Back in January of 2012 I published a post titled Do Some Orchestras Exaggerate Their Financial Position For Negotiation Leverage? Like most topical subjects, there was examination elsewhere throughout the culture blogging community with some in the Chicken Little circles suggesting such a notion was ludicrous. Consequently, I found Thomas Cott’s 8/21/12 newsletter fascinating as it highlights yet another concrete example of this sad scheme that the Chicken Little crowd might have a tough time brushing off.
In particular, Cott cites the 7/2/12 article by Christopher Knight in the LA Times that reports the Barnes Foundation museum’s claim of financial crisis was actually fabricated in order to facilitate the museum’s relocation efforts. Knight sources a blog post by former Barnes president and chief executive, Kimberly Camp, which reportedly confirms the finical crisis hype (final paragraph).
Hopefully, this will help put to rest any remaining debate on whether or not an arts organization can exaggerate a negative financial position as a means to an end.
It’s sad, but it happens.
But the real danger here is every time one group cries wolf, it makes everything much more difficult for the dozens of groups that aren’t exaggerating their respective financial position. The results can manifest in stakeholders and donors entrenching positions, sowing mistrust, and giving credence to fringe elements that are all too happy to launch some mindless jihad of a labor dispute to settle whatever old score is on their personal sh*t list.
Up until the turn of the century, there was a good system of self regulation in the field that prevented this sort of monkey business from getting out of hand and restricted it to a comparatively minor posturing tactic during negotiations. Sure, everyone knew it happened, but it was limited and anyone stepping outside of those boundaries would get smacked down in the form of career suicide.
But over the past decade, that system of self regulation has been slowly eroding and I prefer not to think about what might happen if it continues unchecked. Welcome to the age of new models.