M. John Richard keeps an interesting coaster in his office at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.
Larger than your average cup, the patch is actually a scrap from new carpet installed at the Ziff Ballet Opera House after leaks sprung during a storm more than a year ago, forcing workers to evacuate a sold-out showing of The Lion King.
It was, Richard acknowledges, “not my favorite moment” during his tenure as president and CEO of the county-owned arts center, which opened in 2006.
“But it is one of the experiences of my short career here of five years from which I gained a great deal of pride and admiration for the people I work with,” said Richard, who left a nearly 20-year career at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center to take over Miami’s then-fledgling institution in late ’08.
The $473 million center just completed its seventh season and finished the fiscal year with its sixth consecutive balanced budget. For the fiscal year that just ended, the budget was nearly $35 million; the current year’s budget is just over $36 million.
After existing as the sole arts institution in the area for years, the Arsht Center will be joined by the nearby Pérez Art Museum Miami later this year and, in 2015, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. Development surrounding the center, at 1300 Biscayne Blvd., is also in the works. Espacio USA, a Spanish developer, is planning a $412 million mixed-use project at 1400 Biscayne Blvd., and Genting Corp. plans to demolish the old Miami Herald building east of the Arsht Center to build a complex including hotels, restaurants, condos and potentially a casino, if it gets state approval.
Whatever happens over the next few years, Richard, 60, should have a front-seat view: The Performing Arts Center Trust board has renewed his contract through the end of 2018. Recently, he sat down with the Miami Herald to talk about programming the Arsht Center’s three venues, fundraising and adapting to changing surroundings.
Q. What was one of the biggest successes of the last year, programming-wise?
Programming-wise, you can look at it from the box office success. We did back-to-back Broadway [shows] breaking box office sales for Mary Poppins, then the next show was Les Misérables. ... But the most recent box office success was the amazing run we had of Slava’s Snow Show this summer, which we’re particularly proud of because we made the aggressive mission-oriented case that Miamians live here 12 months out of the year and we are an arts center that has a second season — and that’s the summer. The Slava’s Snow Show program, over 35,000 people attended, 50 percent were new to file…[which means it was their] first time attending a performance at the center. We projected that we needed 24,000 attendees for the 30 performances and we had over 35,000. It was also a strong financial success, and we’re very proud of the artistic reviews that the company received very early on.
So the big shows did incredibly well at the box office and then we had a sprinkling of really important community engagements that came at us during the course of the year. [Richard singled out the tweetup with Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez and the poetry reading by Richard Blanco, the poet for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.]