Sunday, December 4, 2011

We've Got Offers to Re-Locate to Another City

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on..............."

Making the Arts as Essential to a City as Sports Teams Are:
This ArtPlace grant came to my attention courtesy of Createquity:  Here's what the ArtPlace website says:  "An internationally acclaimed modern dance company, the Trey McIntyre Project has taken Boise, Idaho, as its home base and has won extraordinary popular support from the city. Through a new project, the company will limit its touring to remain in Boise, where it will engage the community to make dance and dancers ever present. The aim is to generate local identity and pride equivalent to that fostered by the university football team. By working with everyone from restaurants and bars to hospitals and schools, the project will shape how this mid-sized city sees itself and presents itself as a creative beacon".

I like this for two reasons:  First, in awarding money to an arts organization to limit its touring to local venues the grant recognizes the critical importance of the arts (and specific arts organizations) to a city.  It even specifies that the dance company is equivalent to the local university football team.  I have long thought that major city ballets, symphonies, operas, museums and theater companies are as essential to the life of a city as its major league football, basketball and baseball teams, and that we ought to more often make the comparison.  I've even entertained the fantasy that, like some major league sports franchise owners do, those organizations ought to threaten from time to time to re-locate to some city that would be more responsive to its needs.  I would love the specter of non-supportive cities scrambling to figure out how to keep a major cultural institution that was being courted to move elsewhere.

I also think whole disciplines and even the arts sector is invaluable to a city.  Take dance in San Francisco - over 200 companies that help make the city a mecca for talent, for dreams and all the energy of all those people involved (not to mention that they are economic consumers).   Organization of all those players is necessary to leverage that potential power.   

Of course that is just a fantasy and would be very difficult, if not impossible, to pull off a threat to re-locate (though it would be interesting to see some test case somewhere).  Can you imagine if the Guggenheim or the Getty threatened to move?  

The second reason I like this story is that the Trey McIntyre Project is so smart and savvy to position itself to be able to successfully secure this kind of support.  And it did so from the decision as to where to locate in the first place.  The fact is that the company is indeed  "internationally acclaimed" and very likely would have been welcomed in hundreds of cities, but it consciously chose Boise and it would seem part of that decision was likely grounded in what they could come to mean locally, and what that kind of support would mean to their future - including the freedom to be creative.  

Not every dance company can mean to a city what, say, Alvin Ailey means to New York.  But it should be the goal of every arts organization to consciously do whatever it reasonably can to mean as much as it can to the city in which it resides.  Every organization needs to think strategically to position itself as so tied to local pride and identity that losing it to some other place would be absolutely unacceptable.  

And frankly I think we ought to play the "we're considering offers to move" card every once in awhile.

Kudos to the Trey McIntyre Project, Arts Place and the city of Boise.


  • A belated congratulations to Shannon Daut on her appointment as the new Executive Director of the Alaska State Council on the Arts and best wishes to my friend Charlotte Fox on wherever she next lands.

  • The San Francisco Arts Commission mess.  I am following very closely the continuing saga of the SF Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grants Program - what was purportedly a scandal, but is becoming more of a mishandled bureaucratic SNAFU.  An important meeting for Monday, December 5th.  Whatever happens this one potentially has all the hallmarks of a real soap opera drama.  See Arlene Goldbard's blog.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit.