Thursday, June 5, 2008

The American Model in the German System

Check out this great article from the NYTimes that specially focuses on the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden and how it has Americanized its not-for-profit festival. Europe as a whole, and Germany in particular has always had a strong subsidized arts culture. Just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable to ask private donors and foundations for money. But now that the cuts to public funding are increasing, organizations are being forced to rethink their fundraising activities. Here’s a taste.

"It’s a trans-Atlantic looking-glass situation. Germany alone this year, including all city, state and federal support, will dole out a total of $12.4 billion on culture — libraries, theaters, museums, musical and dance groups — including $4.6 billion just for music and theater, according to the country’s department for statistics. There are no fewer than 80 state opera houses, staging 7,000 performances a year.

That sounds great, astonishing even. But the system, bloated and not everywhere well managed, inevitably produces much mediocrity. The reality is that about 20 percent of the budget for Berlin’s three struggling opera companies today must come from private contributions. Bayreuth scrambles to raise nearly half its budget from donations and ticket sales. It would have gone bankrupt by now if donors hadn’t made up for deficits due to bad leadership."

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