The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations

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Overview

Many arts organizations today find themselves in financial difficulties because of economic constraints inherent in the industry. While other companies can improve productivity through the use of new technologies or better systems, these approaches are not available in the arts. Hamlet requires the same number of performers today as it did in Shakespeare’s time. The New York Philharmonic requires the same number of musicians now as it did when Tchaikovsky conducted it over one hundred years ago. Costs go up, but the size of theaters and the price resistance of patrons limit what can be earned from ticket sales. Therefore, the performing arts industry faces a severe gap between earnings and expenses. Typical approaches to closing the gap—raising ticket prices or cutting artistic or marketing expenses—don’t work.

What, then, does it take to create and maintain a healthy arts organization?

Michael M. Kaiser has revived four major arts organizations: the Kansas City Ballet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, and London’s Royal Opera House. In The Art of the Turnaround he shares with readers his ten basic rules for bringing financially distressed arts organizations back to life and keeping them strong. These rules cover the requirements for successful leadership, the pitfalls of cost cutting, the necessity of extending the programming calendar, the centrality of effective marketing and fund raising, and the importance of focusing on the present with a positive public message. In chapters organized chronologically, Kaiser brings his ten rules vividly to life in discussions of the four arts organizations he is credited with saving. The book concludes with a chapter on his experiences at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an arts organization that needed an artistic turnaround when he became the president in 2001 and that today exemplifies in practice many of the ten rules he discusses throughout his book.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This book is a valuable management resource; arts administrators could do worse than emulate Kaiser’s work ethic, boldness of vision and ability to learn from mistakes. Those interested in keeping America’s arts institutions vital ignore his insights at their peril.” —Opera News

“To some, there may be a touch of irony: the man who presided over some of the Royal Opera House’s darkest hours has produced a self-help book aimed at pulling failing arts organisations out of trouble. Michael Kaiser’s The Art of the Turnaround offers 10 basic rules on how to save failing arts organisations, some of which were learned the hard way in London.” —The Guardian (London)

“Kaiser presents a ten-step . . . program to save or revive struggling arts organizations. The author’s program is . . . practical, and he follows it with a series of case studies in which he works his magic over and over again. . . . He offers . . . interesting anecdotes, and the portrayal of the logistics of traveling shows deserves particular mention.”—Choice

“[An] extraordinary book that serves as both cautionary tale and practical primer in crisis response. . . . Whether you are serving in an entry level or executive leadership position, from crew chief to executive director, there is much to be learned from in Michael Kaiser’s The Art of the Turnaround.”—Theatre Design & Technology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584657354
  • Publisher: Brandeis University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 204
  • Sales rank: 448,413
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

MICHAEL M. KAISER is President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dubbed “the turnaround king” for his work at numerous institutions, Kaiser has earned international renown for his expertise in arts management. A Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. State Department, he advises performing arts organizations around the world, working with arts leaders in Mexico, Pakistan, China, Latin America, and the Arab nations. He has created an online education forum for arts administrators (www.artsmanager.org) where professionals and students in the field can share experiences, seek employment, and post opportunities.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     vii
Introduction     ix
The Art of the Turnaround: Ten Rules     1
Kansas City Ballet (1985-1986)     15
Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation (1991-1993)     32
American Ballet Theatre (1995-1998)     61
Royal Opera House (1998-2000)     102
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2001-present)     142
Conclusion     176
Index of Names     179
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