Two dozen Louisville arts organizations started a two-year program Tuesday focused on improving their internal management practices.
Participants range from large organizations like the Louisville Orchestra to smaller ones like Squallis Puppeteers. Executives, board members and arts leaders from these organizations will attend five full-day sessions led by Michael Kaiser, a well-known arts management expert and former executive.
They will also receive monthly mentoring from Kaiser and his colleagues at the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. Kaiser said he’s run the program in 20 U.S. cities and a handful of cities abroad.
It aims to help arts organizations run better, by improving their business practices, as well as working on issues such as long-term artistic planning.
The course will cost $400,000, most of which the Fund For the Arts, which organized the effort to bring Kaiser to town, raised from individual donors and foundations. Participating organizations paid $1,000 to $5,000 to join.
Fund CEO and president Christen Boone said lessons learned by the participants could spread throughout the community, as people move from one company to another.
She also said local arts organizations need to think about the financial concerns some of them may face.
“How are we attracting a new generation of donors and supporters?” she said. “We can’t do what we did yesterday. We always have to innovate, and learn and grow.”
A donor pool that’s perceived as limited is a concern some arts professionals share, Kaiser said.
He said one thing that makes Louisville unique is the mix of very old and very new arts organizations.
“You want to see the older organizations thrive and sustain and continue doing what they do well, but you also want your smaller ones to feel like they have the resources to do the art they want to do and to grow and to be of service of the community as well,” he said.
To do that, organizations will need to tap into new small gift donors, rather than relying mostly on government organizations or family foundations, he said.
“If we don’t cultivate that $50 donor or $100 donor, in 10 years they will not have grown to be a bigger donor, so that we end up restricting who’s giving us money,” Kaiser said.
He said arts professionals need to be willing to work to create a larger donor base.