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Dialogue: Stephen Benedict Hugh Southern Funding and the Arts Stephen Benedict is Directorof the Council on Foundations, Experimental Projectin the Arts. Priorto that Mr. Benedict spentfifteen years on the staff of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. He has also been an active participant in a numberof local and nationalarts organizationsas an officer or trustee,and has servedon advisorypanelsfor the NationalEndowmentfor the Arts and the New York State Council on theArts. Hugh Southern is Executive Directorof the Theatre Development Fund. He has also served as Acting Directorof the PerformingArts Programof the New York State Council on the Arts (1974-75), and its Acting Executive Directorfor the Fall of 1976. For a long time Mr. Southern has been a consultantfor the NationalEndowment on the Arts. This dialoguewas tapedby Bonnie Marrancain December1976. SOUTHERN: I'd like to try out a few thoughts and see what your reactions are. One of the things on my mind at the present time is that the situation of funding for the performing arts is, on the one hand, healthy, on the other, ominous. At the present time there is every indication that the growth in government giving and in private giving has resulted in a temporary situation in which a large number of arts organizations have been able to reduce deficits or increase programming to compensate their artists better, to promulgate and carry out some of their dreams. Around the next bend in the road there is every indication that this kind of temporary help cannot last. The reasons chiefly being that as the costs of the enterprise rise, although demand is rising and contributions too, the rates of expenditure, especially in the salary area, are going up so fast that within a very short time we are going to have to make many severe choices 85 about the kinds of organizations we want to have, the number of organizations we want to have. The likelihood seems to me to be that we will be in a position where the major institutions are held at a relatively limited number ... probably rather of high quality, while the possibility of developing more such institutions or transforming other institutions from their present state into, say, a Guthrie Theatre or a New York City Ballet is going to be greatly diminished by this productivity equation. BENEDICT: I think you're being far too rational. I think that when you talk about the major institutions reaching some sort of plateau and decisions needing to be made with respect to the rest of the established institutions, you are failing to take into account the non-artistic factors that sustain these institutions around the country. Recently on the advice of a friend I bought a copy of Town and Country - a magazine I'd never bought before - which had an article on the symphony orchestra, its social origins and present conditions. What this piece dealt with was the thriving condition of the symphony orchestra, seemingly in the face of all present odds. When one looks at what is happening to other kinds of institutions, it seems that what they represent is not a growth in artistic maturity but a product of a long evolution which has caused the symphony orchestra to be somehow a symbol of a "civilized" community. The piece skillfully described the multitude of non-artistic motives and groups that feed into this condition. The artistic, the musical, being only one of many but by no means the predominant one. When you talk of the established institutions heading into a storm some new crisis - it seems you're talking as though decisions as to the future of these institutions are to be made from the point of view of arts administrators whose primary concern is the state of the arts and the future of the arts. This is simply not the case with respect to symphony orchestras , museums, major dance companies, and the most established regional theatres. SOUTHERN: What you're saying or suggesting is that there will be a component of public support for such activity which, if it doesn't reach to participation, would insure that professionals would have no self-respect unless they were deeply committed to supporting the arts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 85-96
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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