Viswa Subbaraman

Opera and Orchestra Conductor

The Off-Season

My apologies for being AWOL so long.  Last season was truly a tough one in a lot of ways.  Running a very young arts organization in the midst of a recession was mentally and physically exhausting – not only for me, but for everyone involved in the company, as well as those around me. As usual, Michael Kaiser has a great take on this last season and the toll it took on arts administrators.  (One of the most interesting aspects to my job with Opera Vista is that I’m not only the Artistic Director, I also have a ton of administrative responsibilities.)

In Kaiser’s article he talks quite a bit about the current feel of burnout in the arts community.  One of the most interesting things about arts managers is that they tend to be extremely efficient.  There just isn’t enough money to do all that needs to be done, so you are constantly looking to find the most efficient and cost effective ways to deliver the greatest quality art possible.  The constant struggle to keep organizations efficient and keep costs low often renders arts managers exhausted.  Tack on the fact that we were all navigating through a recession, and I think it’s the biggest reason you see such exhaustion in the arts community.

The part of Mr. Kaiser’s post I found the most interesting were the comments section.  I highly recommend reading those.  I was surprised at how many people were talking about their health issues and the level of exhaustion.

I have to admit that both Joe White and I felt much of that towards the end of last season.  We couldn’t really blame our donors for cutting their donations – nobody knew what the future would hold, so being conservative made sense.  But, that also meant that we had to find a way to navigate through the reduced donations, etc.

I think the arts tend to be the first hit and the last to recover when the economy slides.  There is increased uncertainty, so people feel that they must start cutting back on the non-essentials.  The arts take that hit pretty hard.  The nice thing is that with the economy recovering, generosity is increasing!  And, OV's next season is looking to be an amazing one.  (Think live elephant).

I think I am finally beginning to recover mentally from last season, and next season’s projects seem truly exciting, so consider my biweekly blog back!  My only regret from last season was how stressed I constantly was, and the final toll it took on those around me – one person in particular.  But, we all snap back, and hopefully things return to normal.