Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A New University of Chicago Study on How Over-Expansion by Arts Institutions Contributed to Their Collective Financial Crisis

Posted by on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 4:44 PM

People who've been paying attention in the arts world have been saying colloquially to each other that over-expansion and over-investment in buildings has contributed to the crisis of large arts organizations across the country.

Yesterday, I mentioned that the recession seems to have had a "trickle-up effect" on theaters—the fringe and mid-sized theaters felt it first, and adjusted (or died). Then the regional theaters quaked. This week, the opera announced it was busted with a $1 million deficit.

Now it's empirical. The University of Chicago has just released a study called Set in Stone demonstrating that many arts organizations should be less ambitious with their growth and focus on using what they already have in a smarter way. From the overview:

We studied more than 800 building projects and conducted interviews with more than 500 organizations. These included museums, theaters, and performing arts centers; new facilities, expansions and renovations; costing at least $4 million between 1994 and 2008.

The research we conducted does indeed point to substantial evidence that there was overinvestment during the building boom—especially when coupled with the number of organizations we studied that experienced financial difficulties post-building. Eighty percent of the projects we studied ran over budget, some by as much as 200 percent.

We all suspected it. Here's the proof.


Comments (5) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
American consumers and business leaders seem to be afflicted with a kind of collective bipolar disorder that drives our economy to extreme highs and lows. Apparently our artistic and cultural institutions are no different.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on June 28, 2012 at 6:09 PM · Report this

4 million dollars over a 14 year period? For 800 projects?

Even if they took the dollar bills and plastered them on the streets of Manhattan as a performance piece, it's not very much.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on June 28, 2012 at 6:15 PM · Report this
MrBaker 3
Good thing so many are non-profit, that makes all the difference in the public/private partnerships to Richard Conlin.
Posted by MrBaker on June 28, 2012 at 8:45 PM · Report this
Laurence Ballard 5

No joy in saying, "I told you so." Trustees still prattle on about how so-and-so will save such-and-such--always referring to the institution, not the artists who give it purpose and meaning.

Intiman is a very good example. "Intiman is saved!" But which Intiman Theatre? Sure, the name remains the same, but the institution transforms and changes. (New brooms sweeping cleanly, and all that.) We're currently into Intiman 6.0; it's Andrew Russell's charge now. It's present profile is very different from the original mission statement and purpose. Mr. Russell wasn't even born when Ms. Booker began it all. Why should Andrew be burdened with a Board stuck in the past and an institution whose name nobody ever properly pronounced? (it's "in-TEA-mon")

It's rather like a sixth marriage, where the newly proclaimed insist on keeping the name from the first nuptials: everything about preserving the institution and precious little about the relationship's realities.
Posted by Laurence Ballard on June 29, 2012 at 6:56 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 6
It was all Bush dollars. Bush dollars come back and bite you in the ass.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on June 29, 2012 at 7:47 AM · Report this

Add a comment

Commenting on this item is available only to registered commenters.

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy