Kimmel Center – Vinoly Lawsuit Settled

The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article by Peter Dobrin on 03/08/06 which reports that the Kimmel Center lawsuit against the center’s architect Rafael Viñoly has been settled…

Terms of the agreement are not yet publicly known, but the swift settlement following Rafael Viñoly’s letter to the Kimmel Center board of director’s may have had some impact in the brisk closure (details). One sure way to follow-up on that premise is to watch the Kimmel Center executive offices; if you start to notice vacancies among the top offices then you know that Viñoly’s strategy was successful.

Nevertheless, Peter’s recent article touches on a much more important aspect in the business of building performing arts centers and concert halls: whether or not they’re being designed to invite or revolt.

Peter elegantly describes this problem via a personal instance where the Kimmel Center’s inexperienced art staff and “undercapitalized” status are keeping the center from realizing its potential as an economic engine and a vibrant public space. Instead, Peter describes an environment where the people are staying away in droves.

The root of the problem identified in Peter’s article is that the Kimmel Center board didn’t take appropriate measures to ensure that the Center’s endowment was as large as it should have been.

Fortunately, not all capital projects of this nature are damned to follow the same path.

In Nashville, the $120 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center will feature lobbies, gardens, a gift shop, and a café that will all be open all day to visitors and the organization emphasizes that they are doing everything possible to make those visitors feel welcome.

To that end, the organization will conduct building tours most days which are open to the public, led by a corps of highly trained volunteer docents (that sounds familiar) that they have begun recruiting and training; they report that more than 60 have signed on so far. They also plan to program the ancillary spaces with a variety of activity on a regular basis.

Most importantly, in order to make sure these plans follow through to fruition, the organization made sure that the necessary funds to make these programs a reality was budgeted into the original $120 million endowment campaign from the onset. Alan Valentine, president & CEO of the Nashville Symphony, reports that they are less than $1.8 million from their endowment goal.

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is scheduled to open in early September, 2006 and with their abundant outside public spaces, that should make for a lovely time of year to introduce themselves to the public.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “Kimmel Center – Vinoly Lawsuit Settled”

  1. Drew –

    It’s really not useful or fair to compare the current Kimmel Center problems to what is essentially a plan for the Nashville building. Wait for the Nashville building to be open for a few years, then make the comparison to Kimmel circa 2006.

  2. Many thanks for comment Reid; however, I would disagree with your assessment. I believe the overriding point of Peter Dobrin’s original article is that the Kimmel Center leadership failed to adequately plan for an operational endowment. Whereas in Nashville’s case, they have been meticulous in planning for similar issues with the opening of their new facility (which I believe is a strong contributing factor to their success). As such, drawing the above comparisons is worthwhile.

    If Nashville is unsuccessful in reaching their goals it won’t be from a lack of funds, rather it will likely come from problems with process or implementation and yes, only time will tell with those issues. In the end, I believe Nashville’s example is an instance in the business where it’s worthwhile to point out an exemplary process which will create the best possible environment for success they can hope for.

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