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We’re infecting the healthy
July 9, 2014 2:46 PM   Subscribe

In the wake of the Corcoran's difficulties, which have now spawned more legal disputing, should we allow failing arts organizations to die?
posted by PussKillian (16 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes! There are so many organizations of all kinds that are in terrible strain because of the factor of assets (or lack thereof), and founder syndrome. Better to merge failing charities, let them be taken on by new leaders. Let new leaders have a time to run it and see whether it was the previous leadership who lost their way or let them discover for themselves the organization did not really have a worthwhile purpose to begin with.
posted by parmanparman at 2:59 PM on July 9


Sometimes. This is covered well in Blair Tindall's Mozart in the Jungle. Are we entitled to art?
posted by Melismata at 3:00 PM on July 9


I think her vision of a successfully-rehabbed music industry is a bit naïve, personally.
posted by mykescipark at 3:03 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Drinking lattes and wearing designer jeans is supporting the arts? It's hard to take anything she says seriously after those assertions.
posted by el io at 3:06 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


I wasn't completely clear that the reference to Detroit refers to the serious danger the Detroit Institute of Arts is barely managing to claw its way out of, but the proximate reason for that crisis had little to do with the DIA's long-term viability as an arts and culture landmark and more to do with the financial distress the City of Detroit finds itself in.

And speaking personally, if her conclusion is that we shouldn't save the DIA there's something wrong with her reasoning.
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:09 PM on July 9


That was kind of a whole lot of nothing. She asserts a few times that her ideas are likely to be controversial, but honestly, I can't see where the controversy is.

She asserts that we should allow failing arts organizations to die. That's an argument that's not particularly controversial. If you can find a satisfactory definition of failing, it's practically tautological.

Then she goes on for several hundred words in which she admittedly fails to define 'failing' and doesn't really even try that hard.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:12 PM on July 9


One of the main problems with the framing here is that the Corcoran merging with other institutions isn't a failure, it is saving it.

Then again, to me, the important thing is that art is preserved and that it remains on display to the public. I'm not overly worried about what name is on the door.

I get the "but it's super oooooollllldddddddd" thing, but, I mean, OK. That's not really the same thing as concern about actual failing arts institutions. That's just a desire for nothing to ever change.

The DIA situation is much more tragic, in my opinion.
posted by Sara C. at 3:12 PM on July 9


Oh, and no comment on that high school sophomore "And In Conclusion The Art World Is A Land Of Contrasts" clickbait.
posted by Sara C. at 3:14 PM on July 9


Has anyone written to compare the situation at the Corcoran to the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia? I just realized that they're both similar in that they both have collections and operate as art schools.
posted by kat518 at 3:21 PM on July 9


Well, given the existing Corcoran trustees helped to tank an institution that was over a hundred years old, and without the excuse of massive external issues like the DIA, I gotta say that the request for an audit at least seems pretty reasonable. Also exploration of ways to keep the collection together even at another institution -- a comment on the legal dispute link notes that there was an offer from UMD that would have kept the collection intact under UMD's control. It may be that it wouldn't work, but who would trust the existing trustees to make good decisions at this point?
posted by tavella at 3:26 PM on July 9


I feel for the Corcoran employees who were harmed by this but personally I viewed the majority of the collection going to the NGA as a net positive. Keeping the collection together isn't a point I see as self evidently worthwhile.
posted by phearlez at 3:35 PM on July 9


Finally, we could leave this decision up to the government. Already, the IRS will take away 501c3 status if you don’t file your 990 for 3 years. But it’s not impossible to imagine they’d start evaluating the content included in that 990. That they could require a minimum threshold of financial viability and/or “cost per outcome”, in order to continue receiving that tax status. Alternately, they could reward efficiency, like with the “Pay for Success” movement being explored by the Irvine Foundation and others. It will set a dangerous precedent for government intervention in the arts, people will no doubt manipulate the numbers, and learn to “pass the test” rather than learning how to truly adapt. But the government regulates plenty of other sectors—finance, and energy, and healthcare. Maybe we need more big brother.

Maybe we do, but this looks an awful lot like a proposal for "No 501(c)(3) Left Behind."
posted by Austenite at 3:39 PM on July 9


Case study of a once-waning-but-now-vibrant fine arts organization:
At the core of the resulting transformation was a change of focus away from the traditional orientation of arts presenting organizations (particularly, but not exclusively, “classical” music groups), which might be expressed, “this is what we have to offer; won’t you come and see it?” This is the entrepreneurial equivalent of inventing a new widget without consideration of the marketplace and then hoping one can convince the public to buy it; when such an approach is undertaken in a commercial venue, the new widget is not likely to be a success. Yet this is the approach that the traditional fine arts have taken with their products for the better share of the last 150 years, justifying their stance by arguing that appreciating offerings of so-called “high culture” is part and parcel of membership in a civilized society. To put it bluntly and in market terms: “you should want to buy this. [Now eat your peas!]” When applied to an art form that is likely to have a smaller audience to begin with – such as contemporary chamber music – this attitude guarantees what is the accepted norm for such groups: tiny audiences, shoe-string financial survival, and an existence on the periphery of the larger cultural landscape. ... Bringing an understanding of the audience’s relationship to the artistic product to the beginning of the problem-solving process, instead of leaving it on the sidelines, is a critical concept for artists and administrators to embrace.
Entrepreneurial transformation (1) and Entrepreneurial transformation (2). (Scroll down past the italicized introduction. Disclosure: I know Jeff. Still, this is a smart essay about reinventing old art forms for contemporary audiences, with both concrete how-to and entrepreneurial insight.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:40 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I am a GWU alumni with a fine arts minor and I used to go and study at the Corcoran on the one day of the week with free admission. Usually, by my favorite piece in the collection, the Veiled Nun. I've seen many memorable Corcoran exhibitions including those from Corcoran students, but the location is a tough one. The Corcoran as a museum never made much sense to me considering the astonishing collections offered at multiple Smithsonian museums just blocks away for free.
posted by Alison at 3:59 PM on July 9


We should allow everything to pass in its time.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:08 PM on July 9


Euthanasia for arts orgs? John Knell has been on about this for ages...
posted by sconbie at 10:43 PM on July 9


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