Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Boston Globe Calls Theater Out

Hat tip to Bill Marx who caught the Boston Globe editorial regarding the Citi Performing Arts Center. I think times may be changing when a newspaper editorial is calling for somebody to step down from the post of a non-profit arts institution.

The editorial is well written and honest. It points out, fairly, that Josiah Spaulding's bonus was set up back in 2001 when times were better. But, (also fairly,) it doesn't let the organization or Spaulding off the hook for that fact. And the ed writers also point out that:

"The main challenge for the center is how it can prosper and grow. Even if Spaulding had turned over his entire bonus, the money might have paid for more weeks of Shakespeare, but it would not have shored up the center, which had a 2006 gross operating budget of $22.9 million. "

A few days ago, in the comments section of this blog, people were speculating about the details of the "new strategic initiative" that has been announced by CPAC in to the press. I did a quick search all over the CPAC website and couldn't find an outline of it.

Bill Marx can't either:

According to the report, the project will include setting up TV screens on the Boston Common that display live performances, providing kiosks where people can sign up for classes, and finding ways to use cell phones to order tickets. The article mentions no plans to create new cultural productions. (One easy step "toward greater transparency" for the CPAC — it should post a copy of the plan on its website.)

Why haven't newspapers taken a critical look at this scheme? Do we have to wait for the screens to be planted on the Common before anybody registers a skeptical thought?

Those who demand transparency from the CPAC and other large nonprofit arts organizations must fight for it. For far too long local newspapers, for the sake of supporting the arts, have regurgitated publicity releases from cultural institutions rather than examine what is going on beneath the surface. Because the media has rolled over, it takes a conspicuous crisis to switch the focus from happy talk to serious investigation. Spaulding might have ducked any blowback for his obscene payday if he hadn't cut Shakespeare on the Common's customary three-week run to one.

If the Globe wants "a compelling and innovative nonprofit center for
the performing arts" it will take more than a new president, no matter how talented, to make it happen. Newspapers, bloggers, and the public will have to hold its feet to the fire.

P.S. I have added a Marx's Artsfuse, Ian Thal, and Bard In Boston (A Shakespeare Site) to my links on the side.) Check them out if you get a chance.


Anonymous said...

On the front page of the Citicenter.org website it says they've invested $4.4 Million in the last 7 years, but they fail to say they've invested $5.125 Million on Josiah Spaulding in the past 7 years.

Ian Thal said...

I just want to thank you for adding my blog to your link list. I have definitely noticed an increase in readership coming directly from The Mirror up to Nature.