2009 Archives

Arts Researchers Descend on SMU


The following is from the June 29, 2009, edition of KERA's Arts and Seek blog.

June 30, 2009

Posted by Stephen Becker

For the next few days, more than 100 arts researchers from around the globe are gathering at SMU for the 10th International Association of Arts and Cultural Management Conference. The conference alternates between a location in Europe and a location in the rest of the world and gives the researchers a chance to present their projects and papers to their peers.

It’s the kind of research that most of us probably don’t consider when we attend an arts event. But people involved in arts management are definitely interested in this sort of thing. One of those people is Dallas Center for the Performing Arts CEO Mark Nerenhausen, who gave the opening remarks Monday morning. And, as he was addressing a room full of researchers, he smartly spent his time guiding them toward the kind of work he thinks needs to be done.

The crux of his talk focused on arts managers’ tendency to think of their organization, or the arts in general, as the center of everything. He likened that focus to the one-time insistence that the Earth was the center of the universe. Once scientists learned otherwise, things started making a little more sense.

As Nerenhausen said, “A performing arts center is about creating and managing a cultural ecosystem.”

To do that, he says the old business models and methods for creating arts organizations must be rethought. Consideration must be given to the other areas of life — businesses, patrons, etc. — that influence the organization. In fact, he says its ironic that such creative organizations rely on outdated methods of doing business. His hope is that the researchers in the room will take that approach to their future studies.

“As with arts and sciences, it’s only by removing ourselves from the center of the universe that we can truly reach the stars,” he said.

OK, it looks corny in print, but sounded pretty good in person.

If you want to hear more about what’s going on at SMU this week, one of the event’s organizers, Krista Farber Weinstein, will be on Think on Wednesday at noon to discuss the conference.

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