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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

Remembering Phyllis Curtin

(0) Comments | Posted June 6, 2016 | 1:07 PM

I have stopped writing my weekly blog but I had to write a special column when I learned of the passing of the remarkable Phyllis Curtin. Ms. Curtin was a great singer, a mainstay at the New York City Opera, best known for originating the title role in Carlisle Floyd's...

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Fellowship Brings Together U.S. and International Arts Managers

(0) Comments | Posted November 30, 2015 | 1:48 PM

With our move to the University of Maryland, the DeVos Institute has revamped our highly competitive fellowship program for arts managers.

Since 2001, the Institute has brought together arts managers from across the United States and around the world to study fundraising, marketing, financial management and planning. Over the...

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The Arts Receive Capacity Building of an Unprecedented Scope

(3) Comments | Posted September 15, 2015 | 9:29 AM

I have written extensively about the many challenges facing arts institutions today, from marked declines in subscription sales and arts education in our public schools to rapid increases in new forms of entertainment and electronic distribution of artistic product.

These challenges have a disproportionate impact on small- and mid-sized organizations....

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The Great Lakes Center for the Arts

(0) Comments | Posted June 1, 2015 | 11:39 AM

One of the most rewarding aspects of my work with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland is participating in the creation of new arts organizations. I recently traveled to Northern Michigan to work with my clients who are planning to build a new performing arts...

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Museums Large and Small

(0) Comments | Posted May 4, 2015 | 9:27 AM

New York City has been abuzz recently with the opening of the new Whitney Museum of Art, and with just cause. The new venue, designed by Renzo Piano, is magnificent and will breathe new life into the venerable institution and into the city itself. It is a potent reminder that...

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A Difficult Century

(1) Comments | Posted April 6, 2015 | 9:53 AM

I recently read an article about the imminent retirement of a local government arts council executive. The article pointed out the many challenges that this executive faced over the past decade. It made me realize how difficult the 21st century has been for all of us who work in the...

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When Donors Have Too Much Power

(0) Comments | Posted March 30, 2015 | 9:29 AM

I have spent the last 30 years helping arts organizations build their fundraising operations. I believe strongly that the future of the arts depends on attracting more--not less--private support. And I appreciate that building a successful fundraising operation requires the organization to give something back to the donor: This might...

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Entrepreneurship and the Arts

(1) Comments | Posted March 23, 2015 | 9:15 AM

As many of my consulting clients seek to move in new directions, I am increasingly involved in helping arts organizations select their leaders. This has forced me to consider what characteristics are essential for a strong arts leader. I am consistently drawn back to the realization that the best arts...

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The Challenge of Discount Ticket Programs

(0) Comments | Posted March 16, 2015 | 9:48 AM

It was interesting to read in the New York Times about the challenges facing the Metropolitan Opera as it attempts to offer discounted tickets to audience members. The goal of the program -- to make opera accessible to people who might not be able to afford full-price tickets -- is...

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Where Is Earned Income Growth?

(0) Comments | Posted March 9, 2015 | 9:06 AM

I recently read an article in Slate that extolled how cheap it was to purchase classical music and dance and theater in many American cities. The thesis of the story was that arts institutions in many large American cities could boast of long histories of important service to their communities...

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Ailey in Opelika

(0) Comments | Posted March 2, 2015 | 10:13 AM

My favorite memory of my 30-year arts management career was attending a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Opelika, Alabama, in the early 1990s. I was the Executive Director of the organization at the time, and we were working feverishly to escape a difficult period of financial...

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Organizational Culture

(0) Comments | Posted February 23, 2015 | 8:05 AM

I am becoming increasingly interested in the culture of arts organizations. Spending as much time as I do now consulting to numerous arts organizations across the nation, I have observed distinct differences in institutional cultures.

While those who study organizational development and psychology have developed myriad ways to analyze the...

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Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill

(0) Comments | Posted February 17, 2015 | 8:06 AM

The information boom that has accompanied technological changes over the past 20 years is truly remarkable. We now have 24-hour news, 24-hour sports channels, hundreds of other television channels, an unlimited number of websites, thousands of tweets and Facebook entries, and on and on. It is not necessarily true that...

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Executive Committees

(0) Comments | Posted February 9, 2015 | 8:19 AM

I am not a fan of too many board committees. I find that when board members spend hour after hour in committee meetings, they are less likely to have the time to spend reaching into the community, prospecting for new donors, finding new board members and serving as passionate ambassadors...

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Let Artists Dream

(2) Comments | Posted February 2, 2015 | 8:18 AM

Virtually every arts institutions is concerned with money today--because of cuts in government funding, aging donors, reduced demand and new forms of entertainment that compete with traditional art forms. But the way arts institutions respond to these concerns about money affects the institution in profound ways.

There are some organizations...

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(0) Comments | Posted January 26, 2015 | 8:47 AM

One of the benefits of working as a consultant is that it offers the opportunity to view so many different styles of management and to observe the consequences of each style.

It is clear to me that there is not only one "correct" way of managing. Some managers are very...

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Marek Vrabec

(0) Comments | Posted January 19, 2015 | 11:43 AM

Every teacher I know will tell you about the immense satisfaction that comes from watching a former student accomplish great things. It isn't enough simply to give an entertaining class; one wants to see the students apply the lessons they have learned and use them.

Over the past 25 years,...

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Making a MOOC

(1) Comments | Posted January 12, 2015 | 9:08 AM

One of the most exciting aspects of bringing the DeVos Institute of Arts Management to the University of Maryland is to have access to a range of technical assets and expertise that most arts institutions can only dream about -- from web design to sophisticated communications options to virtual reality.

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Sticking One's Head in the Sand

(1) Comments | Posted January 5, 2015 | 12:29 PM

In a recent article about the impending closing of yet another American orchestra, one executive from a second orchestra was bemoaning the discussion about the reduction in interest in classical music and opera. In particular, he was upset with Peter Gelb's comments about a reduction in demand for opera and...

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Heroic Donors

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 8:12 AM

I have written a great deal about the various approaches that help troubled arts organizations reestablish financial stability. Developing a turnaround plan that reveals longer-term artistic plans, aggressive institutional marketing campaigns and proposes a restructured board is one key approach that I have found to be useful. Without such a...

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