The not-for profit arts industry in the United States is currently experiencing a paradigm shift. In the previous paradigm not for profit arts organizations were sustained through charitable contributions, patronage in the form of commissions and sponsorships, and an array of government monies. For many organizations financial stability did not exist.
The new paradigm encompasses the idea that not for profit arts organizations are another form of business enterprise; they must make money to spend money. And, like any other business, the sources of revenue must not only be sufficient for today’s expenses but must grow as future needs arise.
Theatres have to not only rethink the way they do business but they must reassess their role in the community. No longer can they solely count on the charitable contributions of their patrons or the availability of government monies for their sustenance. The theatres which will survive are the ones that can adapt the practices of the for profit sector to their situations. Practices like supplying a service to their clientele, in this case the audience, that they cannot do with out. In some cases it may require the theatre to educate the audience so they understand that the service provided is essential. This education can take many forms, from the traditional type of education one would receive through classes or workshops to the more for profit sector form of education, advertisement. In some cases the “education” of an audience is not so much supplying them with information but supplying them with an image they cannot do without.
With this shift in the paradigm there is a need for “paradigm pioneers”. These pioneers are the people who are employing non-traditional methods of developing and sustaining revenue streams. These people are innovators and are pushing the frontiers of what can and must be done to maintain the financial stability of arts organizations in the United States.
This thesis examines three theaters experimenting with innovative strategies of stabilizing and sustaining their revenue streams: Stages Theater Company of Weston, MA, The Contemporary American Theatre Company (CATCO) of Columbus, OH, and The Westbeth Theatre Center (WTC) of Manhattan, NY. Each is currently experimenting with non-traditional strategies to remain viable in their respective markets. They are re-engineering or have re-engineered the methods through which they operate and how they relate to and serve their audiences.
All three of these theatres have entered into partnerships with entities that are not arts presenting organizations to attain the goals they have set out for themselves. Stages, CATCO, and Westbeth are pioneering this new paradigm by setting examples of what can be done. By studying the strategies which these three pioneers are employing, other arts organizations may employ alternate methods of thinking and doing business.