As regular readers know, one of the things we’re skeptical of here at Culturebot is “Big Ideas,” of which they arts has far too many, and unfortunately, I think that blaming boards has become the new “Big Idea” in the current moment, with so many institutions at every level facing crippling financial challenges. When an institution finds itself in collapse, someone has to be blamed, apparently. Sometimes it’s the artistic director (who spends the budget like he’s using an ATM card till he hits the overdraft limit), now it’s the board (for not saying no sooner). The unspoken assumption is that, in all cases, the institution itself was inherently good and needed to be preserved, because, apparently, it served and would continue serving its function well. But not only is it ridiculous to always assume that the institution should have been saved (they fail for different reasons, after all), but I can’t help but wonder if, in fact, it’s not sometimes good that they fail.
...maybe the Intiman just needed to close. At a certain point, its debt load was so high that continuing to operate would have required (and, if they re-open, will) lesser works, skimpier budgets, and therefore quite likely lesser achievements, because so much money will be spent servicing past deficit-funded operations. That the crisis at the Intiman hit in the current economy is predictable: slowed ticket sales and less charitable giving finally meant that it couldn’t meet its current obligations as well as covering the previous year’s deficit. Like a Ponzi scheme, to which the model bears some resemblance, it only collapsed when the in-flows were insufficient to cover the outflows, which were building up over time.
But if we actually believe in the Intiman’s achievement, as I think we should, then maybe it’s just a sign that the cost of accomplishing that was higher than potential revenues. They had a good run, but if they can no longer credibly meet the expectations of either the artistic community or their audiences, they should stop, because what’s the argument for them to be sustained through paying out for diminishing returns?
Read the whole thing here.