultural life intended to lift the city out of social and economic stagnation.
The Straz Center was built from hope. It was funded by citizens who had faith in the arts to inspire a better quality of life. The people who launched the idea of The Straz wanted the organization to be a mission-based nonprofit that would advance and enhance the cultural life of everyone who lived in this area.
They were right to establish us as a benevolent catalyst for the common good. They were equally smart in empowering us to deliver the profound experience of the performing arts as a necessary part of positive mental, physical and social development for citizens of all ages.
Today, we’re able to provide not only top-notch performances, but arts education programs to 1.2 million students. Annually, we’re able to offer more than $300,000 dollars in scholarship assistance to kids around the region to study in our ever-growing, fully-accredited performing arts conservatory. We’ve got a whopping 52 education partners and counting, which means we have teacher-artists zooming all over the tri-county area delivering programs in music, dance and theater to Title I schools, veterans organizations, assisted-living facilities, other community-service nonprofits like Metropolitan Ministries, MacDonald Training Center and more.
If the community needs arts for personal improvement, healing, entertainment, edification or appreciation, we are there, ready to act — or sing or dance.
Each year, we’re responding to needs for more free performances for the community outside near the river, so we created Live & Local, Arts Legacy REMIX, Fourth Friday performance series and ongoing visual arts exhibits. We even built a groovy new Airstream bar, Sip, to make attending the outdoor performances even cooler. We’re also growing our inclusivity reach with relaxed, sensory-friendly Patel Conservatory theater performances and easier access to performances both economically and physically. When we get suggestions for how we can improve our services, be they educational or for cultural enrichment, we do our level best with the resources we have to provide what people need from their performing arts center.
One myth that seems to follow the term “nonprofit” is that the business doesn’t or can’t make money. Not true. Nonprofits can make revenue; the difference is that the extra goes right back to the mission, not to stockholders or individuals. In simplified terms, any nonprofit like us is involved in an economic cycle to fund the common good.
“If we have a year with surplus monies,” says President and CEO Judy Lisi, “that surplus goes right back to fund the Straz Center’s mission. That money funds presentations and arts education programs that need subsidies; it supports our teachers and artists; it maintains the complex facility itself.“
We have a big responsibility to the community to make the performing arts accessible and available. We use the charitable donations we receive very resourcefully to make sure we’re able to provide such a depth and breadth of services.
In more mathematical terms, The Straz’s annual budget usually lands around an 80/20 split. That means we are able to earn, through ticket sales and the like, about 80% of the budget. That leaves 20% of our budget that must be made up through donations to keep our programs and performances going.
Because so much of our mission is to provide performing arts services in education, outreach and social enhancement, we depend on individuals, foundations, public agencies and businesses to make donations. That’s why we ask you to become involved with us as annual donors or any of the many other ways you can contribute. There are veterans depending on Straz Center programs to help them live with PTSD; there are extraordinarily talented children who have no other access to training except when our teachers come to their schools; there is no greater way to bridge the divides between us socially and politically than by uniting in the experience of creativity. All of this we do while generating a $150 million per year economic impact in Tampa.
We live a purpose-driven life at The Straz. As such, we truly want as many people to fully understand and become involved in our mission as possible. We love our role in this community. We see the difference the performing arts make in helping people understand themselves and others better, in experiencing awe, in dissipating the burdens of the day with laughter or beauty or thought-provoking discussions. “We’re looking to the future,” says Lisi. “Everything we do is for the people who live here, to uplift the quality of life. We need to be prepared and equipped to meet the needs of the community for the next three decades. We always hope to fulfill our purpose successfully and be a point of pride for anyone who lives or visits here.”