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Kennedy Center President Advising Cultural Leaders Around the Country on ‘Arts in Crisis’ Tour

Over the past year, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Artspresident Michael M. Kaiser has been traveling the country, speaking to arts executives about how to keep their organizations afloat in a difficult economy, the New York Times reports.

When it ends on July 20, the Arts in Crisis tour will have taken Kaiser to all fifty states, where he has hammered home the message he detailed in his 2008 book The Art of the Turnaround — that in hard times arts organizations retain audiences and donors by offering their most exciting programming, not by scaling back or trying more conservative fare. The tour is named after, and complements, an initiative launched by the Kennedy Center last February as arts groups across the country cut programming because of money woes. The Arts in Crisis initiative allows nonprofits to apply for free planning help from Kennedy Center staff members and a group of volunteer mentors; eight hundred groups have applied for help so far.

To many in the world of cultural nonprofits, Kaiser is regarded as a miracle worker for having helped save other major arts groups, including theKansas City Ballet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater,American Ballet Theatre, and the Royal Opera House in London. At the Kennedy Center, which he took over in 2001, he has more than doubled donations and run a surplus every year.

In addition to the tour and book, Kaiser also spreads his passion for arts management on a Huffington Post blog and his Facebook page, which has the maximum-allowed five thousand followers. Rather than move on from the Kennedy Center in 2011, as he had once planned, Kaiser says he will stay until 2014 and then lead the center’s DeVos Institute of Arts Management, which since 2001 has advised arts groups around the world.

“I’m trying to build a respect for the field,” Kaiser told the Times. “I’m creating — it’s not about me so much — but I’m creating the sense that there is a field out there, that there is something for people to talk about.”

Taylor, Kate. “A Crusader for Boldness as the Arts Face Deficits.”New York Times 6/27/10.

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