Saturday’s announcement that The Philadelphia Orchestra’s board had voted to file for bankruptcy has raised concerns among many of our members, funders and residents around the region. While it should not have been surprising given the challenges facing cultural leaders across the nation, we nonetheless all experienced a jolt to find out that an organization so emblematic of Philadelphia and our sector could face such stark choices.
None of us on the outside can fully appreciate the complexity of issues that occur on the stage or in the board room, but we can certainly lend our support. The Philadelphia Orchestra is a standard bearer for Greater Philadelphia, and its success is all our success.
Ultimately, what makes Philadelphia special, what makes us stand out, what makes us competitive as a region, is our quality of life. It helps us draw new residents and businesses; it helps us retain our college graduates and it makes us an attractive destination. A huge part of that quality of life is the breadth and excellence of our cultural community.
Even before the recession, arts and cultural organizations operated on slim margins. Now, during these times of economic uncertainty, the fragile finances of our cultural sector are being tested. Still, it is hard to overstate the profound impact that culture has on our communities, our children and our region’s economy. Arts and cultural organizations contribute 40,000 jobs, $1.3 billion in economic impact and $160 million in tax revenue to our region. But more importantly, we create a sense of pride and place.
As proud residents of this special place, we cannot take our cultural resources for granted. In February, I took part in the The Philadelphia Inquirer’s "One Great Idea" campaign. At that time, I encouraged area residents to drive forth our own arts stimulus package. My hope was that by making one more art purchase this year, by making one more trip to a museum or buying one more ticket to the theatre or the orchestra, each of us could personally contribute not just to the ongoing success of our cultural assets, but to the continued vitality of our community.
This was just the kernel of an idea, one that was about supporting the health of the sector as a whole, but recent developments underscore its appropriateness for the task at hand. It’s the Orchestra in the headlines this week, but any number of highly valued cultural assets could be there next week.
If we care about our community's future, if we care about preparing our kids to compete in the 21st century, if we care about our quality of life, then this is our moment to step up. As residents, we need to buy tickets. As patrons, we need to make contributions. As corporations, we need to sponsor, and as civic leaders, we need to fund. Ensuring this level of cultural commitment from all stakeholders is our collective and timely mission.
A world-class city deserves a world class orchestra, and a world class cultural community. Through decades of commitment and investment, we actually have those cultural assets, but this week's announcement reminds us that the balance is tenuous.
This is our moment Philadelphia--let's step up not just for the Orchestra, but for our community and our future.
Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
It is with mixed emotions that I write to let you know that effective July 26 I will be stepping down as President of the Cultural Alliance. I have been offered an opportunity to join the Alexandria (Virginia) Convention and Visitors Association as their Chief Operating Officer, and am excited to pursue this new challenge. As many of you know, prior to joining the Cultural Alliance I directed the tourism bureau in Stowe, Vermont, and the travel industry has always been a deep professional and personal interest.
I am incredibly grateful to all of you for the opportunity to have worked at the Cultural Alliance for the past 12 years. The board, staff and members of the Cultural Alliance are an exceptionally collaborative and effective team, and I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish together. On the marketing front, we launched Phillyfunguide, Funsavers and Audience Analytics. Our cutting edge research reports including Portfolio, Prosperity and Research Into Action have gained national acclaim. And we’ve achieved key policy wins including the defeat of the arts tax, protection of the percent for art program and the re-establishment of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. Overall, I believe that our cohesive cultural sector is now widely recognized as a distinguishing competitive advantage for the region, and a cornerstone of Philadelphia’s economic, community and personal growth.
I firmly believe that change is healthy for organizations and individuals. The chance to inject new thinking and energy leads to dynamic and adaptive management—a core value of the Alliance. And while there is never an absolutely perfect time for transition, this one seems pretty close. We have recruited a thought-leading board of institutional and community directors who are deeply committed to our cause. Our management team is deep with executive experience, energy and a spirit of innovation. We are on track with the 2012-16 Strategic Plan, and have a healthy financial reserve.
Our succession plan calls for Michael Norris, our V.P. of External Relations to serve as the interim Executive Director while the board’s Search and Transition Committee conducts a national search for the next president. Rest assured, there is an outstanding team in place at the Cultural Alliance, and they won’t miss a beat.
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve the Cultural Alliance these past 12 years. And while I’m proud of what we have accomplished together, I’m equally confident in what lies ahead for this great organization and city.
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