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Michael Kaiser: Arts Organizations in Trouble Making the Wrong Choices


by Jerome Weeks 19 Feb 2009

Michael Kaiser — president of the Kennedy Center, rescuer of arts organizations from Alvin Ailey to the Royal Opera House, and developer of Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative, which provides planning assistance to troubled groups — tells the Wall Street Journal: “When there are economic challenges, the first things that staffs and boards […]

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Michael Kaiser — president of the Kennedy Center, rescuer of arts organizations from Alvin Ailey to the Royal Opera House, and developer of Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative, which provides planning assistance to troubled groups — tells the Wall Street Journal:

“When there are economic challenges, the first things that staffs and boards cut are programming and marketing, and that’s the worst thing you can do,” he says. “You’re guaranteeing yourself you’ll have less revenue next year, and that’s how sick organizations get really sick. That’s why I’m so nervous right now and why I’m doing this.”

Cutting budget is obviously necessary, “but where you cut is crucial,” he continues. “I cut the free coffee for staff here. It saved us $30,000 a year. I’ve also cut back on staff travel, including my own. I’ve never met a budget I couldn’t cut, in any organization, no matter how small. But if you start by cutting the programming, rather than everything in the back of the house, you’re signing a warrant that everything will just get worse, worse, worse.”

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  • The first thing to cut is the stubborn attitude of art groups that refuse to change or try innovative solutions.
    As an artist, musician, writer, here in Dallas I know this town is known for its brick wall of stubbornness to change or innovation. I don’t think other places are much different.