Response to Barry Hessenius's Blog of June 6, 2005
Barry was Director of the California Arts Council and is now Executive Director of Alonzo King's Lines Contemporary Ballet
I too was at the Business Arts Council's MetLife Forum event at which you spoke and I was inspired by your situation analysis of the arts business environment. As an arts management consultant I work every day with small and midsize organizations that are struggling to stabilize the business of their arts, much less envisioning sustainability.
Like the American Dream of a little house with a white picket fence, arts groups run towards 501(c)3 incorporation and then are unable to build the capacity to support the move. Others go even further by attempting to independently lease or purchase an arts venue while still building their artistic product.
I believe that a better model is to fund the development of Hub organizations, such as Intersection for the Arts
and the quickly-evolving Oakland Metro
which incubate and present small and midsize arts ventures. Ideally, acting as fiscal sponsors and presenting partners, these Hubs can offer collective management resources, co-marketing opportunities, provide ticketing services, and house rehearsal, performance and exhibition space.
Building sustainable Hub organizations requires funder investment in the development of arts and business partnerships. Arts leadership is sorely missing and is ideally a partnership between artists, arts managers, trained board members, funders, civic leaders and business arts advocates. Currently the artists are the managers, the marketers, the fundraisers, the board members and often the audience members too. The Hub model promotes the development of art and a powerful growth opportunity for arts leadership.