Reinventing the Wheel, or Break Down the Walls

Posted on January 26, 2012


Michael Mauskapf ‘s article Cracking the Orchestra Nut: Challenges and Models for the Future (January 12, 2012) found online at: ArtsFWD offers a nice snapshot of the challenges facing today’s Symphony Orchestra and offers few a points of consideration: rethinking governance, engaging communities, and leveraging technology.

While this was a fairly solid piece of writing I could not help but think that  the “new models” that he is exploring were just old ones brought to new recycled usefulness.  Perhaps in looking for some brand new design of how things should be we should look back for a simpler more efficient business model to fit the needs of our artists, organizations, and audiences?

I wonder when it became “accepted practice”  as Mauskapf points out for arts organization not to cooperate with its artists or the community in which it serves?  The fundamental purpose of arts management is to bring artists and audience together.  If that purpose is not being served than what is?  I think if you look hard enough there are many good models both past and present that help to serve the artists, organizations, and audiences.  The problem is that there is not enough of them and their examples have not become “accepted practice”.

Maybe a better question is not, “what are the new models” but rather “why are we not adopting new models”?

As for technology this probably is the most problematic.  For years arts organizations have lagged behind in adapting to and being proactive with new forms of media and technology.  As such there is a significant gap between organizational capability and audience demand that will in all likelihood not come together for a very long time, if ever.  All may be lost, or eventually lost, for some but not for others.

Here again the “new business models” are readily available for everyone to see and adapt to.  Go to Kickstarter or Indie Go-Go or any other funding website and see for yourself.  Go to Esty or Art2Arts and see what is taking place.  But if you look close enough you will notice something missing – WALLS!

The new arts models are not centered around buildings but ideas.  They are adaptable and ever-changing.  They rise and fall like waves.  I would liken them more to dance companies that form around a choreographer, traveling to bring their unique art to audiences, and when it is over, nothing remains but the memory and feeling of having participated in it, as an artist, manager, and audience.