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Arts News

Is There a New Paradigm for Publically Subsidized Arts Organizations?

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Do state-subsidized arts companies have a bigger responsibility to present great art or to sell tickets to the tourists who make up a good chunk of their audience?

A report in the newspaper The Australian says that Sydney’s Opera Australia posted a loss for the first time in six years. While some of this can be laid at the feet of the global recession, the company itself also blames “poor programming choices.”

Opera Australia is looking at a dilemma. Its season falls during summer--primetime for tourists who have filled the Sydney Opera House for standards like Madam Butterfly but who have also left the hall half-empty for more challenging works.

We all know that arts organizations in the U.S. don’t get significant funding from the government. With that in mind, does an arts company subsidized by public money have a responsibility to showcase works that might not otherwise be seen? Is the need to fill seats by presenting the tried and true more important? And what happens when the tried and true falls short of expectations? What’s the new paradigm?