This article about the challenges to balance art and profit in arts organizations comes from the land of my alma mater, USF in Tampa, FL. Tampa is a thriving cultural hotbed, but their arts organizations face the same struggles as they face on Broadway and in the heartland.
“Profit” could easily and arguably be substituted for “sustainability,” or “survival.” They need to make a profit to stay in the black and not go under. But if, to stay financially solvent, an art museum does blockbuster exhibitions just to bring in needed revenue, or a theatre company produces box office draws just because they have to sell tickets to pay the bills, are they pandering to the lowest common denominator? Or are they acquiescing to the popular majority because that’s what it takes to keep their doors open?
This is where the balancing act comes in. By coming up with fresh ways of looking at stock favorites, arts organizations can make the lesser-known art more relevant. And by coming up with new spins on the usual smash hits, keep them exciting for those of us wanting an exhilarating arts experience, not just a restating of the obvious. Should an arts organization that produces critical successes – but box office flops – be allowed to survive? Should funders and other supporters ease off of demanding sustainability? This would relieve some of the pressure those organizations face to produce profits. But would that critical balance be tipped too much in the other direction? I welcome your thoughts.
Thanks to Pat Finelli, my old theatre professor, for sharing on the original article on FB.
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