Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Arts Orgs: Don't Dumb Down to Survive!

That's what Michael Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center in Washington DC is saying, but it's falling on deaf ears, as arts organizations are dumbing down their programming and slashing their marketing to survive the recession--he thinks the opposite is called for and speaks us in The Huffington Post today.


Carter Dewberry said...

I agree with Mr. Kaiser's comments regarding the importance of marketing in art. I have a few questions, however. What is 'dumbing down art' and 'good art'?

As a young-ish performer and founder of The Definiens Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to innovative presentation of chamber music, I believe in offering audience members as many ways to connect with the music as possible. In this process, I have worked to maintain the integrity of the music while adding elements such as video and dance to add new dimensions for today's concertgoers.

I am incredibly passionate about my art. Those who see me perform or speak about it recognize this. It is this spark (more than technical or artistic perfection) that has allowed me to sell albums and concert tickets.

-Dr. Carter Dewberry

Rick Stein said...

Hi, Carter,
thanks for commenting. I think Michael Kaiser may be pointing out the tendency of some organizations to rush to "commercial" programming than any well-conceived effort to connect audiences more effectively with the arts.
The work you are doing is very important--please keep it up!

Carter Dewberry said...


I appreciate the distinction. I have found it is a fine line, balancing the need to attract audiences to the performance as well as the desire to inspire and challenge them once at the concert!

I will keep your verbiage in mind in my work. Thank you!

ImagineMDD said...

I think today it's a heightened version of a discussion that has gone on with artists for a very long time. One artist telling another that she's "selling out" if she is, in my profession of jewelry design for instance, creating multiples of the same piece of jewelry because it's popular and it sells.

There's a place for expressing yourself, surprising and even enlightening people with your craft. People will appreciate what you do and pay more for something they understand is worth more.

That's marketing and it's education. Regardless of what you put out there, they get the value of your personal talent. There are ways to stay on track regardless.

But there's also a place for making those customers happy with something you've done and your being able to pay the rent all or in part thanks to your art. That's a win-win, too.

Rick Stein said...

ImagineMDD, points well-taken & nothing against balancing the two. I think Kaiser is seeing too many instances of arts organizations rushing from their mission to commercial work out of fear, and while the short-term gains may help them through these times, they will have abandoned their core audiences who won't come back--and the new audiences aren't interested in their core programming and won't stick around if they return to it. It's really a catch-22.
Thanks for commenting.