Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

“Brucemorchestra!” A Thought on How Collaboration Can Create a Resurgence for Organizations

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. 


6 comments on ““Brucemorchestra!” A Thought on How Collaboration Can Create a Resurgence for Organizations

  1. jaredchamoff
    September 5, 2014

    What an inspirational story! I also very much like the title of the article :D. The fact that all of the arts organizations around Iowa kind of banded together under the umbrella of Arts Iowa in the face of such trouble is so wonderful.

  2. zeniasimpson
    September 5, 2014

    I think that this will be a major shift we see in the arts in general. With so many large arts organizations facing closures, strikes and just a large decrease in money/resources, organizations are going to start merging and coming together to survive. Same thing happened with banks during the financial crisis and with large record labels. If arts organizations start to see themselves are knitted to a community of like-minded people and not competitors, it would mike the viability of all parties better.

    Smaller arts organizations are able to do this much more than larger organizations. This plays into what we’re reading this week with the idea of healthy organizations and collaborative, new models of organizations. Smaller companies with small overhead who will be able to link major institutions with artist and different forms of artistic expression will be the ones who achieve the most success and foster the most change in society.

  3. alexgilbertschrag
    September 5, 2014

    First of all, its inspirational to see a story of how an orchestra is succeeding when there are so many orchestras folding under the lack of funds. I think a large part is that it’s supported by Arts Iowa. Not every orchestra has an arts umbrella to be under.
    Their new business plan of being entrepreneurial is a different approach to fundraising and receiving funds. Planning more outreach, doing ticketing and public relations for the events at Paramount Theatre, and producing a variety of concert and showcases seems to be bringing more awareness to what the Orchestra Iowa is.
    Being more visible in your community is half the battle. IF an orchestra only performs in orchestral settings, it’s a very limited variety of concerts to attend. But, by working with dance and other art forms, the orchestra’s name is getting recognition and seemingly thriving.

  4. awellfare89
    September 5, 2014

    Talk about arts banding together as civil leaders. It also goes to show how vital networking between arts managers is. You can’t be disconnected because when you need help, you’ll have nowhere to turn. I also didn’t know much about Orchestra Iowa and it was wonderful to learn about a booming organization!

  5. jaredchamoff
    September 5, 2014

    I was thinking about this article/situation throughout the day and I was wondering what the audience Cedar Rapids Symphony was like pre-2008 and what the Orchestra Iowa audience is like now-a-days? I’m just curious how the incredible efforts have changed the ensemble’s following.

  6. laurenelizabethdickel
    September 6, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story! Its very exciting to see how impassioned arts managers can make such huge progress in a really small time frame. Orchestra Iowa sounds like a wonderful organization and I had no idea it was so large. I am also curious to know what it was like pre-flood. Sometimes these disasters make an organization stronger and are blessings in disguise. Do you think this was the case? Would this gigantic boom and community collaboration have happened to the same extent without the flood?

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