Friday June 12 | Charlotte Arts & the Economy

June 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Coming Up | 6 Comments

It was recently announced that the Charlotte Symphony’s grant from the Arts and Science Council would be cut by more than one million dollars. But they are just one of many arts groups who will be operating on much smaller budgets next year. The most recent ASC fund drive netted far less than the goal. So how will arts organizations fare in this tough economy? We’ll find out.
Robert Bush – Senior VP, Cultural and Community Investment, ASC
Steven Brown – Staff Writer, Charlotte Observer
Jonathon Martin – President and Exec. Director, Charlotte Symphony
Tom Hollis – Artistic Director, CPCC Summer Theatre

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  1. I am a volunteer at a small organization that receives some operational funding from the ASC. The organization’s director and only full-time employee spends an enormous amount of time generating paperwork and attending meetings required by the ASC

    I know that the ASC must determine that each agency has an appropriate mission, is fiscally responsible, and has the ability to accomplish their goals, but the current bureaucratic tap-dance seems way over-blown. We need our director as a full-time employee, not a part-time one, and we cannot afford to pay an additional person to attend to ASC duties.

    Also, it occurs to me that if funded agencies must go to such lengths to justify their needs, then ASC staff must spend at least that much time evaluating them. How much of our ASC donations go to staff salaries and the generation of endless paperwork?

    • As a cultural partner of ASC, we receive operational funding and I do the paperwork that is required. I do not find that this takes an inordinate amount of time, nor are there more than one or two meetings that are considered “required.” I think ASC is a good steward of donors’ money and I would be wary if I were a donor and there wasn’t such a good process.

  2. All of us at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte were so gratified to hear the kind words on today’s show about our work, our theatre and our organization in general. An important point in this discussion is that all arts organizations in Charlotte are facing the same challenges, even those in a relative position of strength. Children’s Theatre entered the downturn in a strong financial position, with very diversified funding sources, a strategic long-range plan and a forward-thinking attitude. As Robert Bush said on today’s show, this economy is a “perfect storm” for arts organizations and every single one of our funding sources has been affected.

    We’re doing everything we can to pro-actively address the impact of the shifting economic climate. It all comes down to focusing on mission, and on the experiences and value that we deliver to the community. The number of programs we offer may decline, but the excellence of those programs has to be our first priority, now more than ever.

  3. […] $5 for free performances, some are offering suggestions on how to expand interest in them.  On today’s episode of Charlotte Talks, local representatives of the arts community talked about this issue, and how they’ve had to […]

  4. The Charlotte Symphony and the FALLACY of the NON-PROFIT PREMISE
    Having once served the Charlotte Symphony and now, as the Artistic Director of Carolina Voices, I feel that a crucial aspect of the Arts/Charlotte Symphony debate that remains “un-addressed” is the fallacy of the non-profit premise and its impact on this situation.
    We non-profit artists have, for too long, held the false belief that what we do is some kind of “cod liver oil for the soul;” that art, by its very nature, is somehow good for everyone, “only they don’t get it.” No, what we make is non-competitive product at non-competitive prices. We are the American auto industry of the soul, and have been lulled into complacency by the non-profit fallacy.
    Those artists who understand that art and profit are not mutually exclusive and have adapted their “product” to the artistic, spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs of today’s audiences – those are the artists that are weathering the storm better than the Charlotte Symphony. It’s artists like Martin Scorsese, J.K. Rowling, Stephen Sondheim, and the Beatles that make the spiritual cars that people actually want to drive.

    On the other hand, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, as much as I love my former employer, battles with industry-pervasive cost structures that are untenable and with industry-pervasive products whose earning potential continues to dwindle. It isn’t JUST the CSO that’s broken, it’s the entire symphonic orchestra industry.
    Consider the idea that the CSO employs dozens of full-time professional musicians yet presents fewer than 200 presentations each season. That’s simply bad work force management. For instance, if each musician were allowed just three weeks each season to present solo or chamber music performances of their own design, in venues of their own choosing, the number of performances by CSO musicians would double, new audiences would be engaged and the players would exercise severely lacking artistic empowerment.
    Also, consider the traditional symphonic performance, where fewer than 5 separate pieces are played. In today’s mp3 player-driven music market, such a concept is ludicrous, yet the CSO continues to focus some of its greatest resources on such traditional performances. Again, this is an industry problem, not a CSO only problem.
    Ultimately, yes, the CSO needs to completely reinvent itself, and so I applaud the ASC for taking such extreme measures to inspire such radical change.

    However, I vociferously decry the ASC’s timing and implementation, because the CSO lives within an industry that is as intractable as GM, yet it does not possess the necessary resources to turn on a dime.
    I don’t know how effective Messrs. Martin & Warren-Green will be in “reinventing the CSO,” but the ASC’s actions don’t really give them a fighting chance, which from my perspective, I’m quite sure they’ve earned.

    David J. Tang
    Director, Firebird Arts Alliance
    Artistic Director, Carolina Voices

  5. The Waxhaw Arts Council is alive and well. We are a brand new organization with many fresh ideas for encouraging the Arts in the Waxhaw area.

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