LEADING QUESTIONS: Arts groups strive to keep lean

August 18, 2010

Welcome to the latest installment of  “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” where  IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about their industry and the habits that lead to success.

Dave Lawrence, 42, was named president and CEO of the Arts Council of Indianapolis in December after an 11-year career with the arts funding and advocacy group. Intimate knowledge of the group's programs and the local arts community would be vital in guiding the not-for-profit through perhaps the most challenging period in its 23-year history. Local government grants, which the council allocates to the city's arts groups, have shrunk from about $2.5 million in 2007 to $1 million this year. In that time, the group's budget has fallen from $5.5 million to $2.8 million.

In the video below, Lawrence discusses his hopes for continued support from the city of Indianapolis in its 2011 budget, which will be announced later this month, as well as prospects for finding alternative sources of city funding beyond the general fund. And as arts organizations struggle to find places in their already notoriously tight budgets to trim expenses, Lawrence notes the dangers in the recent trend of pruning programming and rehearsal time.

Public funding for the arts has been a divisive issue for decades. The Council found itself in the middle of that debate in 2008 when some local interests, anxious about big increases in property taxes, took aim at the city's budget for arts funding. In the video below, Lawrence discusses the group's initial response to critics and how it needed to sharpen its message.


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