Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Should All Arts Organizations Be Saved?

Recommended Posts

"Should all arts organizations be saved?"

This was the question the Wall Street Journal put to Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, in an interview published in the Journal's February 19 edition.

Kaiser agrees (somewhat ruefully) that, "there is a life and death to arts organizations and not everyone should survive forever, or will survive forever."

He has a number of interesting things to say about reviving failing arts organizations, although I don't know how useful some of his advice would be to medium-to-small sized arts organizations. For instance, he talks about cutting out free coffee ($30,000) at the Kennedy Center. That's great but I doubt most smaller arts organizations have that much slack in their budgets. (Kaiser's experience seems to be completely with large organizations -- ABT, Ailey, the Royal Opera House and the Kennedy Center.)

Link to comment

I'll copy-and-paste here my earlier words form the NYCB layoffs topic, as it best belongs here:

I suspect that the few large government NEH/NEA grants that will be available as part of The Stimulus will go to very select arts organizations that may end up being what exists in the future. In other words, focusing on ballet, we will most likely end up having only a dozen or so ballet companies in the USA, each serving 4-5 states, rather than a bunch of smaller local ones. Survival of the fittest...or Survival of the Savviest and most well-plugged, politically?

This reminds me of Russian and other USSR Republics not so long ago, when every Republic had its state-funded Theater of Ballet and Opera. What you see is what you get. Take it or leave it. And the USA being a melting pot, I can easily see, for example, the 'SW Area' ballet company specializing in Hispanic or native American themes...imagine the political 'fun' of being in charge of the NEA and doling out the grants so as to not 'offend' specific groups. Geez, Louise...

Let's go further and look at what happened to ballet and other 'classical, Euro-centric" arts institutions shortly after the Mandela Changes in South Africa in the mid-90s. A number of performing arts institutions were 'bundled up' into single State Theaters which never-ever were quite what they had been before. [Not that anybody wants to go back to other aspects of apartheid South Africa...]

Link to comment

Good question, miliosr. Here is a link to the complete article:


"But it is true that there is a life and death to arts organizations and not every one should survive forever, or will survive forever," he acknowledges. "The fact is, from a financial standpoint, the difference between sickness and health is typically so slim that it's probably not the financials that should determine whether they should survive or not."

Ultimately, the determining factor may well be whether organizations embrace Mr. Kaiser's oft-repeated mantra of "great art well-marketed" -- the underlying principle of his book and his entire arts management philosophy. The deteriorating economy has only affirmed the importance of this principle, he says.

It's fairly easy to agree with the generalization that nothing lasts forever, but the devil is in the details. I would be curious to read actual case studies of organizations that did or should fail and others who deserve a boost, in the same way the business pages these days are full of post-mortems for Mervyns, Circuit City, et al, and features on others who seem to be prospering. There's no way Kaiser can be candid enough to say, "Here's why I think Company X should tank," of course, but it would be interesting if he could.

As for great art well marketed, that's all very well, but some people have to put on Dracula to pay the bills, you know.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...