Letter: Wheeler should go back to the drawing board | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Wheeler should go back to the drawing board

Wheeler should go back to the drawing board

We need to start again.

There are three candidates left for the Wheeler executive director job.

There are good reasons for searching outside your residential box:

1. You’re looking for a rainmaker — someone who can bring more money into the organization because you’ve already tapped the nearest veins dry.

2. You’re looking for someone who is connected to a wider performing-arts community and can bring in fresh talent.

3. You’re looking for someone who can see your establishment with a fresh eye and take it on a new, more dynamic path.

The three remaining candidates don’t hit any of these points.

I am disappointed, and somewhat incredulous, that of the 80 applications, Human Resources boiled it down to these three, but lest we forget, Human Resources is familiar with searching for government management, not performing-arts management. Each metier has its own special zeitgeist, and having a professional in Human Resources who understands the performing arts is asking far too much. An artistic director who would make it past Human Resources — Joe Papp? Zelda Fichhandler? Beverly Sills? John Crosby? Er — no. “Creatives” don’t make it past Human Resources.

That brings me to the point: Searching for a single person who has the talent to both wrangle a performing-arts venue and navigate local governance is hopeless. Government-run and -owned theaters are a European phenomenon, not an American one. The best U.S.-born and -bred performing-arts management professional is a wizard with budgets and fundraising. They need to answer to their board and keep the patrons happy with a steady flow of talent and magic. They are passionate. They may have bouts of inspiration bordering on madness, but they do not sweat. What they do not need to do is swim the murky waters of city bureaucracy and the City Council. There is nothing that can crush passion more quickly than bureaucracy. Finding someone who can manage both artists and politicians is highly unlikely. At the salary offered, well, it would take a bolt of lightning — dancing on a pin during an eclipse, illuminating a flock of flying pigs oinking in time to “Les Miserables.”

If we’re committed to searching inside the U.S., split the baby in two. Search for an artistic director who manages the smooth running of a theater that accommodates tours and local nonprofits. Search for an executive director who manages the interface with local government. Search for two different people.

We also might take a long, hard look closer to home — there may be people who could bring a fresh eye and fresh talent who just don’t want to deal with City Hall (shocking as that is). Give a performing-arts management professional a bureaucrat who can take the burden of city politics off their shoulders, and they may actually consider applying for the job. We have some impressive and passionate talent in this valley — they all know City Hall, and they’re not idiots.

Ziska Childs

Aspen


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