How to Get Arts Through the Recession

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“How is it that we have so many people of energy, ideas, creativity and intelligence in the arts, and yet they haven’t even begun to generate enough money to support what they do?” asks Toner Quinn, editor of the recently launched, internationally minded Journal of Music. Good question.

Quinn has a plan, and it begins with blowing up our assumptions about “the economics of the arts.” We praise arts organizations for doing amazing things on shoestring budgets, he writes, and when there’s extra money to go around, it generally goes toward improving compensation for undercompensated people. Fair enough. Quinn notes, however, that arts organizations and artists often operate in bubbles, struggling to meet their economic needs without tapping into collective economic experience.

“Conventional thinking on the relationship between the arts and business is that it inevitably leads to compromise for the former,” Quinn writes. “Arts communities, however, have many successful people who manage to outwit that, striking a balance between business acumen and cultural concern, between artistic ambition and financial prudence, between the language of cultural entrepreneurialism and the language of commercial business….

“What they know cannot be found in books; and it won’t be issued as a memo by any commercial business. It is only learned through having formative experiences in the arts.”

Quinn proposes that arts councils rustle up their experts in the business side of the arts and offer their advice to newcomers. Extending the concept to art galleries, theater companies, publishing groups, and the like would eventually produce a system of economic mentorship. In addition to reducing missed opportunities and generating more money all around, such an insitutution would also strengthen the fabric of arts communities. Good idea, I’d say.

Source: The Journal of Music

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