CriticalDance Forum

Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jun 23, 2000 10:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

A very interesting article about a distinctive ballet company and the impact that the Board can have. I note Lady Harlech's desire for an expanded ENB rep and I hope that the new Chair carries this forward. This could be a crucial period for the ENB Board after the poorly received new mega-production of 'Sleeping Beauty'.

Author:  BabsLights [ Sat Jan 20, 2001 5:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

I heard a very interesting suggestion recently. To purchase for your board of directors subscriptions to a magazine about the art which you are making...sort of a means by which to not only keep them current about your art, but also to let them hear other voices saying some of the issues you are dealing with in your organization. <P>To me, this seems a great idea. In this country, I feel that Dance Magazine has begun a turn, or return to being an advocate for dance, and a voice for dance (and dance outside of New York - and beyond the competitions). I would like those who ultimately decide the future of my job, to have a broader understanding of the daily struggles, joys, heart breaks, etc., that I deal with. Dance Europe I expect (though I have only seen their online information)is a similar voice in Europe.<P>I thought it was an interesting point.<BR>

Author:  Azlan [ Sat Jan 20, 2001 10:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

That is a very interesting suggestion, Babs, especially since not every company can have the ideal board of directors. It seems that too many board members are contented to pay X amount of dollars to have their name associated with the company and not understand that the board's job is to support the artistic vision of the company. Some just simply don't get it. The ignorance can be astounding at times (I heard a story recently about a board member who was upset that a dancer decided not to join the after-show festivities due to exhaustion. "I'm exhausted too but I'm still going to the party," replied the board member!).<P>I suppose a publication like Dance Magazine can help educate these board members. However, I don't know if a subscription to this magazine is the ideal solution. Firstly, will the board members read the magazine? Secondly, is there actually content in the magazine that will educate them about supporting or running a dance company?<P>Don't get me wrong. I think Dance Magazine is important to the dance community, especially as it transitions away from being a teen magazine. However, I think there must be better ways to educate board members, one of which might be to have one or two active and passionate board members to show the others the way.<P>I have more thoughts on this interesting issue.

Author:  Maggie [ Sun Jan 21, 2001 7:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

LOL Azlan, re: the active and passionate board members! That can be easier said than done, as you probably imagine! Actually, those two little words, active and passionate, are a mouthful. One can usually find passion, but the talent for action is the more difficult.<P>It might not be a bad idea, though, to have some form of supplementary help in the form of a magazine, (or something else...?) Perhaps the board members who *are* passionate would appreciate some helpful materials. If nothing else, someone on the board could refer to an article in a publication that all the board shares to encourage the readership. Or is this all just blah-blah-blah! (More laughter here.)<P>There are many realms of knowledge that the various board members (should) bring to the table, I was just expounding on what Azlan was brought up in his post.

Author:  grace [ Sun Jan 21, 2001 7:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

a few thoughts - one, is that if people are interested enough to become board memebrs of a dance company with all the responsibility that entails, how come they would be arrogant enough to do it WITHOUT educating themselves about dance? does this really happen? it seems as though you are all quite happily accepting, that this is the case.........?<P>2: if so, then of course they should be encouraged to inform themselves - but at whose expense? can't they buy their own mags? Image<P>3: if they need educating, is 'dance magazine' the right resource? i wouldn't have thought so, based on what i've seen of it, which admittedly hasn't included any of this years or last years issues..... (it can't be purchased here - can only be viewed at the state library).<P>

Author:  Maggie [ Sun Jan 21, 2001 8:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

Hi Grace! Sometimes board members aren't educated about being on a board or on some of the more esoteric aspects of dance beyond enjoying performances. They may want to be active, but need to know what they can do. What they may bring to the board table, besides their enthusiasm and willingness to put up their own money, is knowledge in their own field which may be applicable to some areas of board's needs as relating to dance.<P>Certainly, they could buy their own magazines. Maybe they just need to know that it would be a good idea. (If, indeed, it *is* a good idea.<P>Which brings us to the last point of whether Dance Magazine would be useful to them. Perhaps not so much. I do believe that their are a lot of useful materials that have been published that would be helpful, though.<P>I'm not sure if this thread is taking the direction of specific publications as being useful to a board of dance, or whether a dance board needs help in understanding what is is they are supposed to be doing.

Author:  Azlan [ Sun Jan 21, 2001 9:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

Grace, Maggie is right. Bboard members in the US are selected based more on their funding abilities/talents than anything else. Another criteria may be the person's standing in society to bring prestige to the company, never mind if he or she knows nothing about dance. Too many board members don't make it to meetings and when they do, they tend to defer to everyone else.<P>As for active and passionate members, I meant that perhaps a company should seek out one or two who can educate and rally the others. This one board member doesn't have to be someone with funding ability or someone with high standing in society. In fact, it might be better if they weren't, so that they can focus on spurring the board on. This active and passionate board member would work closely with the Development Director in targeting new more worthy board members on a continual basis.<P>More thoughts pending...

Author:  Maggie [ Sun Jan 21, 2001 9:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

I agree, Azlan. Boards really need both. Money and "doers." It is true about U.S. board members in large part. Always the money. Because we need it!

Author:  Marie [ Sun Jan 21, 2001 2:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

Francis you stated in the first post: <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>In the U.S., established arts institutions (major symphony orchestras, opera companies, ballet companies) have tended to arise as the result of efforts by an individual or a group of individuals. By contrast, in Canada, arts organizations have been heavily subsidized by government entities.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Maybe I'm misinterpreting this, but in Canada arts organizations do come about as the result of individuals or a group of people. It sounds like what's being said is that the Government has kept arts organizations together, which is not the case. An application for a society has to be brought forth by a group of people (this is particular to British Columbia but is similar to the other provinces), no less than five, and I believe, but don't quote me--three of whom must be at arms length from one another (that's in legal terms all of you smarty pants out there! Image), in order to incorporate an organization as Not For Profit (which is similar to the Non-Profit label you have in the U.S.). These companies are expected to survive from one to two years on their own before they qualify for any kind of funding and politics being what they are, it's often longer. From what I've heard, larger companies, I'm thinking specifically of the big ballet companies, were established before government arts funding existed.<P>Also, arts organizations in Canada are expected to show where they have made an effort to fundraise in their applications for government grants. Companies cannot depend on 100% government funding. If they did they would run the risk of getting no money at all or a substantially smaller amount than they have applied for. As an emerging artist in Canada, I think I speak for a lot of us who can barely envision project funding let alone an operations budget through government grants. For Canadian arts ogranizations there is definitely a need to have high profile board members for political clout within the government granting system and now they must also have influence within the private sector, as you require in the U.S.<P>It's true that traditionally private individuals or enterprises in Canada have given much less to the arts than in the U.S. <BR>Fundraisers are seen as a necessity, for example The Dance Foundation which was created to raise the necessary monies to build and operate the Vancouver Dance Centre. <P>I'm interested to know why you think "Anglophiles drip contempt at the U.S. style of fundraising"? And why Anglophiles, particularly, as opposed to Francophones? I don't know many artists, English or French, who would turn their noses up at money, no matter how it was raised. <P>As for educating your Board, this has given me an idea. I think I will make a short video or CD Rom of dance clips for my board. Quite frankly, I don't think I would give them Dance Magazine or even Dance International which is kind of Canada's "dance magazine". I don't think print is very stimulating for people who don't actively go to see dance. Since I'm not 'high profile' this has been the hardest part for me in organizing a board for an entity that has barely begun to exist; convincing people that 'dance really is interesting' and that they really do want to schedule more meetings into their lives...<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Marie (edited January 21, 2001).]

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jan 22, 2001 9:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

Marie, my rather sweeping generalizations were designed to address support infrastructure issues for large, institutional organizations. It remains my view that such institutions in Canada have traditionally been accorded a higher governmental funding priority than parallel institutions in the U.S. I believe that there are a complex group of reasons for this, including a desire to foster uniquely Canadian culture and to promote national unity. In recent years, I believe that the desire to promote Canadian culture through subsidization of cultural organizations with a national perspective (e.g., the CBC) has been replaced by free market privatization. This transition has been agonizing for those caught in its midst. Private funding has not kept up with the loss of Canada Council and provincial government funds, primarily because such private fundraising requires lengthy cultivation periods. In my opinion, the results have been disastrous for Royal Winnipeg and National Ballet.<P>My remarks on anglophilic antipathy toward U.S.-style fundraising are backed up by the harsh invective directed toward the introduction of "naming opportunities" at Covent Garden. This appeared to be a new innovation to our friends in London, and many of them did not respond positively.<P>While my remarks had absolutely nothing to do with the Two Solitudes, since you raise the issue, I do believe that Quebec has a far more acute interest in promoting French culture than does the rest of Canada and is, thereby, far more likely to prioritize governmental funding for such purposes than, say, Ontario or BC.<P>

Author:  Christina [ Mon Jan 22, 2001 2:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

I recall back in the early 1980s, on assignment to interview the new board president of the Milw. Ballet, which interview took place at her 5-story lakefront home. If I can dig up the article I will, because I vividly remember her telling me, most emphatically, that the most salient criteria for becoming a board member was each member's ability to put up BIG dollars themselves, no ifs, ands or buts. Now -- if that is the most important criteria, that means that these folks, whatever knowledge they have or don't, can pretty much determine what the public is going to have an opportunity to see. Indeed, after former ABT principal Ted Kivitt came in as Artistic Director, with his ballerina wife as principal dancer, and got that company into the black, he was summarily canned by the board. Those were some interesting days.

Author:  Marie [ Mon Jan 22, 2001 2:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

Thanks for addressing my questions, Francis, much appreciated.<P>Do Canadians really want to foster Canadian culture though? We talk a lot about how we don't even know what that is--I know I don't know what that is. We really just want to stop the endless barrage of American culture, truth be told, hence organizations like the CBC came to be. A friend of mine who grew up in NYC is always surprised at the venom that comes her way when issues of nationality come up because as she puts it, "I don't understand why all of you are so pissed off at us, you never even cross our minds..."<P>I know that large dance companies like the National and the RWB have been affected by Canada Council and provincial funding cuts but I'm not crying them any crocodile tears. They had a long time, with a lot of money, to establish themselves within the public consciousness. It's the small choreographers/companies that have no funding at all that get my sympathy. If the dinosaurs can't keep their audiences with their studies in archaeology then those are the breaks. I know, I'm heartless.<P>You're right, the provincial government in Quebec does have a more vested interest in promoting French arts and culture, and there's the rub--Quebec is not 100% Francophone, although some people would like everyone to assume it is. BC has never had a vested interest in the arts, I liken in to a frontier town, people came to BC to make money and spend money on themselves, they were not necessarily people of culture. Arts funding in Ontario is a lot better than some of the other provinces, they get more money from the federal government than some of the smaller provinces and private funding from the business sector has been stronger there. Of course, these opinions are totally slanted and biased, lol.<P>I don't know anything about the "naming opportunities" at Covent Garden, do you (or anyone else) want to fill me in?<P>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Jan 22, 2001 3:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

The prime example at the ROH is the beautiful renovated Floral Hall, which is now the Vilar Floral Hall. Mr Vilar being a successful businessman who paid several million £ for the privilige. It's fine with me.

Author:  Basheva [ Mon Jan 22, 2001 4:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

Naming halls in the US for the big donors is a very common practice; even entire sports stadiums. In San Diego it is Qualcomm stadium because that company paid 20 million dollars for the renovation. Hospital wings are named too, sections of the zoo, etc.<P>Whatever it takes - I just wish someone would come along and build us a new central library - I don't care what their name is ....LOL

Author:  Marie [ Mon Jan 22, 2001 5:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Boards of Directors - Woes and Perils

Ah, thank you for explaining that, it's like the new "Scotiabank Dance Centre". I'm with you Basheva, who cares what something is called. Benson & Hedges (tobacco) recently cancelled its participation in the annual fireworks in Vancouver because they were asked to be a sponsor with no advertising presence.

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