Kennedy Center to Help Arts Programs in Economic Trouble
Washington Post, Feb. 3 — The next act in Michael M. Kaiser's quest to make all arts organizations smart and healthy is about to begin.
After a string of successes rescuing arts groups from near-death, Kaiser is now enlisting Kennedy Center managers to help nonprofit arts organizations that are reeling from the recession.
"Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative" was announced this morning. Essentially, the program is a high-tech support service through which arts administrators can talk to the center's personnel about shrinking income, budget-conscious audiences and other difficulties in keeping the doors open.
"Crisis" is not too harsh a word, says Kaiser, 55, the center's president. "You see this multiple whammy. The length and depth of this economic downturn is unprecedented in my lifetime."
The need to have a central place for strategic advice, and perhaps a word of comfort, has been building. "Over the last six months, we have gotten e-mails and letters from many groups. Now every single day you read about one or more than one that is cutting back their season or reducing the staff," said Kaiser, who recently wrote "The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations."
Any arts organization that is nonprofit — which usually covers orchestras, dance troupes and theaters — can sign up for free assistance from the Kennedy Center, which has built a reservoir of information about how groups have managed their successes and failures through a half-dozen programs over the past eight years.
"Organizations that have endowments have seen them cut by one-third," Kaiser said. "In cities like Detroit that are so dependent on the auto industry, the money is gone. Foundations are forced to cut back, and individuals have seen their wealth reduced. People are buying their tickets more selectively, and they are not going out as often."