CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts said Wednesday the problems and the solutions for arts groups are the same in West Virginia as they are in New York or Washington, D.C.
"There's no difference," Michael Kaiser answered when asked if his methods for helping nationally known arts groups, such as the American Ballet Theatre, will work with organizations in West Virginia.
He shared his four basics for success as a nonprofit arts group -- wonderful programming, aggressive marketing, involved boards of directors and talented staffs -- with a standing-room-only crowd in the Walker Theater at the Clay Center Wednesday.
"If you do these things, you will build your family," Kaiser said, referring to his four basics. "That's where the health comes from. The financial stability follows."
On a 50-state tour to offer help to arts organizations, Kaiser's been dubbed the "turnaround king." He's helped make groups such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Royal Opera House viable in today's changing economy. He drew on his experiences with these groups to give suggestions to arts groups in the Mountain State.
David Wohl, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at West Virginia State University, moderated the interview-style forum.
Several West Virginia arts leaders were told what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Kaiser praised the good and offered solutions for the not so good.
One issue many groups face is the "graying" of their boards as well as their audiences. Kaiser said board members can and should be asked to leave if they are not a good fit for the organization's current situation.
"Originally, at Alvin Ailey, we had board members sewing the costumes and working the box office. We have staff for that now. Those old board members are now the wrong board members," Kaiser said. They might be able to sew, but they can't raise money, he said.