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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

In Search of Balance

(1) Comments | Posted September 15, 2014 | 9:04 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 | 9:37 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 | 8:13 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 | 8:29 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 | 8:17 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 | 9:23 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 | 8:21 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 | 8:32 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 | 8:55 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 | 8:33 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 | 8:54 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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Start Spreading the News

(0) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 8:53 AM

Many arts organizations will have just ended their fiscal years or will do so later this summer. Most of us who run arts organizations are happy our fiscal years have ended, are tired (if not exhausted) from the challenges of the past twelve months, and thinking about the year ahead...

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What Makes a Plan Strategic?

(0) Comments | Posted June 23, 2014 | 8:41 AM

I just read another 'strategic plan' for a wonderful arts organization that provides strong arts education programming to its community. But like too many other organizations, this one has created a strategic plan that is more generic wish list than strategic plan.

Making a list of ideals: we will improve...

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Changing Artistic Leadership

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 8:22 AM

Like most people in the arts, I believe that the boards of arts organizations must give their artistic leaders the freedom to plan seasons of art of their choosing as long as these seasons can produce the fiscal stability required to continue to produce art. While individual board members should...

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The Building Boom

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2014 | 8:28 AM

I have written frequently about the dangers of erecting a new building before an arts institution is really ready for the drain of time, money and focus that inevitably accompanies a construction project. We have far too many 'house poor' arts institutions that struggle simply to pay the upkeep for...

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Financial Literacy

(2) Comments | Posted June 2, 2014 | 8:47 AM

Too many arts managers are not comfortable with financial concepts and data. They can create an operational budget that adds up correctly, but have little knowledge of the workings of the stock and bond markets, the implications of interest rate movements, or of recent economic activity. This makes it very...

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The Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts

(0) Comments | Posted May 27, 2014 | 8:48 AM

Thirteen years ago, shortly after I arrived at the Kennedy Center, we created a committee of donors who support the international work of the Kennedy Center. Since that time, the committee has grown from six intrepid founding members to a robust group of almost 80 people who support our international...

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Double Vision

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2014 | 9:08 AM

Over the past 30 years I have written or evaluated more strategic plans than I can count. In every one, appropriately, there is a statement of mission and objectives, or a vision statement or both.

Yet the more I observe arts organization struggling to balance art and fiscal stability,...

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A Valedictory

(0) Comments | Posted May 12, 2014 | 8:56 AM

When I left the Royal Opera House in 2000, I made a series of speeches about my time in London and what I hoped would happen in the arts world after my departure. I spoke extensively about two areas: the need to have an honest and open dialogue about the...

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My Last Board Meeting

(4) Comments | Posted May 5, 2014 | 8:55 AM

Today is my last board meeting as president of the Kennedy Center. It is likely the last time I will sit in any board meeting as anything other than a consultant. After 29 years of running arts institutions and sitting in board meetings, my principal feelings are both of nostalgia...

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