The non-profit model is living on borrowed time. The current model is dying. Even still, I think we spend more time trying to figure out how to fund a show than actually making the show. Read: The way we make money to make art is not sustainable.

Insanity: Doing the same thing again and again expecting different results. Non-profit arts orgs seem to be doing this. Ask for money, produce a show, make no money, gain no audience and ask for money again – all the while, expecting to exist and support its artist’s livelihoods.

The Dream: to make a living as an ARTIST.

Creative fundraising for non-profs is important, no doubt about it. But at some point, if you’re creativity only reaches the boundaries of a bubble that never pops – you have to question the effectiveness of the method. You can call pink – brown if you want but the color will still be pink. New ways of doing the same damn thing – I’m sorry – but that is no paradigm shift.

Remember, the goal is to sustain our lives by making ART. As such, it follows we must be equally invested in the long-term sustainability of our organizations. The things we do in order to sustain our organizations, no matter how much we spin it, is not making art. Grant writing is not making theatre – it’s grant writing. Selling beer in the lobby, also, not making theatre.

But it seems in order for the theatre organization to be sustainable it becomes true that our ability to write grants and get sponsors and throw parties MUST be more sustainable. This is backwards.

Look at Apple. Apple doesn’t sell beer behind the Genius Bar to offset costs because their product isn’t cutting it. No, they just make great, user-friendly electronics. Apple folks don’t make money writing grants, they make money selling and servicing great stuff to people who want it. That’s all they do. Great product and great demand.

I know I’ve mixed the profit/non-profit models – but that doesn’t change the fact that artists have to do more to make less. And it doesn’t mean non-profs shouldn’t work like for profit businesses.

But the goal remains the same (make a living making art). And so does the obstacle. We still need money.

In order get what you’ve never had you have to try something different.

If you’re going to do something to offset the costs of making theatre, it makes sense that activity shouldn’t include doing more work. All your work should be focused on making art – nothing else.

But that’s impossible. Even so, there is a difference between getting grants just to stay afloat and getting grants to pay artists a fair living wage or being able to drop the price of tickets for a few nights or weeks so more people can afford to see your work. And let’s face it – the long-term sustainability of an arts organization depends on good people being paid to make good work and people filling the seats. Great product and great demand.

So what’s the solution? I’ll get to that – but for now – just think about how much you do that isn’t making art so that you can make art.






  • August 24, 2011
  • 11