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 arts.
We have faced:
- A highly volatile economy that had a few major highs and some devastating lows. The bursting of the tech bubble was followed quickly by the horror of 9/11 and the subsequent economic decline. A few years later, in 2008, the stock market cratered, and the recovery has been long and slow. While our most affluent donors may have regained their wealth, many of our audience members and supporters have still not recovered. They simply do not have the resources to buy as many tickets or to donate as much as they have in the past.
Taken together, these trends have all made it difficult for arts institutions to pursue their missions while balancing their budgets. While some arts institutions are still doing well on both fronts, I have never observed a time when so many of our organizations, large and small, are unsure how to move forward. This insecurity has caused rifts between staff and board members in too many organizations; the search for approaches to address our challenges will only come to a satisfying conclusion if we are willing to work together on solutions.
And organizations that believe that acknowledging these trends without addressing them are not going to do well. It will take strong plans--for art-making and for revenue-generation--and even stronger plan implementation to survive, let alone thrive, in this century.