January 15, 2009

Moving Forward During Uncertain Times

Well...it has been incredibly shocking (to say the least) to watch the demise - hopefully short-term - of both the Baltimore Opera and recently the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. As a freelance musician living in this region, I do have to say that it is not only distressing to see two important arts organizations face drastic reorganizations (as well as to know that many of my colleagues will be "scrambling" - if I may - to replace those sources of income), it makes me wonder, as we probably all are at this moment, how we will survive this downturn.

Granted, there have been many downturns, and organizations have had to shorten seasons as well as cancel their seasons (between 2001-2003 we witnessed the shutdowns of the Florida Philharmonic, Tulsa Philharmonic, San Antonio Symphony, and the Savannah Symphony Orchestra), with many of those organizations - particularly the San Antonio Symphony - going through a reorganization process and finding themselves standing in much better positions years later. One can also look to the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and its continued rise after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to see, as Michael Kaiser writes in The Art of the Turnaround, that "something miraculous has transpired."

While many of these stories do bring hope, perspective and inspiration, there are nevertheless troublesome times. As a performer as well as having worked in administration, I have wondered for years how organizations have both navigated and survived the reorganization process - luckily, there are now many articles available to the general public that can be shared. I invite you to read the following for some advice and perspectives.

Leaning Into The Punch
Adam Forest Huttler, Executive Director of Fractured Atlas
In this essay Mr. Huttler states that "This is not a time for caution, conservatism, or cost-cutting. On the contrary, we need bold, entrepreneurial efforts that strengthen the field and mitigate industry fallout from the economic crisis."

Back From the Brink
Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 2008
Excerpts from Michael M. Kaiser's The Art of the Turnaround, in which Mr. Kaiser "writes about his experiences reviving troubled arts organizations".

Managing in Tough Times: Seven Steps
The Bridgespan Group
November 11, 2008

Founded in 2000, the Bridgespan Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps nonprofit and philanthropic leaders in the hard work of developing strategies and building organizations that inspire and accelerate social change.

Articles can also be found at the website of the National Performance Network.

As we all face these tremulous times while also looking forward to the changes that will take place in our world after the inauguration, I do hope that these articles will prove helpful to all.

And in other news...

2009 Baker Artist Award

In other news, I have recently been nominated for the Baker Artist Award! The Baker Artist Award consists of both the privately juried Mary Sawyers Baker Prize and the voter selected Baltimore's Choice. The process is designed to open the nominations to the broadest possible community participation using the Web. The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund intends the Baker Artist Awards website to be an ongoing exhibition, archive and definitive statement about Baltimore as a creative richness and vitality as place to live and community that values its individual artists.

To learn more about the Baker Artist Award, please visit their website at www.bakerartistawards.org.

Please take a minute to visit my profile on the Baker Artist Awards web site: http://www.bakerartistawards.org/nomination/view/samuelthompson. As a Baltimore artist, I am eligible to win either the significant Mary Sawyers Baker Prize or the voter-selected Baltimore’s Choice. Either way, please follow the link to cast your vote! Voting ends February 1, 2009.

More from the road,

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