Saturday, October 6, 2012

MAC Backstory

A little back-story is in order. I have been the director of the MAC since February of 2006. Before me was Janie Oldfield from 1999 to 2005 and her predecessor was the man who shared Hal McAninch’s vision for a suburban arts center and the first Director, Jack Weiseman. When the Arts Center opened in 1986 the first seasons were a mix of theatre, music, dance and visual arts presented by touring artists, student ensembles, community ensembles and local professionals. As the years passed the number of touring artists increased each season, some community ensembles became professional, and as enrollment grew more students found their way to Arts Center stages and galleries. The number of events or their amateur or professional status are important for the archivists to recall, but for our discussion what is important to acknowledge is that the center grew steadily for two decades. Budgets increased, more staff were hired, revenues grew as did expenses. Many would concur that the quantity and quality both trended up.

At some point the MAC reached critical mass. For our purposes critical mass is defined as the minimum amount of money or number of people needed to sustain a business. I would estimate it was sometime before I arrived in 2006. Some time before 2006 and continuing to this date the College of DuPage has contributed an increasing amount of dollars to sustain the MAC. Simply, it costs the College more dollars, dollars that could be otherwise spent elsewhere, to support the mission of the MAC.
The mission of the McAninch Arts Center is to foster enlightened educational and performance opportunities, which encourage artistic expression, establish a lasting relationship between people and art, and enrich the cultural vitality of the community.

Presently the MAC supports the following in service of mission.
  • College Music Ensemble Performances
  • College Dance Concerts
  • College Theatre Productions
  • College student and faculty Art Exhibits
  • Global Flicks International Film Series
  • College Lecture Series
  • Artist in Residence Program
  • Community arts education and engagement programs
  • Community Venue - Rentals
  • Gahlberg Gallery – Contemporary Art Gallery
  • Buffalo Theatre Ensemble – Professional Theatre in Residence
  • New Philharmonic – Professional Orchestra in Residence
  • MAC Artist Series – National and international artist performance series
  • Schoolstage Series – Performances for K-12 students

The last five categories are considered professional work presented for the benefit of the community at large and our community of students. During the 2010-11 season that category amounted to 148 public performances of 78 arts events and an additional 8 art exhibits. In that season approximately 65,000 patrons experienced a professional arts event at the college, 13,200 of them were school children. I’ll be the first to say it is an impressive list, but is it sustainable? Presently, I would say no; neither from the human or fiscal resource side of the equation. Could it be? Possibly.

So what should we be doing and how should it be supported? Should the mission evolve? Must we evolve? How should we re-conceptualize?

At some point we’ll have to discuss the gorilla in the corner – money. To be continued…


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