We hear the term “new model” so often these days that it almost guaranteed to produce eye rolls, sighs, and mass shoulder slumping. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: all but a handful of new-model conversations are really just the same old-model wolfs in new-model sheep’s clothing.
Simply put, those old school discussions are more about gaining dominant control than sustainability, structural deficits, artistic excellence, or any other popular spin points (a topic we explored in greater detail in an article from 2/28/2011).
There’s always a stakeholder that claims to be fighting for the future of the organization because s/he cares about the mission, community, etc. But the part you might find curious is why are those same people willing to tear an organization apart in order for the opportunity to prove that their theory is correct? Why not simply leave and start up a new performing arts organization using a model believed to be most successful?
If the idea has merit and is implemented properly, then it will likely thrive.
There are good reasons why we don’t see vast swaths of board members, musicians, and yes, even groups of arts administrators strike out on their own by embracing a startup mentality and founding a new performing arts organization. My professional intuition as someone who has built multiple successful startups (both arts oriented and not) is the models proposed simply aren’t as capable of producing the expected results as purported.
Consequently, it’s easier to take the fight internal and pound a square solution into a decidedly round institution.
To get an idea of just how much disconnect exists between genuine startups and perceived ideas about how most new model would operate, check out a terrific article from 4/30/2013 at geekwire.com by Clayton Weller titled Why every artist should work at a startup (h/t You’ve Cott Mail).
What’s particularly useful in Weller’s post is the differences in internal work culture and the focus on growing an audience. But I’m curious to hear what you think so go give Weller’s article a read and weigh in with a comment.