THE BLOG

The Grass Is Always Greener

07/21/2014 08:38 am ET | Updated Sep 20, 2014

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 be so easy and I would not have to worry about fundraising at all. In fact, a lot of them don't even have to worry about ticket sales either. That is why they can be so adventuresome in their programming and can do so much avant garde work. It doesn't matter to them if they don't sell any tickets since their government subsidies are so huge. Then they look down their noses at us for being so conventional -- it isn't fair. You try balancing the budget without a big chunk of government funds! And they don't need to engage their board members the way we do. If we don't get our board members raising money we won't make our fundraising targets for the year. In fact, I can only get a few of my board members to raise anything. The others are too busy or too uninvolved to help. I spend so much of my time mounting galas, lunching with prospects, cultivating donors. Is this why I decided to work in the arts world? It would be so great to work in France or Germany or anywhere in Europe, really. All I would have to do is focus on making the art that I want to make.

The European View: It would be so great to work in an American arts organization. Everyone there is used to giving to the arts. Everyone is so rich there that they can afford to contribute to their favorite arts institutions. I have heard of people giving up to $100 million to a single arts organization! It must be wonderful to have board members who are so generous and raise so much money for their organizations. I don't know why they are so conservative with their programming, however. With all that money they don't really have to worry about money, do they? Not like here where our government subsidy is falling every year and we have to scrape together the money we need just to survive. I can do almost no forward planning since I can only plan my art after I learn what the government is going to give me this year. It was so great a decade ago when I could count on a large government grant each year. Now I have to worry about ticket sales and expense control and finding new sources of revenue. I have to go to one seminar on fundraising after another and I know none of that stuff will work here. My audience members are not Americans and they simply won't give to the arts. And one board member had the nerve to suggest we consider mounting more populist shows to build our revenue. Imagine that!