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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Kaiser Set to Confer with African Art Leaders

By Jacqueline Trescott

Michael M. Kaiser, the restless leader of the Kennedy Center, announced Wednesday he is transporting his arts management seminars in February to five countries in Africa.

As an extension of the training programs at the center, Kaiser plans to hold meetings in Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; Zanzibar,Tanzania; Kampala, Uganda and Harare, Zimbabwe.

Those nations have had participants in center's training sessions in Washington. "They all expressed a need for more training in those countries. And I thought we had ignored the central part of Africa," Kaiser said.

Kaiser has conducted sessions in Egypt and South Africa, some of the 70 countries that have participated in the center's outreach.

The center itself has only spotlighted performing arts from Africa in a three-year festival, African Odyssey, that ran from 1997 to 2000.

The issues are very similar to ones Kaiser encountered when he held a national listening tour in all 50 states called "Arts in Crisis." "The resources are different," he explained. "In the United States many people are expected to support the arts. That is not so in Africa. There is very little individual fund-raising. And that's true in most countries of the world."

Most of the countries he is visiting, Kaiser said, "do not have a lot of government support and the question is how do you put funding together. Funding, marketing and artistic issues are very central." Many organizations are supported by funders from Europe.

And there is also a hurdle of tradition. "In many of these countries there is a religious and political feeling that the arts don't have a place in society. I faced that in Pakistan and some of the Arab countries," he says. As a result, he said, "most of the artistic organizations are relatively small and it is difficult for them to make an artistic impression even in their own community. The question is how do you do dynamic work and how do you make it known."

What draws him again and again to far-flung arts performances is the committment of the leaders. "That shows they deserve our support," Kaiser said.

The travel is scheduled for Feb. 7-14.

The program is privately supported by the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the center,

By Jacqueline Trescott  | January 5, 2011; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott, Kennedy Center  | Tags:  Africa tour, Michael Kaiser, arts management, kennedy Center  
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