The University of Iowa

Dear Hancher Friends,

I’m excited to be writing to you today because, at long last, we are starting to gather people together again for wonderful Hancher experiences. We are delighted to share our 2021-2022 season with you! Tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, August 16 at 11 am.

We can’t wait to welcome you back to Hancher Auditorium!

I wanted to let all of you know about a few changes we have made in response to the University of Iowa’s decision to eliminate its annual support of Hancher’s operation.

It would be difficult to overstate what the loss of $1.5 million per year in university support (a cut that takes full effect during our 2022-2023 season, which happens to be our 50th anniversary!) means to our ability to continue our mission-driven work. That the first cut came during a period in which we could not generate significant revenue via ticket sales just added to the challenges.

But as has been amply demonstrated in the past, the Hancher staff is nothing if not creative and resilient. We have spent the last several months reimagining the way we do our work, collaborating across the staff to create a new work plan for Hancher going forward. Just as importantly, we spent significant time reminding ourselves just why we do our work.

The question of why is answered in the refreshing of our mission, vision, and values. You can find these important markers of our commitments to the campus, community, and state on our website, but I did want to highlight one of them here.

We are committed to the notion of “People First.” That means we will make decisions about our programming and operations that align with our desire to serve the deep and broad spectrum of people who make up our wider community—a community that includes UI students, faculty, and staff as well people from throughout the state of Iowa. We won’t just ask ourselves whether an artist or show reflects our high aesthetic standards. We will ask ourselves whether an artist or show reflects our commitment to fostering a robustly inclusive community. These two ideas—high artistic standards and robust inclusivity—can absolutely work in harmony.

Hancher has also endeavored to put people first in all that we do, but this feels like the right moment to elevate the concept into our list of core values. We believe the arts—especially when experienced communally—can be an indispensable part of lifelong learning and help us meet the many challenges we all face. This is important for the students the University of Iowa serves and for all us. All of us at Hancher are committed to the work that makes the notions of diversity, equity, and inclusion more than just a bit of feel-good jargon. We are committed to making those ideas central to the ways in which we serve others.

The challenges we face extend beyond the why of our work. The deep funding cut requires us to make some changes to the how of our work as well. Changes you will see beginning this season include an overall uptick in ticket prices, an increase in box office fees, increases to our rental fees, an increase in the use of crowdfunding strategies to support our work (as well as the use of easy-to-use giving technologies like donation links during virtual events and QR code-enabled donation options), and the introduction of the reusable Hancher Season Cups, which will allow patrons to enjoy beverages in the auditorium during performances.

These changes are necessary in order to allow us to continue to operate in a fiscally responsible manner. We hope and trust that your love of Hancher will soften the blow of these changes.

If you are inspired to support our work, we would love to have you become a Hancher donor at any level. You can see the full list of benefits—and the impact of your gift on our work—on the Hancher website. These new giving levels are now in effect, and the new benefits will apply to our 50th anniversary season in 2022-2023.

Before I close, I want to take a moment to welcome President Barbara Wilson to the University of Iowa. We are excited to work with her, and we hope that many of you will have the opportunity to meet her on campus, in the community, or—ideally—at Hancher!

Let me say again—and in the spirit of our commitment to “People First”—how grateful we are to all of you. We are grateful to everyone who participated in our virtual programming over the last year and we are grateful to everyone who is eager to return to the auditorium. This fall, the power of shared artistic experiences will return to Hancher Auditorium.

I can’t wait!


Chuck Swanson