This blog post started as a comment preceding this link I was sharing on Facebook. It’s a link to a summary of a broadcast segment on Minnesota Public Radio titled: Carlson says orchestra deserves help as much as Vikings.
The interview featured former governor Arne Carlson who criticized leadership for responding quickly to a Viking stadium request and shelling out $475 million but having essentially ignored the Minnesota Orchestra dispute. He says the orchestra’s financial problems could be solved for a fraction of the public money, $6 million to be precise, that has been committed to the new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
My question is: what then?
If the Minnesota Vikings were to contribute money toward settling the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, as Carlson somewhat “tongue-in-cheek suggests, what happens the next time the orchestra runs out of money?
For that matter, if public funds of any sort were given in order to end the lockout would that solve the orchestra’s problems long term?
I’m a strong advocate for the arts but I am also an advocate for common sense and long term sustainable and practical business practices.
Without commenting specifically on the Minnesota situation, I do think we need to look at the way we in the arts world are doing business. Our orchestras operate under a model that relies heavily on public funding and over my lifetime (I am 41) there has been a steady decline in support for public funding of the arts. Clearly, there are organizations that have adapted and are thriving but most smaller organizations are not just not thriving, they are struggling and many are failing.
I ended up listening to the full sound broadcast segment. The article does not do justice to the argument that Carlson makes during the segment. If you are at all curious I suggest listening.
Two thoughts occurred to me while I listened to this broadcast:
1. We can’t rely on public funding to fix the problems we are facing in the arts world. We suck at business right now and we need to stop sucking at business.
2. The public is not fully aware of, or doesn’t understand, the facts behind why they should support the arts. There are a lot of intangible “touch feely” reasons why the arts are important but money talks and there are real concrete financial reasons the public should get behind the arts. Very few of us are good at articulating these facts. Carlson is very good at it. We need a plan that involves more people who get it and can articulate it to systematically educate the public.
I don’t know exactly what the solution is but a very good friend commented the other day on Facebook in reference to an article on why classical music is struggling and made a very good point: