As someone who spent half her career working for and with arts organizations this news makes me sad:
The article includes a link to a google map where you can look at the economic impact in each state. With unemployment and cutback, for many a trip to the art museum can appear to be a luxury. In response, arts organizations are cutting staff, trimming budgets, canceling shows, shortening seasons or closing their doors.
Allison Fine has a post reflecting on the state of the newspaper and nonprofit arts industry called "Greatest Loss of 2009: Social Capital"
Allison suggests in her post that there is definitely a business model problem. If you were to pay for the full cost of a ticket to attend a symphony concert, you'd be paying several hundred dollars given that it is impossible to make a ticket affordable without some subsidy (donations or government grants). Allison says that arts organizations need a new organizational model:
The problem of trying to figure out a new business model for arts organizations is much more difficult. This is due in part because the cost of delivering the product is largely fixed; there is no way around the fact that orchestras need violinists and cellists. Many arts organizations that face the prospect that there may not be enough patrons to support their efforts — ever. It may be that performing arts organizations cover larger regions. For instance, perhaps Hartford, CT cannot sustain a symphony orchestra, but lower New England may be able to. Or that the orchestras get smaller, or that the players aren’t full-time professionals.
Brian Reich, in the comments, suggests that while said, it is a market correction.
In reality, however, there are far too many arts organizations (and nonprofits generally), and some shrinking of that marketplace should be welcomed. Arts organizations who are struggling to gain audience are not demonstrating their value (and I would argue in many cases are not in fact offering something all that valuable, when you consider how many other groups are doing the same thing, or something very similar).
Allison says the loss of arts organizations will create enormous, possibly permanent loss of social capital for local communities.
But what I don’t know is if or how social media can make up this loss, it may simply be that this is one casualty of the Connected Age. One thing we can do is to insist that the growth of social capital be a part of the discussion and implementation of new models for news and arts organizations.
Making money isn’t the only measure of success for news and arts organizations in the future; reconnecting citizens locally to one another; regenerating the social fabric is just as important and necessary to the success of these efforts.
Maybe arts organizations need to be doing "Social Capital Impact" studies along with other forms of advocacy?
What do you think? What is the summary of the discussion going on arts organizations blogs?