michael-m-kaiserAs many of you know, I am getting my master’s degree in Art Administration. I’m doing it to augment the work I do in film. Anyway, Professor J. (Leonard Jacobs) in my Arts Management class has been assigning us excerpts from the book “The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations” by Michael M. Kaiser. Which begs the question: “Who is Michael M. Kaiser?”  Anyone studying Arts Administration knows the answer as well as much of the arts community.

Here’s what Wikipedia says:

“Michael M. Kaiser was the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2001–2014) in Washington, D.C. Dubbed “the turnaround king” for his work at such arts institutions as the Kansas City Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Opera House, Kaiser has earned international renown for his expertise in arts management.”

the-art-of-the-turnaround“The Art of the Turnaround” is quite interesting and documents how Michael M. Kaiser has been able over the years to turn organizations around. I learned a lot from reading his case studies and had some questions for Michael M. Kaiser. The good news is – he was nice enough to answer them!

Here are my three questions and Michael M. Kaiser’s answers:

  1. How do you think the NEA cuts are going to affect the Arts in America?

We do not yet know the fate of the NEA but if it is eliminated, or even if its budget is cut substantially, it will harm many arts organizations, especially rural and avant garde organizations and organizations of color.  These organizations have a harder time building the large individual donor bases that larger mainstream organizations enjoy.  But an end to the NEA would also signal that our government does not understand the role of the arts in a free society.  This would be a national embarrassment.

  1. What are your feelings about crowdfunding as a form of fundraising for the arts?

Crowdfunding is an interesting and effective new funding technique in the arts. Those artists or arts organizations that can drive traffic to their crowdfunding pages, and have a compelling project, can find support from new donors.  But crowdfunding should complement other development efforts but not replace them.  The best fundraising efforts build strong relationships between donor and organization (or artist) that can last for years and years.  These relationships are difficult to form in a crowdfunding model.

  1. What advice would you give to emerging arts administrators in the current arts climate in the U.S.?

I believe the arts environment is getting more difficult to navigate.  The current political climate is challenging, but changes in technology, how people purchase entertainment, and demographics make it especially difficult.  For this reason, we need smart, creative, insightful arts managers more than ever.  I would hope aspiring arts managers would be willing and able to think ahead, develop new models and work to ensure that the arts ecology of the United States remains strong.  Simply copying the way arts organizations were managed in the past will not be enough going forward.