The Sundance Institute laid off 11 employees, about six percent of its 180 employees, on Wednesday, with the nonprofit citing a drop in earned revenue, rising inflation and a “tougher fundraising climate “.
Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente briefed the team Wednesday in a memo sent to staff and obtained by IndieWire, and laid-off employees were notified today.
The cuts have impacted multiple departments, but no specific names or roles have been revealed. Vicente said another staff member is transitioning to “short hours” and the organization had to make other difficult decisions regarding seasonal work demands. A source said the moves are needed in the changing economic landscape and to move forward by redesigning aspects of their work and staff.
“Like many nonprofits, the economic climate has tested our business,” Vicente wrote. “We entered FY23 on a deficit and it has become more expensive to run the Institute due to rising costs due to inflation, a decline in our earned revenues and a more difficult fundraising climate. Because of this, we had to make tough choices about our future. We have undertaken a rigorous review across the Institute to begin defining a path forward. The positions we are eliminating reflect the outcome of that review, and in the coming year, we will continue to prioritize the Institute’s core work, embrace reinvention and create efficiencies.”
The layoffs follow the return of an in-person Sundance Film Festival in January, after two years of the festival going virtual. The festival saw a strong turnout and a good sales market. The news also comes after the festival just last month received a historic $4 million grantthe largest in its history, from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to the indigenous program of the Sundance Institute.
Sundance isn’t alone among arts institutions and nonprofits that have suffered layoffs recently, including just this month BAM and Central Theater Group who also cut staff and put programs on hold.
Next year’s Sundance will be its 40th anniversary and the festival is scheduled for January 18-28, 2024.
Read Vicente’s full note to staff below:
I have some difficult news to share. Over the past few months, we have been candid about our work to financially strengthen the organization for a solid foundation for our future as we navigate a changing economic landscape. In light of this, we are reducing our team size by 11 positions today. We have previously informed colleagues affected by these decisions.
In addition to these reductions, a member of staff is transitioning to a reduced work schedule and we have had to make decisions regarding seasonal labor demands, which we have shared with departments as part of our planning process.
It’s hard to say goodbye to people who have made significant contributions to this organization, incredibly talented people who we have loved working with. I want to thank our esteemed colleagues for their impact on Sundance. We plan to support them with severance packages as generous as we can afford.
I want to share what brought us here. Like many nonprofits, the economic climate has tested our business. We entered FY23 on a deficit and it has become more expensive to run the Institute due to rising costs due to inflation, a decline in our earned revenues, and a more difficult fundraising climate. Because of this, we had to make tough choices about our future. We have undertaken a rigorous review across the Institute to begin defining a path forward. The positions we are eliminating reflect the result of that review, and in the coming year, we will continue to prioritize the Institute’s core work, embrace reinvention and create efficiencies.
We have a strong mission, impactful and life-changing programs for artists, and a community focused on discovering and supporting artists, artists who help change culture, entertain and move us. As you know, we are working on a 3-5 year strategic plan focused on revamping the Institute’s priorities, business model and operations; today’s organizational changes work in concert with this.
I am confident of the tremendous opportunity in front of us thanks to our incredibly talented team who steward this organization and the value of what we have provided over four decades to the arts and culture.
I know you will have many questions about what I just shared, our plans for next year and how we move forward. We will look at these elements in today’s all staff meeting and over the coming weeks and months as we work together.
Please take care as you process this difficult news and rely on your key leaders, including me, to work together on this.
I am grateful to all of you for your work on behalf of artists and Sundance.
DAY first reported the news.