Kaiser is known for a theory that arts institutions succeed by focusing on high quality art and programming, and then on building excitement and support for that artistic work among audiences, big and small donors, and the broader community — a network he calls “the family.” Unlike many whose first response to financial shortfalls is to reduce programming and staff, Kaiser says cutbacks lead to a downward spiral of shrinking audiences, interest and donations.
“You don’t get healthy by getting smaller and smaller,” Kaiser said “You get healthy by getting people excited about your organization and by building what I call the family … When they are a happy, growing, engaged group they produce revenue, and when we put that revenue into more great art and education the family gets bigger and happier.”
MCB’s dancing and artistry under Villella was widely praised, but Kaiser says the troupe’s problems stemmed largely from not having a strong executive director to align artistic ambitions with concerns from board members and donors, as well as insufficient marketing and fundraising.
MCB’s board leadership has tended to respond to semi-regular financial crises with cutbacks. Among the criticisms aimed at Villella, particularly in the past year, were that he was unwilling to reduce spending, and that he was prickly if he believed board members intruded on artistic decision-making
Kaiser, who has presented MCB several times at the Kennedy Center and calls Villella a friend, says such clashes undermined the troupe’s achievements. “There was not the kind of expertise to turn the wonderful dancing, the exciting moments … into more ticket sales and more contributors,” he said.
By year’s end, Kaiser is to give the company a reorganization plan that will include beefed-up fundraising and marketing departments. Among the steps the troupe has taken to right itself are adding new board members from Palm Beach, a little-tapped but potentially fertile source of supporters, and one where Hagerty has connections to Kennedy Center donors. Lopez’s plans include a festival celebrating the work of George Balanchine and a multi-disciplinary event with other South Florida arts groups, as well as new ballets from contemporary choreographers.
Kaiser said he was confident that the troupe, if managed right, could grow along with an increasingly vital cultural scene.
“Miami’s arts institutions are very small, given the wealth and size of this community,” he said.
“I think that’s a historical issue, and it’s going to change.”