Commentary: All eyes are on "first of its kind" Performing Arts Alliance in Ohio

Joe Aiello, Dayton [Ohio] City Paper, 1/22/13

" ... exciting ... innovative ... integral ... rare ... farsighted ... courageous ... visionary ...  collaborative ... nothing quite like (it) ... a bold endeavor ... the latest example of Ohio being a hotbed of innovation in the arts ... first of its kind in the nation ... unprecedented ... energizes our culture for generations to come."

These are just a few of the comments that have appeared in both the local and national press concerning the new Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, a unique merger of Dayton Ballet, Dayton Opera and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. [From 2005 to 2009] I was Communications Manager of the Dayton Philharmonic. Somewhere around my third day on the job, I came to the realization of a universal truth: no one takes a job on the staff of a non-profit arts organization because they have aspirations, or intentions, of amassing wealth. They do it because they love the arts. The new Dayton Performing Arts Alliance will, as a result of its unique, three-in-one configuration, be able to perform more effectively the overriding objective of each [entity]: to create opportunities for work for talented artists. And to provide the community in which all three exist and operate with the finest arts programming possible. Jeremy Trahan, President of the Dayton Ballet Association Board, described both the importance of maintaining the individual identities of the arts organizations while seeking new opportunities for artistic collaboration. "In our planning process," Trahan noted, "we recognized that a single, stronger governing body could also facilitate artistic collaboration in a way that had not been fully explored in our community, or even nationally. We have the foundation now for very forward thinking in performing arts."


2 groups merge to create largest arts organization in Idaho

Karen Bossick, Twin Falls Times-News, 1/4/13

Company of Fools theater and Sun Valley Center for the Arts toasted their knot-tying on Wednesday. "We're touting the idea that one plus one equals 11," said John Glenn, a core artist with Company of Fools. "By adding the two of us together we'll be able to offer not necessarily more in quantity but definitely a richer experience." Company of Fools, which took root 17 years ago, will continue to produce plays, acting classes, its Stages of Wonder school classes and its Casino Royale fundraiser. Sun Valley Center, started 40 years ago, will continue to offer multidisciplinary art exhibitions, lecture series, concert series, its Arts and Crafts Festival, its Wine Auction and school programming. But the two organizations plan to collaborate more. In March, for instance, the Sun Valley Center will open an exhibition titled "Home Front" about veterans returning from war. And Company of Fools will do a play reading that meshes with that exhibition. "We've been holding periodic conversations with each other, and we always ended up saying, 'If only we had known, we could have collaborated with you on that,'" said Kristin Poole, artistic director for the center. The merger follows many months of discussions, a due diligence process, the development of an integration plan and the merger of the two boards.


To save money, Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic will merge

David Ng, Los Angeles Times' Culture Monster blog, 1/28/13

In a sign of the times for small and mid-size classical music organizations, the Sacramento Opera and Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra will merge their operations this year in order to cope with a challenging financial environment. The merger will create a new entity called the  Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance. Each organization will retain its own identity under the new umbrella group. A number of small and mid-size orchestras and opera companies around the country are facing dire economic conditions. The Sacramento Opera and Sacramento Philharmonic are expected to merge officially in July. The combined organization is expected to have an operating budget of $1.8 million, which is lower than the combined budgets of the two entities, according to the Sacramento Bee. Both groups had faced declining donations and subscriptions in recent seasons. 


South Carolina governor wants to merge Arts Commission with State Museum

Jamie Self. The State [South Carolina], 1/23/13

Gov. Nikki Haley wants to fold the South Carolina Arts Commission into the State Museum, a move that would eliminate the arts group's board and director but leave intact its grants program. Haley has proposed severe cuts to the Arts Commission before. In 2012, the first-term Republican governor recommended eliminating the agency, saying its administrative costs were too high. When lawmakers ignored her, Haley vetoed the agency's funding. Lawmakers overrode her veto. According to Haley's budget proposal, merging the Arts Commission and State Museum would reduce the commission's personnel costs by 30%, including eliminating executive director [Ken May]'s $91,664-a-year position. The agency's grants program, and some associated employees, would be transferred to the State Museum, a move that May says would result in the loss of some services that the commission provides. May worries that, under Haley's proposal, the state may not be eligible for some federal arts grants: "There has to be a designated agency or department" when applying for the grants. "You also have to have qualified staff and a statewide planning process." The State Museum, with its different mission, may not qualify if arts grants are merely a program within the museum, he said.


Kansas gov merges Arts Commission into Commerce Dept. Now what?

Briana O'Higgins, KMUW [Wichita Public Radio], 1/31/13

In 2011, Kansas became the first state in history to completely eliminate arts funding. After significant backlash, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas legislature restored some funding to the arts in 2012. Whether or not that will result in a restoration of matching funds [from the NEA and others] remains to be seen. What we do know is that the new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC), will be different.

1. It has less money . The Arts Commission had nearly $2.5 million in 2010. Currently, KCAIC is funded at $700,000. Gov. Brownback has proposed $200,000 for FY2014. 

2. Programs need an economic development focus to get funding. All requests will have to show how their project will grow jobs and the economy.  That is vastly different from the former Arts Commission mission "to provide opportunities for the people of Kansas to experience, celebrate and value the arts throughout their lives."

3. It focuses on Kansas' national reputation. The new KCAIC will use the arts to promote Kansas as a great place to work, live and visit.

4. It is housed under the Kansas Department of Commerce. The Arts Council was essentially a free-standing state agency. It was not subject to the bureaucracies of the larger state departments.


Commentary: The "new math" of non-merger partnerships

Vance Yoshida, La Piana Consulting blog, 1/25/13

In the past few years, we have seen growing interest in non-merger partnerships. More and more, nonprofits are seeking opportunities to reap the benefits of a formal collaborative relationship without the full integration that a merger typically entails. What many organizations may not realize, however, is that joint programs can, in some ways, actually be more complex than a merger. In a merger, two or more entities are brought together to become...a single nonprofit entity with a unified mission.

1 + 1 = 1

But with a joint program or other non-merger partnership, you are not only preserving each partner organization, but adding the partnership itself.

1 + 1 = 3

This brings with it a number of challenges. When launching the new venture, for example, the partner organizations' attention will be split between ongoing operations and the collaboration. This can also set up competition for resources when organizations need to sustain themselves and secure resources for the collaboration at the same time. Another complication is that rather than investing in a new shared culture, the partner organizations may maintain a very different culture apart from the collaboration than they espouse within the joint venture, which can be confusing for the staff and board as well as external stakeholders. As complex as mergers can be, it is important to acknowledge that joint programs and other collaborations often take just as much planning and attention, if not more so. Whether pursuing a merger or a non-merger relationship, it takes care to ensure that the partnership adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

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