As you may have heard, on January 1st the leadership of ArtsEmerson: The World on Stage, will be passed on to David Dower, our Director of Artistic Programs, and I will take on an active part-time role as Founder and Creative Consultant. At the time I was raising this prospect with Emerson’s President Lee Pelton, the media was covering every move in the Market Basket chess match. The struggle and strategy of leadership alternatives was very much part of the zeitgeist and it got me thinking about the differences between the for-profit and the not-for-profit worlds. Leaders of for-profit corporations like Market Basket have a fiduciary (legal) responsibility in a capitalist culture to maximize profits. Did Arthur S and his Board fire Arthur T because they judged his operating methods less attentive to the bottom-line (i.e.: profits)? Did profit sharing for workers and demonstrably lower prices for customers compromise the rate of return for investors? Are these values incompatible? It’s a fascinating question and the stuff of great drama to come.
But what about NOT-for-profit organizations like ArtsEmerson? The measure of our success is the extent of public service, not monetary return for investors. If you are looking for a parallel, our investors ARE the public and we measure our success on the rate of return for them.
This was clarifying for me. It’s the beginning of our 5th season. We’ve been bringing works to Boston from many cultures and continents. We’ve staked out our artistic territory and expanded the horizons of aesthetic engagement for the community. I’m proud of this. But I want our work to penetrate more deeply and meaningfully in the community. I want the one performing art form that has the most to say (theatre, words) to make a difference in people’s lives. David’s combined experiences in both artistic development and community organizing are stronger than mine and therefore more suited to lead us in this next phase. It makes my heart leap knowing where he will take us and how we can model this moment with the highest standards of excellence on stage and the greatest impact in the community. Unlike Market Basket’s dilemma, I know our values are totally compatible with our measure of success. Say tuned for the thrill of this ride and the joy it’s going to bring to all our work together.
One bottom line: 84 projects, 11 countries, 69 companies, and 9 US cities for the benefit of THIS community.