Fund For The Arts To Kickoff Campaign, Cowen Says Competition Has Changed Arts Scene

by Gabe Bullard on January 31, 2011

The kickoff for the Fund for the Arts annual fundraising campaign is Tuesday.

CEO Allan Cowen says there is no goal for the campaign, though last year the fund raised $8 million. Some of that money was given as recurring gifts and the same amount will be given again this year. But Cowen says about $900 thousand will not.

“They’re one-time gifts, they represent gifts…one was a small bequest…[or] they represent companies that aren’t here. So we have to replace 11.25% of what we raise just to stay even. That’s pretty Herculean,” he says.

Cowen says the need for money has increased over the last few years, but raising money to meet that need isn’t always feasible. He says the recession and competition among entertainment media will likely force many arts groups to rethink their operations.

“I believe, frankly, that the arts scale in Louisville is probably going to be about 10% smaller going forward, maybe 15% smaller. I don’t say that through divine intervention, I think that’s just where the marketplace is taking us.”

The most notable instance may be the Louisville Orchestra, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Orchestra management has sought to reduce the number of players in the ensemble and shorten the performance season. The musicians say they can raise enough money to prevent cuts.

Cowen declined to weigh in directly on the situation, but he says he thinks all arts groups may want to rethink their size.

“If I drove around every day in a 16-passenger vehicle with one person it wouldn’t be particularly efficient, right? You’d say, ‘Hey, turkey, get a smaller car. Don’t tell me you can’t afford the car,'” he says.

The Fund for the Arts has been criticized for spending too much of its money on salaries and other administrative costs. Cowen dismisses those complaints and says less than about 15% of the money raised will not go to arts groups.

For more on the campaign, click here.

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