WASHINGTON — Kennedy Center prexy Michael Kaiser has landed an additional title: U.S. cultural ambassador. He will lead a State Dept. initiative to help performing arts organizations around the world improve their management strengths in areas such as fundraising, marketing and strategic planning.
Kaiser’s global exercise debuted Tuesday with a four-day trip to Mexico, where he is scheduled to meet with cultural and government arts execs, teach several arts management classes and explore arts management career options with college students. He hopes to follow a similar agenda during future trips to South Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
Kaiser will be participating in a new program created by the U.S. State Dept. called Culture Connect. It is an effort to bring well-known Americans from the arts, business, sports and other fields to foreign countries in ways that involve people more intimately than usual. The experts will offer clinics, performances, coaching sessions, motivational speeches, master classes and leadership training as appropriate, mainly to young people ages 12-25.
Other Culture Connect ambassadors include violinist Yo-Yo Ma, opera singer Denyce Graves and photographer Joel Meyerowitz. Additional entertainers will be invited to join the program, says a State Dept. rep.
“Our cultural ambassadors are a dedicated group of men and women who are known throughout the world for excellence in their field and who have demonstrated an interest and ability to teach, mentor and work with young people,” said Assistant Secretary for Educational & Cultural Affairs Patricia S. Harrison, who heads the program. “They represent the best of what American culture has to offer.”
In Kaiser’s case, the message will be aimed at both young people and professional arts managers. The Kennedy Center chieftain plans to invite selected foreign arts orgs to receive long-term strategic management assistance from the center’s staff.
They would join the Kennedy Center’s Capacity Building Program, its effort to help U.S.-based theaters of color meet management challenges. That program begins its second year in September with 30 participating organizations, double last year’s roster, and he said it will grow further with an indefinite number of foreign orgs.
The Capacity Building Program features seminars and strategic planning exercises, as well as semi-weekly Internet-based discussions with arts execs and Kennedy Center brass, including Kaiser.
“Arts organizations throughout the world are experiencing cutbacks in government support,” he said. “Since most of them have no experience in raising money or relying on ticket sales, they are left without a way to fill the gap.” The initiative aims to help them develop new revenue streams and other expertise needed to survive in the changing arts world.
Kaiser said he will target primarily midsized arts groups overseas rather than large or small orgs. He also welcomed the management expertise of other leading arts orgs interested in participating in the effort.
While in Mexico, he will meet with reps from the National Dance Co., the Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra, the Theater for the Deaf, the Cervantino Intl. Festival, the Citigroup/Banamex Cultural Foundation and the U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture.