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Michael Kaiser
Michael M. Kaiser is Chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

From 2001 to 2014, he served as president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dubbed “the Turnaround King” for his work at numerous institutions, including the Royal Opera House (London), American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the Kansas City Ballet, Michael has earned international renown for his expertise in arts management. Through the DeVos Institute and the Kennedy Center, he has advised performing arts organizations around the world, working with arts leaders in nearly 70 countries.

In 2001, Michael founded the Institute to provide advanced training for young arts administrators and has developed a series of programs to help train others in the field. He created a Capacity Building Program for Culturally Specific Arts Organizations, which offers mentoring services to the leaders of African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American arts groups from across the United States. A similar program was instituted for over 280 arts organizations in New York City. In February 2009, he created Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative, a program to provide free arts management consulting to non-profit performing arts organizations around the United States. He embarked on a 50-state tour for the program, bringing his expertise to every state in the Union along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

His fifth book, Leading Roles: 50 Questions Every Arts Board Should Ask, was published in 2010.

Entries by Michael Kaiser

A Tale of Two Cities

(0) Comments | Posted November 17, 2014 | 9:32 AM

Seattle lost a vital theater company when the Balagan Theatre announced on September 24 that it was permanently suspending operations. The Balagan Theatre produced well-received musicals and plays -- from August: Osage County to Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- on small budgets. As the theater grew more visible, it...

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No News Is Bad News

(0) Comments | Posted November 10, 2014 | 8:49 AM

I am a voracious consumer of arts news; I read as many news stories, reviews and features as I can in newspapers, websites and other electronic outlets. Yet, as a new arts season has begun, I have been struck by the nature of the arts coverage that I have been...

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The Planning Committee

(0) Comments | Posted November 3, 2014 | 9:16 AM

Developing a potent strategic plan is not easy. Simply survey a large sample of plans for arts organizations, and one will find a bland sameness to most of them. They are often more a collection of wishes than a purposeful set of clear, implementable strategies.

This often results from the...

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The Search for Continuity

(0) Comments | Posted October 27, 2014 | 10:18 AM

I have recently been talking with a large number of performers who work with a range of dance, music and theater organizations in an effort to learn what they care about most and are concerned about most in the current arts climate.

The most often cited desire is for some...

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City by City: Variations in the Arts Ecology

(0) Comments | Posted October 20, 2014 | 10:42 AM

We often read about the challenges facing rural arts institutions or even those that operate in less populous cities and states. Building a philanthropic base, for example, is more challenging in rural Kansas than it is in Kansas City, Missouri. There are fewer donors and audience members, less press attention...

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Needed: Arts Management Mentors

(0) Comments | Posted October 14, 2014 | 11:47 AM

There is a great deal of discussion about the need for building tomorrow's audiences if the arts world is to survive. In response, most arts institutions devote substantial efforts to arts education and audience development programs. These programs, in the main, are laudable and important, and we do need to...

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Brava Joan Weill!

(0) Comments | Posted October 6, 2014 | 11:18 AM

I often teach that arts organizations should design their 'ideal board' and then work to build that board over time. By 'ideal,' I do not mean a group of the richest, most powerful people in the country; most arts organizations do not have the ability to attract these people. I...

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Strife (Again) at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

(2) Comments | Posted September 29, 2014 | 1:46 PM

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has joined the growing list of arts institutions that have locked out (or threatened to lock out) its artists unless substantial wage concessions can be obtained. In each case, management believes that large deficits will only be erased if costs are reduced substantially.

But the situation...

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Crisis in Europe

(0) Comments | Posted September 22, 2014 | 11:01 AM

A recent item on was as chilling as it was concise: "In its 2013 annual report, released last week, the Royal Concertgebouw has predicted that, without immediate support from the Netherlands government, it will be forced to disband by 2016."

The Concertgebouw is considered by many...

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In Search of Balance

(1) Comments | Posted September 15, 2014 | 10:04 AM

A few weeks ago, a seasoned arts professional called me "the patron saint of artistic directors." He did not mean it as a compliment. He suggested that my focus on creating important, exciting art had empowered artistic directors to spend what they wanted regardless of the capabilities of their organizations...

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The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland

(2) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 10:37 AM

Last week, the DeVos Institute of Arts Management officially moved to the University of Maryland. The Institute was created at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2001, was named the DeVos Institute in 2010 and will now reside at the University of Maryland. Brett Egan and...

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Settling at the Met

(0) Comments | Posted September 2, 2014 | 9:13 AM

The biggest news in the arts world over the past month was the settlement the Metropolitan Opera reached with its many unions. The management of the company had stated that without significant cost reductions, the institution could not remain viable. The problems at the Metropolitan have been evident for years....

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Farewell to the Kennedy Center

(1) Comments | Posted August 25, 2014 | 9:29 AM

This is my last week as President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It has been a remarkable honor to serve in this position for well over 13 years. I have had incredible support from an astonishing staff, tremendous artists, engaged board members and a remarkably...

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Moving Side Show to Broadway

(0) Comments | Posted August 18, 2014 | 9:17 AM

We just announced that Side Show, a revival that the Kennedy Center produced in association with La Jolla Playhouse, will be moving to Broadway this autumn. We will begin previews this October at the St. James Theater.

Whenever a show makes this big move it is a cause for...

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A Trip to the MUNY

(4) Comments | Posted August 11, 2014 | 10:23 AM

It is easy to get depressed about the future of the arts in America when one reads countless stories of arts institutions facing large deficits, lockouts and strikes, and even closure. Conventional wisdom holds that our audiences are aging, younger people are less interested in conventional performances and that high...

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The Mid-Sized Gift

(0) Comments | Posted August 4, 2014 | 9:21 AM

Working with so many arts organizations that are facing financial challenges, I often hear board and staff discussion about the need for a mega-gift. "If only we had an angel" is a common refrain in the boardrooms of troubled institutions. The angels of other arts institutions are mentioned as candidates...

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Employing Celebrities

(0) Comments | Posted July 28, 2014 | 9:32 AM

A group of Kennedy Center patrons recently visited London for four days, attending the theater (or should I write theatre?), visiting places of historical importance and enjoying social time together. During one luncheon at Guildhall, I interviewed Elaine Paige, the first lady of British musical theater.

Elaine was the...

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The Grass Is Always Greener

(1) Comments | Posted July 21, 2014 | 9:55 AM

The American View: It would be so great to be working in a European arts institution. After all, those organizations get such a large portion of their budget from the government; I have heard that some arts organizations get 70 percent of their budget from one government grant. That would...

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Talking with the Press

(0) Comments | Posted July 14, 2014 | 9:33 AM

Too many talented arts executives - whose organizations have achieved a great deal under their leadership - fail to promote their organizations successfully because they do not know how to speak to reporters. The difference between a large story and a small one, a positive article and a bland or...

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My Crew

(7) Comments | Posted July 7, 2014 | 9:54 AM

If you ask me who I will miss when I leave the Kennedy Center next month I can give a list of staff, musicians and board members who have been great colleagues and friends. But I know I will see most of them at performances and events in the years...

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