Book Notes

The Faculty Voice hopes to note the publication of books by faculty and staff members, so readers-authors are encouraged to send us the necessary information. In this issue, we note a book on the future of the arts.
Curtains? The Future of the Arts in America
By Michael M. Kaiser
Chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland

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Image courtesy of amazon.com


Earlier this year, my book, Curtains? The Future of the Arts in America, was published by Brandeis University Press. The book reviews the history of arts institutions in this nation, examines the many factors that have been affecting these institutions in the past decade, and projects into future to ask: if prevailing trends continue, what will the arts ecology look like 20 years from now?

The picture is not a pretty one. The massive reduction of arts education in our public schools, the aging of our audience and donor base, the reduction in the number of subscriptions sold by most arts institutions, the availability of alternative online sources of entertainment, and, especially, the online distribution of arts, all are conspiring to make it increasingly difficult for mid-sized regional arts institutions and diverse, rural, and avant garde institutions to survive. These organizations were created, for the most part, in the second half of the last century and have increased the availability of arts to virtually all Americans.

But I was hoping to be more than a Cassandra in writing this book. I believe there are specific steps arts institutions and arts funders can take to prevent a substantial reduction in arts accessibility over the coming decades. We must encourage the development of exciting, transformational arts projects. In too many instances, arts institutions have become too conservative in their art-making; in fear of taking risks, they have become boring. Creating important, differentiated, new art is the most potent method for ensuring the health of our arts institutions in the face of online competition. Mounting these projects requires a longer-term artistic plan that most institutions currently create.

We must also teach arts leaders and board members to do the sophisticated marketing required to build a unique institutional image. Marketing is far more than sending out brochures and emails; we must create a dynamic set of events that present a compelling case for participation.

And we must work to build the far larger families of supporters, audience members, and volunteers required to thrive in the future. In particular, we must focus on the potency of our boards and ensure that our boards change and evolve as our organizations grow and mature.

These steps are vital. People have been creating art for millennia and will continue to do so. But the institutions that support the delivery of art and that produce the art that requires ensemble (orchestras, dance companies, theater companies) are precious; losing them will diminish the quality of life for all of us.

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