By Pat Sherman
The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is opening its 352-seat, acoustically superior performance auditorium — formerly under the stewardship of the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) — to commercial, corporate and nonprofit groups for the upcoming season, Oct. 1, 2012 through Sept. 30, 3013.
Though TSRI owns the space, now renamed the Auditorium at TSRI, the Neurosciences Institute began leasing and operating the facility near UC San Diego in 1996, offering nonprofit performing arts and education groups regular, free access to the world-renowned concert venue.
NSI’s lease on two adjacent research buildings owned by Scripps also expires Sept. 30. The organization’s research director, Dr. Einar Gall, said his organization would release information about its plans in the coming weeks.
TSRI announced earlier this year that it does not have funds to allow arts organizations to continue using the auditorium for free. Moving forward, the rental rate for businesses and special events is $3,000 per evening.
Rental for qualified nonprofit groups, including performing arts organizations and educational groups that focus on science or aesthetic matters, is $1,500 per evening, plus any ancillary charges. These include the use of audio visual or lighting technicians, as well as caterers, which must be procured through TSRI’s list of approved vendors, who are familiar with the space and its equipment, Scripps Research Institute spokeswoman Stacy Rosenberg said.
Several nonprofit arts organizations have already booked space for the coming season, including the La Jolla Music Society, the Mainly Mozart Festival and the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, Rosenberg said.
Though some nonprofit groups who previously used the space wrote TSRI saying they won’t be able to afford the $1,500 rental fee, Rosenberg said, “I think people understand the position Scripps Research Institute is in, in terms of being a nonprofit as well, why as a biomedical research institute we could not put money into this. … We needed financial participation from users; we just couldn’t give it away.”
Christopher Beach, president and artistic director of the La Jolla Music Society, said his organization will continue presenting its Discovery Series in the auditorium. The series brings the winners of classical music competitions from around the world to La Jolla.
“That theater is incredibly important to us; I’m delighted that we’ll still be there,” Beach said, noting that he feels the $1,500 nonprofit rent is an “appropriate market rate.”
“I can’t very well object, having been the beneficiary of so many years of (the Neuroscience Institute’s) largesse,” he said. “It’d be nice to get it for free forever, but everyone has financial challenges.”
Rosenberg said that in the future TSRI hopes to invite some of the now excluded nonprofit groups back for free use, possibly through an endowment from someone “who understands what a beautiful facility this is and the important role that the auditorium plays for the performing arts.”
“We don’t want to actively fundraise, because it conflicts with our mission as a biomedical research institute,” Rosenberg said. “We have so many generous supporters of the performing arts in our community and we would just love it if one day we’re able to restore the (free-use) program.”
The auditorium is currently undergoing a renovation, courtesy a local philanthropist’s $65,000 grant.
The work includes adding handrails to the steps, replacing carpeting, repairing seats, adding lights and other safety features.
“We’re really pleased about being able to offer a safer, more comfortable environment for the people who will be attending concerts here,” Rosenberg said.
Located on the Torrey Pines Mesa at 10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive, the auditorium offers superior acoustics, theater seating, and elegant, contemporary architecture. On-site event parking, a reception area and dining patio are available adjacent the auditorium.