Arts Notes with Howard Jang
I recall the discussion of supply and demand in an Economics course I took for my undergraduate degree. I have always been intrigued by the whole discussion of marketplace dictating who survives and who doesn’t. Recently this topic has been a hot button following recent comments by Rocco Landesman, the chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts in the US, who asks “Does the country have more outlets for the arts than it can handle?” Mr. Landesman is a Broadway theatre owner and producer, thus speaks from the perspective of commercial theatre. He made these statements at a conference in Washington, DC in January.
Mr. Landesman goes on to say, “You can either increase demand or decrease supply. Demand is not going to increase. So it is time to think about decreasing supply.” These statements have provoked an intense discussion and have created a significant amount of buzz amongst many of my colleagues south of the border.
Michael Kaiser from the Kennedy Center, who authored the book The Art of the Turnaround about what arts organizations need to do when in crisis, said “My biggest problem with thinning out the field is that what people typically mean is: Thin out the smallest, weakest, least developed.”
Is the same discussion needed here in Canada, or is it the elephant in the room?
I think not, as our community celebrates diversity and the wide range of artistic practice, presentation, and creation. The value we place in this diversity with the support of government, corporations, foundations, donors, and, of course, our audience is what sets us apart.
In a previous message I called for the arts community in general, and the theatre community specifically, to come together and map out our vision for what theatre can be for our community. Now is the time, before we get mired in this basic economic debate. If you are interested in reading some of the discussion, here are a couple of sites:
I hope you’ll weigh in in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you.
–Howard Jang, Executive Director