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Dayton Arts Community Faces Struggle to Stay Afloat

The arts scene in Dayton, Ohio, has been feeling a financial pinch as the troubles of the "Big Three" U.S. automakers and other economic woes ripple through its community. Jeffrey Brown reports on Dayton arts organizations' struggle to survive.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Finally tonight, the arts world struggling to stay afloat in the economic downturn. Jeffrey Brown reports from Dayton, Ohio.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    At the Victoria Theater downtown recently, the Dayton Ballet presented its final performances of the season, facing an uncertain future.

    Is the survival of the company at stake?

  • DERMOT BURKE, Dayton Ballet:

    If the freefall doesn't stop, I think we're in jeopardy, yes.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Dermot Burke has led this company for 17 years. Founded in 1927, it's the second-oldest ballet company in the U.S. and a source of pride in this Midwest city.

    But in the economic downturn, it's in trouble. It's cutting administrative staff, the number of dancers, and shortening its season.

    Things were already bad, Burke says. Then they went off a cliff when the big three automakers, including G.M., came to Washington in November to seek a bailout.

  • DERMOT BURKE:

    We know the day that it happened. It was…

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The day?

  • DERMOT BURKE:

    The day, literally the day.

  • RICK WAGONER, Former CEO, General Motors:

    Our industry, which represents America's real economy, Main Street, needs a bridge to span the financial chasm that has opened before us.

  • DERMOT BURKE:

    This is a car town. It's a G.M. town. And it's not just the people that work at the plant, the suppliers, as well. And people just stopped buying tickets. They just simply stopped buying tickets.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The ticket losses came at the worst possible time, during the company's production of "The Nutcracker," a family favorite that usually brings in some 40 percent to 50 percent of earned income for the entire year.

    At the same time, the ballet was losing much of its rainy day fund in the market, and philanthropic support slowed. Drastic measures were required.

    You yourself took a very large salary cut, 50 percent?

  • DERMOT BURKE:

    That's true. Yes, I did. I couldn't ask people to take the hit they were going to take if I didn't take a hit. And the hit that I took had to be significant. The closeness of this organization is what makes this week tough.