Community arts: Michael Kaiser's response
Michael Kaiser's response to this post was, I thought, spot-on, so I got his permission to post it here:
Thanks for your comment... Actually, there will have been about 11,000 people at my 69 sessions by the time I finish in mid-July. In most cities, it is the smaller groups who form the largest part of my audience. But while smaller groups are doing a great job to serve community segments, I don't find many of them working hard enough to do distinctive work any more than the larger groups. Too many arts organizations have a 'slots mentality' - simply filling out the number of plays, concerts or ballets they typically do in a year.
I would never say the Kennedy Center has overcome this completely, but I do think some of our signature programming - like our Gospel Festival this season or our current VSA festival celebrating artists with disabilities, are very distinctive and unique to us.
One of our problems is that when we do distinctive work like this, members of the mainstream cultural media do not feel qualified to write about it!
I should add that I realize that Michael Kaiser knows a lot more about community organizations than I do, particularly after touring 69 cities around the country. And the question of how to balance community groups with international ones is something that, as I said yesterday, we all have yet to solve (I've written about this before).
What I admire most in his answer, though, is the "slots mentality" line. I agree completely.
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