Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Road Map

Thank God I didn’t have to write another 6-page article. Fortunately, everything that needs to be done now, has been done before, by actual experts. Example:

[Please note that this publicly-available information is provided for illustrative purposes only and not as an endorsement of Aperio ( or any other firm.]

No new trails need to be blazed, although some out-of-the-box thinking will be required to tailor a generic protocol for our specific case. But the timing for spinoff of the ASO into an independent non-profit meets at least two principal criteria for this type of divestiture: (1) the parties have come to an impasse where continued status quo coexistence will be detrimental to both; and (2) the potential spinoff “child” cannot mature further within the existing organization, due to lack of dedicated focus on the child’s mission and lack of transparency regarding its management and finances.

Surely the WAC’s founders did not intend for its component institutions to achieve a certain level of accomplishment and then indefinitely maintain that status quo. As we all know, if you are not moving forward – continuously improving and setting higher goals – you stagnate. Moving forward requires concentrated effort and money, and the WAC can no longer supply the necessary forward impetus for three separate art forms. But if the parent enables the “problem child” to leave home, I can envision the day when the High has expanded to cover the entire current campus (perhaps a Hadid building to integrate and complete the Meier and Piano structures?); when the Alliance has built out over the MARTA Arts Center station (despite the beauty of the current station, it occupies highly-desirable air space that would be far cheaper to build out for theater than for music performance); and when the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has – well, a new hall. But one step at a time.

Conceptually, the process is simple. A leadership group fully vested in the future mission* of the ASO coalesces; the interested parties come to the table to agree in principle on a course of action; they retain objective professional guidance to facilitate the spinoff process; and then their functionaries begin working through the minutiae with an established timeline. Egos are checked at the door because it’s in everyone’s interests to manage the process to a win-win outcome. Rather than closing the salient in a bloodbath, the encircled troops can exit, only slightly bruised, to campaign on another front.

Meanwhile the sins of the past need to be absolved and laid to rest. The WAC’s decisions regarding budget allocation and endowment management have exacerbated the tenuous financial situation of its ASO component – but now it’s time to move on. Training all the sights on arcane details of forensic accounting is a waste of time and energy. Leave the specialists the task to follow the money and investigate, as many questions do require answers for the purposes of lessons learned documentation. But let them do that on their own time – not on the time of the locked-out musicians, who will shortly be losing their healthcare benefits and dipping into retirement savings to pay mortgages and other routine expenses. Time is of the essence, not only for them, but because a protracted lockout combined with a tedious mediation process will produce a level of negative PR surrounding the arts that this city can’t stand. Work needs to resume under a “play-and-talk” scenario, guaranteed by ongoing restructuring negotiations.

We have many assets in this initiative. We have world-class musicians who are willing to get back on stage and give their all to put their case for excellence directly before the community. We have a music director who speaks on behalf of the cause with both passion and intellect, in words that resonate at a national and international level. We have a volunteer ethos in this city second to none. We have the money – it’s out there. We have leaders that are emerging from the community as well as from the shadow of the WAC who can leverage their financial and experiential resources to form the core of a new organization. And we have a mission*.

We have the ingredients, the recipe exists. Rise up, Atlanta, and make it so.

*(e.g., “to enable the continued development of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra into a world-class institution, internationally recognized for artistic, educational, and administrative excellence”)


  1. Administrative excellence indeed. The prescribed course of action will be difficult. We have the way. Who has the will? Hope the troops are listening.

    Excellent work once again by our talented Alto. We are very proud of her.

  2. This is the best thing I've seen so far to come out of this sad affair. At last someone with an idea. That's something that's been missing on both sides of the dispute. Laurie, as they say in the South, "Honey, you done good work". Thank you. It was not easy. Now for someone to lead the effort. My candidate: Ron Antonini who resigned from the Board after they rejected pledges he had gathered from fellow Board members. Those pledges totaled $800,000. That, my friends, could be seed money for the effort if those Board members would agree. That may be a fond hope. In fact, as John said, the whole effort might lead to nothing. But, at least we would be trying rather than posting and complaining. Who knows Mr. Antonini and how to contact him?