By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — With another tough year for the arts almost behind them, area arts leaders are looking forward to 2013 with renewed vigor and focus.
"I have two resolutions for the TSO," said Krista Cooper, Traverse Symphony Orchestra's interim executive director. "The first would be to maintain the orchestra's artistic quality. And to do that we need to do the second, which is to engage more people in our organization overall."
To that end, Cooper said the orchestra recently put into place a "newly energized" board of directors led by president Tom Haase and currently is recruiting volunteers. It also revised or created committees that affect its income, from donations and corporate sponsorships to marketing, planned giving and grants.
"We have been able, even considering the economic struggles, to keep our artistic qualities in place, but it has definitely been an economic struggle," Cooper said, adding that ticket sales and donations alone are not enough to propel the orchestra ahead. "With a staff of only two full-time employees, we need to engage the help of others to move forward. The financial and volunteer help of our community will not only enable us to uphold the current artistic level of the symphony but allow the symphony to flourish."
Funding also looms large on Jeffrey Kimpton's list of resolutions.
"The first is to work with elected officials and local community leaders to ensure that the arts are an integral part of Michigan's reinvention strategy and northern Michigan's development as a cultural center," said the Interlochen Center for the Arts president. "I think we continue to talk about the arts as an important part of our region, but I'm not sure we're putting policy and funding and economic strategy truly behind the arts."
Kimpton said ICA is one of the area's largest employers and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Yet it doesn't receive the "big chunks of money" some other Michigan arts organizations receive.
"Interlochen is the second-largest cultural organization in the state," he said. "We want to make sure the funding in equitable and that we can continue to be a force. It takes a village, it takes a state."
The arts administrator said he also resolves to work with leaders in the nonprofit sector to ensure that nonprofits and charitable deductions are not abandoned as the nation approaches solutions to the fiscal cliff.
"There's a movement to limit the amount of contributions you can donate or to eliminate them altogether," he said. "For any (arts organization), that would be a devastating blow, and a lot of organizations have not really recovered from the economy."
Finally, Kimpton said he resolves to help Interlochen Public Radio, named Public Radio Station of the Year by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters in 2007, 2008 and 2009, have a "fantastic celebration" of its 50th year of broadcasting." Plans so far call for a community party, a series of special broadcasts featuring interviews with people involved with the station over the years, and a website with former broadcasts going back half a century, he said.
"The big community celebration will be in July — a big community picnic in Traverse City," he said. "It's the base for a huge percentage of our listeners, so we thought it was an appropriate place to celebrate."
Dennos Museum Center and Old Town Playhouse leaders said their resolutions include seeking more ways to collaborate with fellow arts organizations to strengthen the cultural fabric of the community.
"The effort made by the Old Town Playhouse, Traverse Symphony Orchestra, City Opera House and Dennos to form TREAT for online ticketing several years ago was a great benefit for the community and the region that is now carried on via MyNorth tickets," said Gene Jenneman, Dennos executive director. "I think we have an opportunity for the organizations to do another project — perhaps 2013 can be the year.
"As far as the Dennos specifically, my goal, more than a resolution, is to continue to build our global opportunities as part of the larger global agenda for NMC, with programming that enhances the learning experience of ... community members and students," said Jenneman, who recently brought in artists and musicians from China and South Korea. "We're quite serious about global opportunities. We feel it's important to our future as an educational institution and important to our community in making us connected more globally and finding ways to connect people."
Phil Murphy, Old Town Playhouse executive director, has the longest list of resolutions.
"With some roll-up-the-sleeves-and-get-dirty elbow grease, I'm confident we will accomplish at least a couple of them, and move forward somewhat on all," said Murphy, whose list is topped by implementing recommendations from a recently completed feasibility study that will lead OTP to redefine its role in the community as it diversifies and grows, and to lay groundwork for the next 50 years.
Among the possibilities: a new or improved facility at its current Old Town location in the next decade. Other resolutions include improving audience experiences at performances, making the OTP Young Company a household name for area kids and their families, and building a better and potentially more fulfilling volunteer member experience which maintains high production values and enables community performers and "creatives" to improve their skills.
"A point of focus is engaging our senior and retired community with programming and learning opportunities that offer new outlets for their creative expression, in much the way the Young Company has served the children of the region," Murphy said.
Doug Stanton, author of the New York Times best sellers, "In Harm's Way" and "Horse Soldiers," is co-founder of the National Writers Series.
His goals for the organization in 2013 include expanding programming to include workshops for adults.
"We're doing it for high school students (through the Front Street Writers Studio) and we get constantly asked if we can do it for writers 25 and above," he said, noting that it's a matter of hiring writers-in-residence to conduct the workshops.
The organization also hopes to work more closely with the business community.
"Because we are monthly, we actually draw as many people as, say, the Comedy Fest does, but you don't realize it happens because it happens drop by drop," he said. "What we'd like to do is meet with different businesses downtown and figure out what could expand their business by using books and conversation."
Doug Stanton, author of the New York Times best sellers "In Harm's Way" and Horse Soldiers," and co-founder of the National Writers series, offered a more personal take on resolutions for 2013:
He wrote, "Swim at the Civic Center until spring. Write. Ski at VASA. Write. Ignore bullies and twits. Discourage censorship of bookstores. Ski. Enjoy this place we call home. Sit for several minutes one day. When he was here, Peter Matthiessen showed (wife) Anne and I how to 'sit' as he does at his zen school in Long Island, N.Y. I couldn't do it. By about breath number four, you're thinking: 'Lunch.' Resolution? Count to 10. Keep it simple. Write. Breathe. Repeat."