Sunday, January 5, 2003

The big economic squeeze

Shaping culture in 2003


Recession, stagnation or anemic recovery, take your pick. The state of the U.S. economy is less than booming, and local cultural organizations are as skittish as 401k investors are about the future.

A rocky economy deals a triple blow to organizations that rely on donors as much as audiences to stay afloat.

Patrons, individual and corporate alike, who might be relied upon to grant generous subsidies in flush times have less to be generous with when stock prices drop.

Institutions lucky enough to have built up endowments lose income along with everyone else when investments perform poorly.

Ticket buyers find it easy to strip theater outings or ballet subscriptions from the family budget when money is tight.

Of course, things are not so bad that entertainment spending has dried up. Far from it. Movie theaters are doing record business. Big events still draw crowds; tickets as high as $90 are sold out for some performances of The Lion King at the Aronoff this spring.

But producers of lower-profile and specialized fine-arts events face a relentless challenge in attracting sufficient audiences.

Many of Cincinnati's arts groups have crafted ambitious growth plans for 2003, but could find themselves swimming upstream against a flat economy - which is what more than half of the Greater Cincinnati 100 top private companies recently predicted in a survey by the accounting firm Deloitte Touche and the Enquirer. The good news: One-third foresaw healthy growth, and only a handful expected another downturn.

Economic uncertainty will be a threat but also an opportunity for resourceful survival techniques.

25 forces that will shape culture in 2003
1. The big economic squeeze
2. Clear Channel's dominance
3. Suburbanites: Will they roam?
4. The plea for racial healing
5. The media's message
6. A whole new ball game
7. Edgy art center opening
8. Tall Stacks rolls back
9. Will tourists go home happy?
10. How Fine Arts Fund carries clout
11. You can't fight City Hall
12. Laura Long: Downtown force
13. The CSO's growing empire
14. Rosenthals' big impact
15. Northern Kentucky development
16. Museum Center's main man
17. Lobbyist Weiland
18. UC at crossroads
19. The Nederlanders make a comeback
20. MidPoint: Rebuild the city on rock 'n' roll
21. The Schuster Center alternative
22. Another public art project goes to bat
23. The brain drain
24. Local film community gains focus
25. Dancing around visa problems
The wild card of 2003: War
2003 dates to keep in mind

DEMALINE: The arts
KENDRICK: Alive & Well
Get to it!