"Right-sizing" has given new life to Columbus Symphony

Rebecca Winzenried, Symphony Magazine spring 2012 issue

Just two years ago, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra was teetering on the brink of collapse. An unusual solution emerged. The CSO announced it was turning over administrative duties to the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts. Bill Conner, president of CAPA, would become CSO's managing director and CEO on a volunteer basis. Analysis of true potential revenue from ticket sales and contributions in Columbus, compared to other cities, suggested that a "right-sized" budget should be closer to $8 million than the $12.5 million of 2008. The CSO, like many arts organizations, had grown at a pace that did not match the capacity of its community, says Conner. The audience issue, or lack-of-audience issue, was overstated, he adds: "We have a really good market for classical music in our city, but we never had a market for 52 weeks of classical music in Columbus, Ohio. Only a few cities in the world can support that." The CSO-CAPA agreement was estimated to save about $750,000 in administrative costs. From there came the task of right-sizing the orchestra season, which meant additional concessions from musicians, who had ended [a] 2008 conflict by agreeing to a salary cut in lieu of a reduction in the number of full-time players. The season was reduced from 46 to 38 weeks in 2009-10, then to 26 in 2010-11. And while musicians haven't felt many operational changes under the new administrative structure, CAPA's support has earned the confidence of civic leaders, bringing in transitional funding from city and regional sources, among others, that along with the CAPA partnership and concessions in the musicians' contract, allowed the CSO to end its 2010 fiscal year in the black - a somewhat miraculous feat, and one that was repeated in 2011.


U.S.'s oldest free outdoor Shakespeare festival seeks "right size" indoor venue

Erin Keane, WFPL Radio, 4/9/12

The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is shopping for a new indoor performance space. Festival leadership has expressed interest in purchasing a Theater Square building that currently houses the Roxbury Nightclub and Lounge. The board of directors recently approved a new strategic plan that calls for expanded programming. Producing artistic director Brantley Dunaway hopes more plays and a longer production season will transform the festival from a free summer program into a robust tourism destination. KSF is the oldest free outdoor Shakespeare festival in the United States, and it typically stages two to three free Shakespeare productions in Central Park every summer. Dunway says the festival needs to become more financially self-reliant, and ticket sales from productions other than the free outdoor performances will help. Dunaway says he wasn't yet actively looking for an indoor venue, but when he heard the Theater Square building was for sale, he saw the potential for a year-round venue for the festival and its educational and community partners: "It's the right size for us to begin getting into ticket sales. We'll probably be able to push it into a 300- or 350-seat theater." 


In Charlotte NC, a theater of the "right size" helps draw touring shows

Laura Williams-Tracy, Charlotte Business Journal, 4/22/11

At Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, the [1,200-seat] Knight Theater fills a size niche between the 2,100-seat Belk Theater and the 730-seat McGlohon Theatre. "We're a top 10 market for Broadway shows," says Tom Gabbard, PAC's president. But [tour bookers] often struggled to have a theater of the right size. Many traveling shows want to book the Belk. But it's 75% larger than the Knight. If a show doesn't sell out, or seats must be discounted, sponsors may find they would have cleared a bigger profit in the Knight. "This is really a New York-size house, so that's why we've been successful in attracting shows here," says Gabbard. Season-ticket holders expressed for years a preference for shows uptown over Ovens Auditorium, which is about four miles from The Square. The 2,400-seat Ovens served for years as the city's main auditorium. Mike Crum, COO of the visitors authority [which operates the Ovens], says Ovens is hosting enough events to operate in the black, although it has spare capacity. "Clearly the days of Ovens being the go-to facility for opera, dance and symphony are over, but it's still a great multipurpose facility. Being located where it is and being the type of venue it is, the Knight has helped raise...Charlotte's profile as a place where people want to spend money. That is the most important thing."


Daring Athens art heist prompts new look at "rightsizing" museum collections

Art appraiser Max Donner for Examiner.com, 1/9/12

[During the] early morning in darkness, thieves carted away three modernist works from the National Art Gallery in Athens, Greece. The three works are of important historic significance, but not comparable in value to the $600 million theft at the Paris Museum of Modern Art in 2010. Museum officials declined to state an exact value estimate, but the relatively modest market value of these three works may also make them easier to resell and the porous border with Albania could make it fairly easy to get the art out of Greece without a customs inspection. The financial realities surrounding the heist also mean that the value of the story rights could top the value of the paintings, and Greece could actually come out ahead. The decline in public security for art in Greece shares similarities with Bagdad in 2003 and Cairo last year. As a series of crises focus the attention of law enforcement on maintaining order during civil unrest, advance planning and human intelligence for preventing art theft decline. Now that this concern has become a reality, a candid discussion about easing restrictions on exports of art from Greece is long overdue. It helps no one to hoard rare works of art in collections that cannot afford to secure them. More sophisticated approaches to export, such as sales with repurchase options, can meet both the objectives of solving Greece's financial crisis and the country's vision of being a top tier destination for art tourism.


Commentary: What's the right size for a nonprofit board?

Jan Masaoka, Blue Avocado blog, 4/1/12

What's the right number of people to have on the board? We're tempted to answer: "17. That's the average board size in the United States so it must be right." Actually, the real answer is "It depends."

What does the right board size depend on? Here are some real-life answers:

The amazing shrinking board. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that a smaller board is necessarily a more active board. If you have 11 board members and 2 are inactive, and then go to a board of 9, it's likely that within six months you will have 7 active and 2 inactive board members. This happens for the same reason that buttered toast always falls with the buttered side down. It just is.

Bigger may not necessarily be better. When a board has a giving requirement, some executive directors do the math and figure out that with 50 people on the board @ $1,000 each they can get $50,000. But more board members require more staff support. If you have 30 board members and 10 committees, you probably need at least one full-time, very capable staff person who can support those committees. Large organizations often have four or five full-time staff dedicated to board support.

Don't go committee crazy. If every board member is on three or four committees (and going crazy), don't add more board members. Instead, reduce the number of committees. Turn most of the committees into temporary task forces that, for instance, meet for two months to accomplish something specific and then disband. (See Boards Should Only Have Three Committees for ideas.)

Some of the best committee members may not be board members. Don't forget that non-board volunteers can participate on committees and task forces. For example, a temporary committee to evaluate a proposal for a new earned-income activity may well benefit from [people] not on the board.


Endquote: Right-sizing your passion

Seth Godin on his blog, 2/4/12

Excitement about goals is often diminished by our fear of failure or the drudgery of work. If you're short on passion, it might be because your goals are too small or the fear is too big. Do a job for a long time and achieve what you set out to achieve, and suddenly, the dream job becomes a trudge instead. The job hasn't changed--your dreams have. Mostly, though, it's about our fear. Fear is the dream killer, the silent voice that pushes us to lose our passion in a vain attempt to seek safety. While you can work hard to dream smaller dreams, I think it's better to embrace the fear and find bigger goals instead.

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