At a time when arts organizations are suffering from shrinking income and audiences, another organization – The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – is reaching out to provide free assistance. The program, Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative, will offer non-profit arts organizations advice – through emails, calls, or site visits – from the Kennedy Center’s executive staff and president, Michael Kaiser. Organizations seeking assistance simply fill out an online form explaining their specific challenges. Furthermore, Arts in Crisis is an opportunity for arts managers to volunteer their assistance and serve as mentors to other arts organizations.
In a Washington Post article about the new initiative, Kaiser echoes what he emphasized in his latest book on arts management: programming and marketing should be the last items to get cut from the budget, because reduced programming discourages funders and less marketing undermines visibility to the public. Without programming and marketing, an organization has no audience and therefore cannot exist.
Arts in Crisis is an ambitious, invaluable initiative that will most likely receive an overwhelming response from struggling organizations, as well as from skilled managers willing to serve as mentors. Organizations should feel fortunate to be able to turn to Kaiser – “the turnaround king” – for consulting. However, as Bill Ivey wisely points out in the article, “At the end of the day, it is about money, not just advice.” Expert assistance is priceless, but clearly the Kennedy Center cannot provide financial support. They, too, are feeling the effects of the troubled economy.