The Center for the Performing Arts Relaunches Quest for New Naming Partner
Undoubtedly, many arts organizations are grappling with the enduring repercussions of the pandemic. The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel faced a significant challenge during the pandemic with the loss of a major naming rights agreement.
However, the Center has found renewed vitality amid the pandemic and is poised to recommence its pursuit of an exclusive naming rights agreement.
In a broader context, the Center has experienced a remarkable 45% increase in patrons in 2023, encompassing a 50% rise in first-time visitors and a 30% increase in returning visitors.
According to the American Association of the Arts, Carmel’s arts venues, with the Center for the Performing Arts being the largest among them, contribute a substantial $42.7 million to the local economy. The Center’s campus attracts over half a million people annually for a diverse array of events ranging from performances, educational programs and lessons to the Carmel Farmers Market, Christkindlmarkt and more.
Celebrating Success and Renewed Opportunities on the Horizon
I spoke with Center for the Performing Arts CEO/President Jeff McDermott about the Center’s pursuit of a naming sponsor, the recent/current seasons’ success, and what the goals are for the organization now that we’ve turned the page to 2024.
“If you look at the success of a season by ticket sales—which is just one factor, of course—it’s been a great season,” McDermott said. “We’ve had eight ‘Center Presents’ holiday shows [this season], and seven of them were sellouts. The only [show] that wasn’t a sellout sold over 1,000 tickets. So, it was our best-selling holiday series ever. Last year, we ended up having our best ticket sales ever, and this year, we’re on pace to do that or more. We’re really pleased with that, and I’m really pleased with the diversity of the programming in every sense of the word. From the diversity of the performers themselves and the diversity of the genres, there’s a little bit of something for everybody. I’m excited about Richard Marx, who’s coming up. It will be good to have him here!”
McDermott shared that the second half of the 2023-24 season is even stronger than the first half in terms of diversity of programming and the momentum of support from patrons, donors and representatives of the city of Carmel.
McDermott added, “As I look at the changing landscape with the new mayoral administration and the changes to the Carmel City Council, I’m grateful for everything former mayor Jim Brainard has done, and I’m also really excited about the future. Mayor Sue Finkam brings a lot of new energy and ideas. I’ve had many conversations with her, and she’s a huge supporter of everything we’re doing and what the other arts organizations are doing. I’m sensing great support from her and the city council, so I think it’s just full steam ahead now.”
Qualities of the Ideal Naming Partner
McDermott shared that just prior to the governor’s executive order in March 2020 due to the global pandemic that brought the world to a screeching halt, the Center was in the process of signing on a naming partner that matched the Center’s mission and values of integrity, inclusion, innovation, excellence and collaboration. As a consequence of the pandemic, the agreement never came to fruition. However, McDermott respects the prospective partner’s decision to focus their resources and energy inward, which is what the Center did as well.
It is hoped that the Center will find the same or even greater level of interest from prospective naming partners now that it has relaunched its search.
“That potential naming partner stepped back, and they did the right thing, in my view,” McDermott stated. “As a result, we put a hold on finding a naming partner throughout the pandemic, and we focused on our employees and our mission. We kept the engine running; we lowered the temperature of and turned down the engine, but we kept it running. That really allowed us to come [out] of the pandemic right out of the gate, and we didn’t have to rehire people, and we didn’t have to completely crank it and restart the engine.”
After last season’s success and the success of outlier events such as the farmers market and Christkindlmarkt (which, along with the Center’s and its resident companies’ shows, drew in 600,000 plus people to the campus), McDermott explained, “It just seems like a perfect time to go out and look [for a naming partner] again.”
“I think the [ideal naming partner] is a company [that] wants a long-term relationship,” McDermott described. “We’re looking at a minimum of seven years, but we prefer 10 or more. We don’t want people to just dip their toe in the water; we want them to be committed for the long term and want [them] to be a partner that really shares our core values and mission. Those values and mission need to be at the heart [and] soul of the naming partner. Our mission is to engage and inspire the entire Indiana community with enriching arts experiences. So, the ideal naming partner should be looking for recognition and wanting to align their brand with ours, but [they should also understand] the importance of our mission. [The Center is] not just an economic driver; it’s a cultural driver, and great communities have great cultural offerings like this.”
McDermott emphasized the Center’s continued focus on expanding its educational offerings and programs as well as its accessibility by building up funds such as its transportation fund. This fund supports schools, mostly in underserved communities, that need transportation funding so that their students can participate in the Center’s educational programs and opportunities.
Additionally, the Center plans to continue hosting civic events, including its naturalization ceremony, where as many as 100 individuals throughout the globe take the oath of U.S. citizenship on the Palladium’s stage.
“All of these events and performances that happen on our campus are what makes it pretty extraordinary,” McDermott said. “With the announcement and [future] plans to build our Great American Songbook museum, which will be associated with our affiliate, The Great American Songbook Foundation—for which I also serve as the president and CEO—I think it just adds even more to the spotlight that is going to shine on the arts and campus here in Carmel. I think it also makes a great opportunity for the right naming partner to align their brand with ours, and ours with theirs.”
For more information on the Center for the Performing Arts, visit thecenterpresents.org. For more information on the naming partnership, interested parties can contact Jeff McDermott or Scott Hall at the Center at 317٠660٠3373.