Kennedy Center Launches Initiative to Help Struggling Arts Groups

The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., has announced a new initiative designed to help nonprofit arts organizations that are struggling to stay afloat during the current recession, the Washington Post reports.

The program, Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative, is a high-tech support service through which arts administrators can have confidential discussions with the center's executive staff about issues such as shrinking income sources, fundraising, budgeting, marketing, the use of technology, and other areas pertinent to maintaining a vital performing arts organization in a troubled economy. Any nonprofit arts group may sign up to receive assistance, which will be provided via e-mail, phone, Web chats, and/or site visits. Arts in Crisis has received $500,000 in seed funding, mainly from board member Helen Lee Henderson and Miami businesswoman and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht.

Over the past eight years, the Kennedy Center has amassed a reservoir of information about how groups have managed both successes and failures, and the need for a central place to share this type of knowledge has been building. Indeed, organizations from almost every part of the country have reported belt-tightening measures or worse. The Baltimore Opera Company, for example, recently filed for bankruptcy, while the Seattle Repertory Theatre asked its staff to take two weeks of unpaid leave and the Orlando Ballet cut live music for its holiday performance of The Nutcracker.

"Organizations that have endowments have seen them cut by one-third," said Kennedy Center president Michael M. Kaiser, author of The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations. "In cities like Detroit that are so dependent on the auto industry, the money is gone. Foundations are forced to cut back, and individuals have seen their wealth reduced."