Michael M. Kaiser (credit: Kennedy Center)
Today’s Arts Advocacy Day in Dallas, and I just got back from a luncheon where Michael M. Kaiser, the president of Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, rallied local arts groups who’d spent the morning learning advocacy strategies such as developing messaging and approaching legislators.
Kaiser was, of course, preaching to the choir. City Council member Angela Hunt even lead the room in a short chant: “The arts fuel our economy!” It never hurts to be reminded of the economic impact of the arts – Kaiser’s stats: Last year, the arts generated 100 billion nationally in household income; in the US, 6 million people work in creative industries; in Dallas last year, 5 million people attended 52,000 arts events.
But in the auditorium at the Dallas Black Dance Theatre – about a block away from the construction site of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts – Kaiser also deftly and diplomatically warned of the “edifice complex” – building beautiful arts buildings but struggling to raise funds for programs. “We’re in danger of having wonderful, empty buildings,” he said, quickly adding that he was certain that wouldn’t happen in Dallas. Later, discussing cultural collaborations, he brought up those big beautiful buildings again. “Rather than create squabbles between arts organizations,” he hopes they provide inspiration to “create collaboration between arts organizations.”
More on diversity, and how arts groups should think about the Web after the jump:
Diversity: It’s crucial that government support arts organizations of color, says Kaiser. The arts must speak to and reflect the diversity of the human spirit. Ethnic communities have strong philanthropic traditions, but that philanthropy is more often directed toward education and the church, “not yet arts.” Without government support, “we may deprive our children of the next Alvin Ailey, José Limón or Ann Williams.”
Arts and Digital Media: This is a topic we think about a lot here at Art&Seek. Arts groups should absolutely find ways to bring their work online, Kaiser says. The Kennedy Center offers daily free performances in Washington, and all of them are streamed live on the Web. But Kaiser worries about competition from electronic media, especially as ticket prices rise. For the cost of “two tickets to the Metropolitan Opera, you can buy a computer, sit home and watch YouTube for free.”
Related: The Met and other companies are making the opera experience more affordable and accessible by broadcasting their performances in movie theaters around the country. “What I hope doesn’t happen is regional companies start to lose their audiences” to the competition on the big screen.
Nothing replaces the live experience. And one job for arts educators is to highlight the differences between watching a performance on stage and one on the screen.