Friday, August 10, 2007

He just doesn't get it

Just days after I posted the following -

. . .Not only greater transparency, but greater integration with, and support of, other arts organizations is required for the Wang to survive . . .

- we learn via the Boston Globe that:

The Citi Performing Arts Center has launched talks with First Night, which organizes Boston's popular New Year's celebration, and other local arts and culture groups with the aim of merging or partnering with them . . . The idea is to reduce financial risk by relying less on revenue from the Center's hard-to-fill theaters while spreading the Center's brand across a swath of revenue-generating programming elsewhere in Boston and Massachusetts.

But as I also said, the devil is always in the details, and the details in this case don't look good. According to the Globe, Spaulding (above left) and CitiCenter have approached First Night, the Boston Cyberarts Festival, Berkshire-based Shakespeare & Company, and Young Audiences of Massachusetts, a chapter of the national nonprofit that works to bring arts education programs into schools. Now First Night, as far as I know, will add exactly 1 evening of performances per year to the Wang's hectic schedule; the 2008 Boston Cyberarts Festival will last all of two weeks, and Shakespeare & Co. seems an unlikely fit for the Center's spaces (or will they be moving into/partly funding the summer Shakespeare slot, now that Steve Mahler is "in hiatus"?).

As for the major players who could help to bail out the Center - groups like the Celebrity Series - well, relations there still seem frosty. Clearly, Spaulding and the Center have been approaching either groups with limited seasons or budgets, where the Wang would have the clout in negotiations. That ain't gonna work. The Wang's "brand" is all but lost, and the CitiCenter Board is going to face the fact that they are going to have to be partners, not "directors" of whatever long-term solution may emerge. Perhaps Joan Moynagh, one of CSC's cofounders and a Citi Center trustee until June, put it best:

"I think anyone would rather see that [major donation] go to a company that's actually producing something," she said. "Don't give it to [Spaulding] to pay his consultants to figure out a way to partner with smaller organizations. Give it to the smaller organizations. This virtual arts institution model, I don't think anyone gets."

No, they still don't get it. Spaulding isn't part of the solution. The Wang needs to drop its pretentious ways, realize that it's wandering around, hat in hand, with not much to "leverage," and must learn to deal with the players who can help it - and the sooner the better.


  1. Check out the corporate speak running all through the article as well.

    I found parallels to Vendor Management Systems in the Business world.

  2. You're quite right to nail them for their corporate speak - and, of course, the corporate mindset behind it, which imagines it can "leverage" its way out of the Wang's current plight by "merging" with other, smaller companies. Sorry, Mr. Corporate Raider, but it aint' gonna work that way.