I’m currently enrolled in an arts management certificate program at NYU and just finished my first course, Managing the Arts (the prerequisite for everything else). One of the required readings was Michael Kaiser’s The Art of the Turnaround, which reveals the author’s ten guidelines for creating and maintaining healthy arts organizations. Kaiser, who is known as “the turnaround king” because he has successfully managed and saved so many organizations, presents five case studies to show how he applied his own guidelines to his experiences managing Kansas City Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Opera House, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The book is an easy, straightforward read that I recommend to anyone interested in arts management or curious about the ups and downs of these five organizations.
Kaiser’s thesis can be summed up in four words: “good art, well marketed”. Establishing a financially stable organization is more complex than that (think fundraising, leadership, press coverage, and board structure), but this phrase suggests that at the heart of every stable arts organization is high-quality programming, effective marketing, and visibility to the public. In the introduction, Kaiser states, “When one cuts artistic initiative and marketing, one cuts the very reason people supply revenue to the arts organization” (Kaiser xi). Without art – whether it’s dance, theater, visual art, film, etc. – the organization does not exist, and without effective marketing, the organization’s art has no audience.