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Fine Fixes For the Arts … Really!


by Gail Sachson 13 Jul 2009

Guest blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering tours, lectures, program planning and consultation. She is Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee. The annual Aspen Institute Aspen Ideas Festival just ended its fifth successful season. This year, an “Arts and Culture” tract was added to  conversations […]

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Thomas Pritzker (right) interviews Frank Gehry at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Guest blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering tours, lectures, program planning and consultation. She is Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee.

The annual Aspen Institute Aspen Ideas Festival just ended its fifth successful season. This year, an “Arts and Culture” tract was added to  conversations about politics, education, the  environment and health. So in addition to attempting to solve the problems of the Middle East, such questions  as “Is the Curtain Closing on Live Theater in America?” and “How Will the Arts Make it Through the Economic Crisis?” were posed to a paying audience and  to recognized arts leaders.

The consensus was that live theater will survive, and the arts will , indeed, weather the storm.  Swaying Aspen trees, snow-capped mountains and sunny days of 75′ degrees may have something to do with my believing the prognosis, but let me share with you my notes and inferences from several major art figures who seem to feel that the immediate art crisis is actually an opportunity.

Deborah Borda, President and CEO of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra; Leonard Lauder, Chairman of Estee Lauder and Chairman of the Whitney Museum; Laveen Naidu, Executive Director of the Dance Theater of Harlem; Damian Woetzel, former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet; and Dana Gioia, former Chairman of the NEA offered their suggestions in a panel discussion concering how arts organizations can make it through this crisis:

  • Understand the challenge: The competition now is not only for leisure dollars, but for leisure hours.
  • Regroup: Most organizations are suffering from “mission creep.” They have lost sight of their core mission.
  • Educate your audience: The real crisis is in art education. There is no excuse for not teaching the public. It is the responsibility of the company to teach – learning increases enjoyment.
  • Always be open for business. Never raise ticket prices in a crisis. Do not narrow your audience. Do not reduce marketing.
  • Do not cower: Safe productions are never the answer. “The Dracula Syndrome” is bringing back the tried and true again and again. That may bring people into the dance hall, but the point is to think bigger.
  • Embrace change: Identify the newer audience. Talk their language of new media. People are excited about the dynamics of the now. Reach out to the fast growing Latino audience.
  • Be creative in fundraising: Ask for funding through other means, such as health care services. Detail what the arts can do for the human condition.
  • Be realistic and pragmatic: Perhaps it is the time for natural selection. If an organization is truly essential, it will survive.

REMINDER: Dallas Arts Advocacy Day is Aug. 20. Register at brownpapertickets.com.

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