Title of Thesis: Courting the Community: Promises and Realities of New Performing Arts Centers in Small to Midsize Cities
Degree Candidate: Devra L. Thomas
Degree and Year: Master of Arts Administration 2014
Major Paper Directed by: Robert Wildman
Welch Center for Graduate and Professional Studies
The widespread construction of large-scale performing arts centers in order to revitalize downtowns has proliferated across the U.S. over the past twenty years. The economic research into the impact on the local arts ecosystem already established in these communities is slight. The goal of this thesis was to examine the arts ecosystems in four small and midsize cities located around the country that had recently completed such a revitalization project and determine what impact had been made on the various nonprofit performing arts organizations.Research conducted includes a review of each city’s building process and arts ecosystem, interviews with both the performing arts center management and nonprofit arts organization affiliates, and evaluation of financial data in public IRS 990 forms. After contextualizing the present-day concern by examining the history of competition within theater in 20th century America, there follows the actual repercussions of revitalization within these four cities and an exhortation to broaden the discussion among the new larger ecosystem.