Point of View


September 15, 2009, 9:56 pm
Filed under: About the Center, Lincoln Center

Dear POV Reader,

I came to the Adrienne Arsht Center last December with a profound sense of excitement and a clear vision for our institution. Our mission: to solidify Miami’s performing arts center as one of the best anywhere – an organization that was at once world-class and community based.

Since my arrival in Miami, I have learned that performing arts centers have an extraordinary ability to bring people together, a lesson that has been reinforced on an almost daily basis. We witness that community spirit every time we open our doors.

Along these lines, I recently wrote an essay about the impact that performing arts centers have on American cities, their economies, and their people – set against the backdrop of Lincoln Center’s 50th anniversary. When I was asked to reflect on my first nine months here, I decided the best way to express my thoughts about the Adrienne Arsht Center would be to share this article with you. After reading it, I think you will agree that our Center’s character is just as much a reflection of our community as it is of the venues that have come before it.

M. John Richard
President and CEO

Adrienne Arsht Center_photo by Robin Hill

Lessons from Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center’s 50th anniversary is an opportune moment to reflect on the influence of America’s performing arts venues.

Even before launching my career in the performing arts, I marveled at Lincoln Center’s impact. It is at once a world-class performing arts venue, a premier school, and the economic engine for an entire neighborhood.
But the Center’s success was anything but predetermined.

When Lincoln Center was built, the notion that several major performing arts organizations could thrive in one location was untested in the United States; New York’s complex would not adhere to the centuries-old single-purpose building archetype.

That twelve organizations are coexisting today with individual-but-intertwined objectives is part of the fabric of Lincoln Center. There is a synergistic element to the notion that thousands of people can arrive at the same place on the same night, enter three different iconic buildings, and share wholly different – but equally satisfying – experiences.

Most significant is what Lincoln Center is not: a model performing arts center. Because centers across the country each enjoy their own strengths and face their own challenges, there is no paradigm for success. A concert or production that is lauded in New York may not be well-received in Miami.

The common denominator that links all performing arts organizations is their ability to unite, excite, and transform people.

In a world where impersonal communiqués have become standard, Lincoln Center and the venues that have followed are twenty-first century town squares – places where we gather to share experiences and feel human.

We feel it when we watch children experience live theatre for the first time, when we are awestruck by a ballerina’s leap into space, and when we rise in unison for a standing ovation.

At Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (another multi-building, multi-organization institution), we have been sharing this feeling with increasing frequency since our 2006 debut.

This January, we opened our doors for a free simulcast of the Presidential Inauguration. Many of us felt a sense of suspended belief when 4,000 people gathered to watch the festivities unfold in our auditoriums. As people were cheering, hugging and crying all around me, I had to remind myself that we were in a crowded room in Downtown Miami, not on the National Mall.

I felt a similar rush this April when we hosted five performances of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s 50th anniversary production of Revelations. After attending the first four shows, I could not make it to the start of the final presentation. Still, I made it a point to arrive in time for the encore and the intoxicating swell of emotions that ensued.

As America’s youngest performing arts center salutes one of the nation’s most venerable institutions, we reflect on Lincoln Center’s seminal impact and determine how we can capture the magic it has created. Doing so involves capitalizing on the lessons learned during Lincoln Center’s first fifty-years just as the cultural icon undergoes some soul-searching of its own in the form of a $900 million makeover.

In Miami, the most applicable lessons that can be elicited from the Lincoln Center experiment involve bringing people together and fueling the rebirth of a community.

Much the same way a sixteen acre plot of land at 65th Street and Broadway injected new life into New York City’s Upper West Side, the Adrienne Arsht Center is driving people to Downtown Miami. What was once a pass-through destination en route to South Beach is now a magnet for real estate developers, business owners, residents, and visitors.

This transformation is making a measurable impact on our institution and the community. Ticket sales are strong, our programs are diverse, our membership base is growing, and we have revitalized our neighborhood to the tune of one-billion dollars in new investment.

The numbers only quantify a portion of the outcome.

Watch our patrons as they walk through our doors, the performers who grace our stages, the board members and volunteers who commit endless hours, the passionate members of our staff who pour their hearts and minds into the cause day-in and day-out. Watch them react when the child enters the theater, when the dancer takes flight, and when the crowd jumps to its feet. Look at their faces. Feel what they are feeling. That’s our impact.

The beauty of Lincoln Center lives in the minds of countless patrons. Its uncommon and historic undertaking is an occasion to pause and look to the future. Happy anniversary, Lincoln Center, and thank you for all you have accomplished.

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