Southern Theater in Mpls. must raise $400K to remain openby Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Southern Theater in Minneapolis told supporters Thursday night it needs to raise $400,000 by April 30 if it is to keep its doors open.
The West Bank venue, which presents a wide selection of dance, music and drama, has struggled financially for years.
Southern Executive Director Gary Peterson said the theater board wants to raise the money to pay off its debts and create a firm financial foundation for the future.
"The theater has never been properly capitalized in its history," said Peterson. "The new board leadership and the rest of us have just basically drawn a line in the sand and said, we need to stop and change this once and for all."
Last week the McKnight Foundation, a major funder, asked the Southern to return $300,000 which it had given to the theater to support dance, due to concerns the funds were mismanaged.
The money in question was intended to support individual artists, but previous Southern administrators channeled it into the organization's main fund, and dance grant recipients complained they had not been paid.
Peterson said the foundation has not set a deadline for repayment, but those discussions will happen.
When asked whether failure to raise $400,000 by April 30 will mean the end of the Southern, Peterson said, "It's not necessarily the end, but it puts a cloud over the efficacy of moving forward."
Comments on a Facebook page in support of the Southern are generally positive, but some ask how the institution was allowed to reach this point, and whether it can guarantee it won't return with a similar state of emergency in a few years time.
Gary Peterson said he understands the concern but points out the Southern now has new leadership, which has pledged complete openness to avoid similar financial problems in the future.
"The credibility question is one that members of the public will have to weigh, quite honestly, and make a decision for themselves," he said.
The Southern has set up an online donation site, and will hold its annual fundraiser, "Southern Exposure," on April 30.