Another One Bites the Dust – and You Thought Business Was in Crisis Mode

“Another one bites the dust.
How do you think I’m going to get along,
Without you, when you’re gone”

This is a call to action where individual citizens can make a huge difference.

The recent loss of a local cultural gem, namely King Street Theatre:

Curtain Closes on Another Local Local Theatre

and the near death experience of the 87 year old cultural gem the Grand Philharmonic Choir, from cash flow challenges, has shone a spotlight on how the financial meltdown is already impacting the Waterloo area arts and cultural scene. As one who supported King Street Theatre’s original capital campaign, I feel this loss personally. Further, I am optimistic that many in our community share this sense of loss.

Many of the key funders who directly invest in our cultural sector, such as local foundations and individual donors, have seen their financial investments tank along with the rest of us. Given that 2009 contributions will largely be determined by 2008 investment returns, we are probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

The media cites lack of citizen interest or poor attendance as the root cause. Many business people working with social enterprises observe that many organizations lack the right management to deliver better results. While all true, I would posit that the challenges of the  cultural sector are much more complex.  I’m as much a believer in economic Darwinism, which dictates that in order to have real success, you also need to have failures. In fact, my recent post Playing the Lottery after the Meltdown underscores this notion in regard to the recent government led auto sector bail outs. Mark McArdle’s post What I Didn’t Get for Christmas makes an even stronger case for economic Darwinism.

That being said, much of the social sector, including arts, culture, the environment and many other social causes, have long operated in a marginal and underfunded state. This, for most organizations, trumps the above concerns about attendance or management quality. It is fortunate indeed that many community leaders met last September at the Prosperity Council of Waterloo Region: Task Force on Creative Enterprise to begin to put together a comprehensive, strategic initiative to invest in and develop our overall capabilities in the Creative and Cultural sphere. While from an early 2009 perspective, this might not at first appear to be the ideal time to launch such a big idea, we need to remember that such initiatives are long term and may need a number of years to properly gestate. Ideally, need to be ready so that our collective efforts can bear fruit in time for the next economic boom in the Waterloo area.

Meanwhile, I would call all citizens who care about the cultural future of the Waterloo area to respond with their support. While each of us may favour different organizations and ways to provide that support, we all need to do our part. The great community we live in depends on each of us to personally help to nurture and invest in its future.