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The Guadalajara Book Fair

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A book I wrote 15 years ago, Strategic Planning in the Arts: A Practical Guide, was recently translated into Spanish. To celebrate, I was asked to appear at the Guadalajara Book Fair, the largest such fair in the Spanish-speaking world. It was a great pleasure to be invited back to Mexico. I have taught there more than in any foreign country and have established deep roots with many of the managers and artists of the Mexican arts establishment.

I was interviewed by both a representative of the U.S. Embassy who has been extremely helpful in my Mexican teaching and a leading member of the faculty of the University of Guadalajara who is also an experienced theater producer. The entire session was organized by Denisse Flores Somarraba, a recent graduate of our three-year Summer International Fellowship. She is responsible for coordinating the arts portion of the mammoth Guadalajara Book Fair.

While I have taught many arts managers across Mexico, I had never been to Guadalajara. And while there is growing interest in arts management in the nation, I couldn't imagine many people interested in a rather dry book on planning in the arts.

Imagine my surprise when the presentation room filled to standing room only. And my greater surprise when over 90 percent of the participants were under the age of 30! There was row after row of college-age students and recent graduates who want the tools to plan for their futures.

There were none of the traditional complaints one hears in Mexico about the tremendous challenge of being an arts entrepreneur in Mexico, the way government money is given (or not given), the frustration at finding appropriate venues. This group was lively, optimistic and opinionated, but with the same underlying kindness and courteousness that characterizes every Mexican of my acquaintance.

One might argue that these young people had not yet had to endure decades of frustration and, therefore, were not yet as jaded as their more senior counterparts in the nation.

But I choose to look at it a different way. I see a new generation of Mexican arts managers who believe they can change the world before the world changes them.

The Mexican arts world is in desperate need of his optimism. The largest arts organizations, those that get the vast share of government resources, are simply not performing to world standards. At a time when Mexico's performing and visual artists are taking their rightful place in theaters and galleries across the globe, the institutions at home are not thriving. As a result, too many of the great contemporary Mexican artists rarely perform at home.

In meeting and talking with these young people, I am optimistic that a different day is dawning. They will create new models, new ways of working, new sources of revenue and new audiences.

I can't wait to see the work they produce.

Keep your eye on Mexico over the next twenty years. I don't think you will be sorry you did.