Do We Need To Be Worried About The Future Of Russian Artists?

As a Gen-Xer I grew up at the height of the cold war and recall the fall of the Soviet Union. I remember the inability for musicians to travel in and out of USSR and Soviet Bloc countries. I also remember the flood of musicians into the US after the fall of the Soviet union.

Entire generations of musicians were lost to the Iron Curtain and I’m growing increasingly concerned that Russia will use their self-inflicted isolation in the wake of their decision to invade Ukraine and pretense for making those travel restrictions permanent.

I already know of three colleagues (two musicians and one arts manager) that decided to get out of Russia while they can. They seem at peace with the idea of losing everything they left behind and as heartbreaking as that sounds, it’s more palpable than the frightening reality of being stuck in a country where you disagree with the direction of the autocratic government.

As an increasing number of arts organizations organize fundraiser events for Ukrainian relief efforts, I wonder how far off we may be from similar efforts to raise funds for assisting Russian musicians, artists, and arts managers to immigrate if the political situation continues to deteriorate.

While I hope it isn’t necessary, this isn’t something that can be dealt with after the fact.

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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