Kennedy Center Head Advises Kentucky Arts Groups

by ekramer on August 12, 2009

The president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts visited Louisville and Lexington today to talk to arts groups about surviving the recession. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

  • [LISTEN HERE to the public forum with Michael Kaiser in Louisville hosted by Marc Masterson, the artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville, or right click to download the podcast. The forum is 1 hour and 17 minutes.]

Michael Kaiser leads the center in Washington, D.C., which launched an initiative called Arts in Crisis last February to help struggling nonprofit arts organizations. He is speaking at public forums and the Kennedy Center is offering free consultations to arts groups nationwide and help them through the recession. (Continued below photo.)

Michael Kaiser and MastersonKaiser spoke to about hundreds of arts administrators in Louisville and Lexington. He says he’s been warning arts groups at public forums and through the center’s free consultations not to cut programming or marketing but to work harder

“When there’s less money to be give to arts organizations, you have to compete harder for that money than less hard,” Kaiser says. “And a lot of organizations are competing less hard. They’re doing less work or less interesting work, or they’re doing less marketing. And therefore they are going to suffer in this environment.”

Kaiser is known for turning around renowned organizations, including the American Ballet Theatre and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He says nonprofit arts organization should be raising money through individual donors, especially during a recession.

“Foundations have to give less in a recession because their portfolios are worth less. Corporations typically give less in a recession. Government agencies have to give less in a recession because their tax revenues are down,” Kaiser says. “Yet, the individual donor base stays pretty constant. ”

Kaiser also says that arts groups should not cut their programming but plan it further out so to better promote it and raise funds. He advises arts groups to plan the art they will present in the next two to five years.

Kaiser says the center is now working with more then 450 groups and seeing positive results.

“Several organizations we’re working with have now raised a lot more money, have been doing their planning and feel a lot more stable than they did last February,” he says.

The advocacy group Arts Kentucky arranged for Kaiser’s visit to Kentucky.

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