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The role of the Board

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There was an article in this weekends NY Times talking about the Whitney Museums Biennial and the lack of focus (among other things)

"These events undermine not only the art world's good will, but also its trust. They make clearer than ever the need for intelligent, actively involved trustees, who have aesthetic sophistication, moral commitment and a strong connection to their museum, its staff and its area of focus.

Museums like the Whitney and the Guggenheim, as well as the Modern, came into existence because of wealthy people with a passion for new art and a commitment to living artists. The institutions they created played a major role in their lives and identities. Today, museum boards are just another way to enter high society rather than a chance to escape from it. They are largely the purview of wealthy socialites and captains of industry with little imagination or vision, who nonetheless, and usually for not a lot of money, have a big say in a museum's affairs."

I must admit, I'm not that familiar with how involved the ballet world's board's are. Would anyone care to comment?

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Interesting topic, Calliope, although it may be hard to answer. This is one area where anyone with inside knowledge may be understandably reluctant to post.

The topic of boards has come up in interviews I've done a few times, and each of the companies was very different. Some boards are made up more of community leaders than ballet lovers, others have wealthy patrons who want some control over what they see -- or at least be able to have some input -- as well as genuinely want to support an art form they love.

Has anyone ever been on a ballet board, or have any insights to offer?

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I haven't been on a board, but I have worked for several large succesful arts organizations and as far as I can tell, a board's most important function is to raise funds.

They are also there to check the spending of the administrators of the organization as is required by tax law, therefore any kind of not-for-profit agency will have a board of directors or trustees.

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Guest BA2's Mom

They are also there to check the spending of the administrators of the organization as is required by tax law, therefore any kind of not-for-profit agency will have a board of directors or trustees. [/b]

This is all very interesting! The President of the Board at dau #2 school is married to the school Administrator. They are very nice people, but it doesn't sound like this is a very good idea!

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In a large organization with millions of dollars at stake, that would probably be considered a conflict of interest.

In a small organization, I would call that the family business.

I worked for a school where the head teacher was the daughter, the business manager was the father, and the receptionist was the mother. And sis helped sew costumes.

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Guest BA2's Mom

There is a school and there is a paid Company. Both have gone thru many changes and it can only move forward as far as growth and developement. They also have a dancing dau.

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LMCTech, I think your distinctions make a great deal of sense.

The hard time for a company is when it's in the transition between being a Mom and Pop and a company with, shall we say, a more dispassionate board. That's also when Mom and Pop lose control over the company they nursed into life and love dearly.

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On a small scale view:

The studio at which my daughter dances has a 501-3C dance company that really only got off the ground in the sense of performances, this past year. It is poised at the point where it either has to go forward and truly raise money to pay back the out of pocket costs of about 4 parents who have been making phenomenally beautiful tutus and put on "galas" after the main evening's performances, or just do a quick hit raffle/request and try to pay back what's been laid out to date!

It's a tough call - especially when the state of affairs within can seem precarious at times.

The requirements of starting and maintaining a true not-for-profit organization, a 501-3C in tax code terms, are important to learn. I took one course in this subject and you really need to get some hard core advice from a professional tax person on it. The board members have to be insured so they are protected personally from any possible litigation, etc.

The good part about having a board in a small scale operation is that a great deal of the work load should, ideally, be spread amongst the members and the weight of "it all" taken off the shoulders of the artistic directors themselves - which they often hate, anyway.

The hard part, probably on any scale, is looking at the dual bottom lines which sometimes don't seem related at all: the art and the necessary income. In a small venue, I would imagine it is a lot harder to say to the artistic director, with whom your child studies, "Nope, sorry, we really don't think doing Swan Lake every performance is the way to draw an audience 4 times a year [and thinking 'even though we know you love dancing in it, yourself'], and we really think it would be better to do XYZ...

In reading about the goings on with Lincoln Center and its possible plans, it is not hard to see how difficult it must be to work within a board of any well-known company. The stakes are much higher, relatively speaking, and the egos much greater...And if it is true that it is no longer a board made up of predominantly arts lovers who have an attitude of nobless oblige and one more of social climbing - Egad!

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