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Curtains?

The Future of the Arts in America

Michael M. Kaiser

In this clear-minded but sobering book, Michael M. Kaiser assesses the current state of arts institutions—orchestras; opera, ballet, modern dance, and theater companies; and even museums. According to Kaiser, new developments in the twenty-first century, including the Internet explosion, the death of the recording industry, the near-death of subscriptions, economic instability, the focus on STEM education in schools, the introduction of movie-theater opera, the erosion of newspapers, the threat to serious arts criticism, and the aging of the donor base have together created tremendous challenges for all arts organizations. Using Michael Porter’s model of industry structure to describe how industries evolve, Kaiser argues persuasively that unless steps are taken now, midsized performing arts institutions will have all but evaporated by 2035. Only the largest arts organizations will survive, with tickets priced for the very wealthy and programming limited to the most popular and lucrative productions. Kaiser concludes with a call to arms. With three extraordinary decades’ experience as an arts administrator behind him, he advocates passionately for risk-taking in programming and more creative marketing, and details what needs to happen now—building strong donor bases, creating effective boards, and collective action—to sustain the performing arts for generations to come.

Cloth: $27.95 | E-book: $21.99
ISBN-13: 9781611687033
Pages: 172 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: January 23, 2015
Screenshot-2023-10-11-at-16.51.58

“No one knows more about arts administration than Michael Kaiser. No wonder people the world over clamor for his attention and keen advice.”

Terrence McNally

Reviews

  • While a critical statement to the field at a critical time, Curtains? has plenty for anyone curious about what gets on stage, what doesn't, and why. If you ever looked up in an orchestra hall and marveled at all of the missing bodies, you will find this a satisfying read. In a single, compelling 145-page breath, Kaiser clears up the mystery and remains one of the few who doesn't stint on the gory details.

    Philadelphia Inquirer
  • In some ways, the cultural future Kaiser describes reflects other social and economic trends. Just as wealth and power are increasingly concentrated amongst a shrinking number of powerful individuals and corporations, he sees a few famous mega-institutions dominating what's left of the arts landscape, sucking up the talent and attention, catering to the wealthy who can underwrite their productions and afford their tickets. As the number of small and mid-size groups shrinks, he predicts, so will the ethnic diversity and artistic experimentation that brings us the next defining trend or great artist, since the mega-troupes will have to appeal to the widest possible audience (at least in their online, mass offerings.)

    Miami Herald
  • Of particular interest to the leaders of struggling companies will be his detailed thoughts on building more supportive and effective boards containing members with a broad range of expertise, background and even income levels. Only with such diverse and active boards, he contends, can arts organizations do the long-range planning necessary to survive in today's challenging environment.

    The Washington Post
  • Kaiser's thin book is pragmatic, structured and thick with facts, ideas and anecdotes, including telling and knowing observations about technology.

    The Georgetowner
  • Michael Kaiser is very competent and far-sighted in dealing with the extremely complicated economic and organizational aspects of performing arts institutions, especially in this period of grave crises.

    Plácido Domingo
  • No one knows more about arts administration than Michael Kaiser. No wonder people the world over clamor for his attention and keen advice.

    Terrence McNally
  • Michael Kaiser is an engaging and inspiring impresario, who truly has made a difference in turning around arts organizations. He knows firsthand of what he speaks.

    Renée Fleming

About the Author

Michael M. Kaiser

Michael M. Kaiser has had distinguished tenures running the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Royal Opera House, American Ballet Theatre, and the Alvin Ailey organization. He now directs the DeVos Institute of Arts Management Institute at the University of Maryland.

Table Of Contents

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