Past Program

Feb 21 - Feb 25, 2010

The Performing Arts in Lean Times: Opportunities for Reinvention

Session 468


Fifty performing arts leaders from a range of national and professional contexts recently gathered in Salzburg to reflect on opportunities for reinventing the performing arts at a time when many factors are contributing towards a large-scale disruption of the arts, as in many other areas of society.

Economic shifts, global and individual reach in technologies, the pursuit of strong and delineated national identities and the appetite for a voice from younger people are all changing how the performing arts are viewed, created and consumed.

To better understand the disruptive trends that are affecting the performing arts and with a view to identifying the questions that arts leaders need to be asking themselves right now, session participants focused their deliberations on the following five themes:

1. The Creative Process and Technology
2. The Performing Arts and Communities
3. The Creation of Value
4. Understanding Our Crisis of Legitimacy
5. The Role of the Performing Arts in Civil Society


The current global economic downturn and the resultant tough strategic choices that arts organizations face about the scope and scale of their work both present a rare opportunity for cultural leaders. Now more than ever arts leaders will need to be able to define and articulate the value the arts provide to society as a whole, and to the specific communities they serve. Leaders who are able to share this compelling message will head institutions that emerge from the current crisis stronger than ever before - leaders who cannot will find their organizations marginalized in the search for resources. 

All cultural leaders are well versed in the instrumental arguments of economic development and educational enhancement that have been adopted over the past decade to persuade those with funding-donors, government, foundations-that they are deserving of support. While these instrumental arguments have been helpful in sustaining some arts organizations, they have eclipsed the more fundamental and intrinsic value that the arts provide as a key component of a healthy civil society. Arts leaders have become less adept at answering the question "Why do the arts really matter?"

As economies and citizens recalibrate their expectations and begin to look at what values they want their institutions to reflect - be they government, higher education, or cultural institutions - the arts have a rare opportunity to regain a place at the civic table and become part of this recalibration. This session will bring together leaders of cultural institutions, cultural policymakers, foundation representatives, arts association leaders, trustees, arts sector researchers and journalists together to articulate how cultural activities of all types can be crucial building blocks of the society that will emerge from this period of dramatic change. Cultural institutions that were built on the values of thirty years ago have a chance to reinvigorate their missions and become central to public life, and this session will explore all of the ways in which this new creation of meaning might advance. Emerging from the discussions will be a set of strategies and recommendations for arts institutions entitled "The Arts in Lean Times: Opportunities for Reinvention." 

The fee for this session is 3,300 EURO. The fee covers the cost of the program, accommodations, and meals. Limited scholarship funding may be available for those who are unable to pay the full fee (i.e. from developing countries or NGOs). Participants seeking scholarship assistance must submit an application for financial aid to our registration office.

The Salzburg Global Seminar’s deep appreciation is owed to The Edward T. Cone Foundation for making Session 468: The Performing Arts in Lean Times: Opportunities for Reinvention possible. Additional support was provided by The Nippon Foundation.

The Seminar is indebted to the Session Co-Chairs, Adrian Ellis and Russell Willis Taylor, for donating their time and expertise. The Seminar gratefully acknowledges the assistance of all participants whose diverse experience and ideas informed the session and the report.


A report and session materials summarizing these deliberations and aimed at sharing the thinking that went on in Salzburg are now available: 
Session Report

For a PDF version click here

Daily Newsletters

For daily summaries of the plenary discussions click here

List of Participants

For an alphabetical listing of participants click here

Working Group Summaries

For summaries of the 5 working group discussions, click on the links below:

Working Group I: The Creative Process and Technology

Working Group II: The Performing Arts and Communities

Working Group III: The Creation of Value

Working Group IV: Understanding Our Crisis of Legitimacy

Working Group V: Sustainability and the Role of Performing Arts in Civil Society