When You're Reduced to Spending $60 Million on a "Center For Future Audiences," it May be Time to Call it Quits in the Present


The yeah-yeah world-class Cleveland Orchestra has created a "Center for Future Audiences" because, like all creative types, they are sorely disappointed with the size and quality of their current audience. To its credit, the orchestra has raised $20 mil from a private source:

With a $20 million lead gift from the Maltz Family Foundation of the Jewish Federation (a $60 million fund for the project is the goal), the center will remove some of the most common obstacles to attending orchestra concerts—ticket cost and access.

A sobering fact mentioned in the announcement of the initiative is that the average ticket price to a Cleveland Orchestra concert in the historic Severance Hall has increased more than 300% since the mid-1980s (it's now $50). That's one way to keep young people out.

More here.

I'm all for philanthropy, so the more private money that goes to anything the better. However, the Cleveland Orchestra, like most such ventures, is a money-suck for public dollars from groups such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture group, all of which are funded through generous and involuntary donations from taxpayers like you.

Particularly in a time of extreme budget-crunching, such tax funding should be reexamined (the same goes for the enormous amount of money that publicly funded schools at all levels spend on goddamn shitty sports teams and a million other elective kindnesses that combine to kill the little guy and waste a huge amount of money). In fact, in flush times, such tax funding should be reexamined too.

Why is it considered legit to spend millions of public dollars are stuff that caters to a tiny number of people, whether we're talking Bach or baseball? Or the Browns or the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame? (Rick Derringer didn't need no tax dollars to create "Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo" did he? He just trucked on out and spread the news.) Kudos to the Maltz Family for ponying up one-third of the desired amount to punish "future audiences" via ultra-sound concerts for fetuses or whatever. I'm sure the Maltzes know a couple of other rich people who can foot the bill to keep alive their preferred art form. But why the hell should anyone who doesn't give a hoot about an orchestra be on the hook for its preservation?

Past wrangles about the Cleveland Orchestra question here.

Earlier this year, released Reason Saves Cleveland with Drew Carey, an hour-long documentary series that explored ways to "fix the Mistake on the Lake and other once-great American cities." Watch the whole thing here.

Drew and I were invited to talk with the Cleveland City Council afterwards. Watch a 10-minute highlight reel of our our nearly three-hour-long meeting with them.