Over the last 30 years as executive director of Goodman Theatre, Chicago's oldest and largest not-profit theater, I have participated in numerous collective bargaining negotiations with creative personnel in our industry — actors, directors, designers, musicians and others.
on this experience, I am perplexed and appalled by the assertions made
by University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson regarding the lockout
at the Joffrey Ballet
(Chicago Tribune, July 6). Sanderson states that "nonprofit
organizations ... may be able to absorb higher costs easier. Whereas ...
with a for-profit ... deep down they don't want to lose money." He
proceeds to note, "These folks tend to be prima donnas (in the ballet,
opera or symphony). They're kind of like wide receivers in football:
With all due respect, Sanderson apparently knows little of the
reality of nonprofit arts organizations, lives of performing artists and
the dedication of boards of trustees.
The vast majority of
nonprofit arts groups operate with tremendous efficiency because we know
the value of a dollar in what is largely an undercapitalized industry.
We value "human resources" because our work cannot succeed without an
atmosphere of trust and collaboration among artists, trustees and
management. Finally, the nonprofit performing arts exist in not one, but
two, competitive markets: We must attract audiences based on the
quality of our productions, and we must persuade patrons to "invest" in
our product — based on the service we provide to our communities, not
Sanderson's cavalier categorization of
performing artists as "prima donnas" exhibits a profound lack of
understanding of the financial challenges facing the overwhelming
majority of artists in this country and the level of professionalism
they bring to every aspect of their work.
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