Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
This Sunday, September 7th, Orchestra Iowa is presenting their season-opener, “Brucemorchestra!”. Click here to read the press release by Iowa Public Radio.
But to understand more of why this is a big deal, read this. That article was picked up over 4,000 times nationally, including by Arts Journal and Opera News.
Orchestra Iowa lost everything in the flood of 2008. It destroyed Cedar Rapids, it destroyed the symphony’s target market, and it destroyed their home theatre and offices. With 19 feet of water on the stage, they had to make a strategic decision on how to survive and what to do next. Without a place to play, they managed to find support and recover, and launched the first concert in the fall of 2008 (after the flood) by collaborating with a local historic mansion, Brucemore. Beethoven’s 9th was performed on the lawn of this estate to over 2,000 people this first year, bringing picnics, wine and listening to amazing classical music. At that point, after having lost everything and seriously in debt, they had started a new direction.
This year will be their 7th “Brucemorchestra!”. The organization has now grown from a $1.5 million symphony struggling to make ends meet to a nearly $5 million arts enterprise that does full ballet, opera, chamber music, symphonic music and presents entertainment artists. This year’s opening night is expecting a crowd of nearly 4,000 people. 4,000 people in Cedar Rapids, people, is a big deal.
That means through their strategic decisions and excellent business strategies, they’ve achieved stability. But it’s through their collaborations, such as with Brucemore Estate, ballet companies, opera companies, and local theaters that they’ve been able to generate revenue enough to remain a viable institution and bring amazing art to a larger and broader audience than anyone would have ever thought possible in that area. They should be an example to our generation of Arts Managers; an instance of a company that saw a problem, designed a new model, a new brand and a new beginning, and fixed it. Even in a market and an environment where all odds were against them. We might be inheriting a variety of different cultural struggles, but innovation and thoughtful collaborations might just be the way of the future.