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Responses, 2-11: Terminated
Mullins, Fontaine, & White on Sandstrom; White on White; Dorfman on
NJ Gov's Arts Attack
On the planned termination
of Philip Sandstrom as Theater Operations Director of Dance Theater
I learned the shocking
news about Phil Sandstrom's firing from your rant. I read the response letters and still feel the major question
has not yet been answered.
Sure, a financial crisis
must lead to cut-backs. David White's letter convinced me that the
suggestion to fire one of the two curators was no solution. But
why Phil? It seems both unwise and unfair. And the timing, right
after the new theater opened, seems incredibly cynical and cruel.
How much discussion was there about other solutions? Couldn't all
these bright people get together and figure out some solution more
equitable -- a shared cut in salary or hours or something? It cannot
just be about money. What then? Tell us.
His dedication to DTW
cannot be questioned. He was always working. And in the last couple
of years to a superhuman degree -- getting the new theater built,
equipped and running.
At this point he must
know more about the new theater than anyone. I feel the new theater
will probably never achieve its full potential without Phil overseeing
its fine tuning as it operates. Too bad for DTW. Too bad for all
of us. I believe DTW will soon rue the day they lost the chance
to have his intelligence, experience, organizational ability, knowledge
and dedication. Countless problems requiring his innovative solutions
have come up. New ones will inevitably arrive.
I have enjoyed hearing
artists tell him how much they liked the warm floors or some other
aspect that he worked so hard to get. He listens to dancers. But
dancers can't complain much about this situation. They might lose
their chance to dance in the beautiful new theater he devoted so
And I would still like
to hear the real story.
Thanks for the Buzz
on the unjust firing of Phil.... Is Mr. White planning to leave
DTW soon? Is it possible that Mr. White could leave DTW with Phil,
the heart and soul of DTW's theatre department, still carrying on?
Phil has been the production
manager at DTW for 22 years. He has enabled DTW to work with very
few resources. How does firing Phil make economic sense? Thank you
for questioning Mr. White's statement that the bottom line is his
reason for letting Phil go.
With the opening of
the new theatre the position of "Theater Operations Director" was
created to reflect Phil's real worth. DTW's theater is bigger and
has more production demands placed on the staff than it previously
had. Mr. White and the board approved the restructuring of Phil's
title just six months ago. Phil hired a Production Manager and Technical
Director at that time. Has the economic downturn been so quick that
the board and Mr. White could not have informed Phil six months
ago that DTW would not be able to expand to a three person staff?
If Phil could have anticipated that by taking on the just created
position of Director of Operations, he would be let go if budget
cuts were necessary, one cannot imagine that he would have accepted
his new title. Mr. White's economic argument for the elimination
of the position of the Theater Operations Director is implausible.
Why not just let the newly hired Production Manager go and return
Phil to his position as Production Manager? Mr. White and the DTW
board want Phil out, the question is why?
DTW's new theater has
twice the equipment, twice the height and twice the responsibility
to be a great space for the artist's of NYC. It does not seem plausible
that Phil, who has spent his life making it possible for Mr. White
to have one of the best modern dance theatre venues in the world,
is fired for pure economic reasons. Phil is trusted by a generation
of artists to make sure that they have great shows. Why would Mr.
White want to loose this treasure? If DTW's production staff is
to go back to two people, why fire the employee who is the most
knowledgeable and valuable resource?
I don't want to continue
to debate every issue regarding Philip's departure from the staff
later this spring. But I want to reiterate to Dave Feldman that I alone made this decision -- not
the board -- and only after a long and very difficult consideration
of DTW in the post-construction environment. The head-hunting should
stop with me. I would say also that DTW has been doing intensive
long-range financial planning since the purchase of the property
in late 1995 -- early on, DTW's finance and real estate committees,
including both board and key staff members, plotted the implications
of design and construction, as well as of the financing costs inherent
in a capital campaign, on the future operating expenses. We haven't
done this simply for kicks -- we've had to provide minute detail
on projected expenses, income, and the gap between them over time
to every institutional funder, to the Non-profit Finance Fund, to
the Kresge Foundation and to many others involved in making this
happen. I don't want to speak for any of those institutions, but
I'm pretty sure the people who have dealt with DTW on the numbers
have been impressed with DTW's effort and the transparency of the
We have known for several
years what the opening season (FY 2002-03) would look like, and
the projections have been pretty much on target, as was our construction
budget. And that included a clear understanding that the 2003-2006
period would be a transitional period, as we ramped up to assume
the costs of a facility that is four times the size of the old DTW
(including studios, offices, media lab, and gallery in addition
to the theater itself). That we would have to work on both the expense
and income sides of the transition was a given. Everybody at DTW,
Phil included, has been keenly aware of that obligation.
As for fat in the budget,
I just want to remind Dave and everyone else, being a working theater
is only part of what DTW does. We provide services to nearly 1,000
artists; run significant, long-term networking projects; provide
stipends and fellowships; and other projects -- for each of which,
by the way, we raise separate monies. Money to produce artists in
the theater is not, and could not be, the same funding as for the
Mekong Project or for Public Imaginations. We have been around for
37 years, and in all these ways we are a bigger organization because
we have survived and done all our jobs.
DTW's present and future
have to be managed, in its programs, its departments and its entirety.
We are no longer simply, or not so simply, building a building,
but instead putting our mission, and our artists, back into that
building. I don't expect everyone to understand, much less like,
some of the decisions I have to make. And inevitably there are human
and management dimensions that I simply won't discuss, out of respect
for others. But none of those decisions have been, are or will be
made recklessly. Each has extremely serious reasons behind it, and
equally serious soul-searching -- no one should underestimate the
pain or compassion that accompanies the process.
Editor's Note: We also asked David White to address his own future
at DTW, as well as possible scenarios for leadership which would
succeed him should he leave the organization. His response follows.
Sorry I don't know what
to say, because I don't have a story to tell at the moment. It's
clear, as in the past, you'll tell whatever story you want to tell.
I will say that as regards any kind of eventual succession at DTW
(which needs in any event to happen in anticipation of anything
from cardiac arrest to being hit by a bus), however it takes place
sooner or later, I can say that I will only be part of that process,
and that it hasn't begun. Once again, you might not want to hype
the non-facts. Also, as regards me, a lot of this appears to be
old news and the result of my open discussions over recent years
with people in and out of DTW. Obviously, we're not in the business
of keeping secrets as we think about the future.
On New Jersey governor's plan to eliminate state arts budget
Thank you for your interest
in how the governor's FY 2004 budget proposal will affect the New
Jersey's arts community and in particular, my company's artistic
and educational programming and community impact.
The elimination of grant
funding, along with the elimination of the entire arts infrastructure
including all staff related to the New Jersey State Council for
the Arts, NJ Cultural Trust and the NJ Historical Society are shocking,
senseless and a true indication of this governor's values and priorities.
I am sure that you have been given all of the statistics and information
that confirms the true value of the arts in our society and in particular,
NJ, but I will share a story. Today I sat at a meeting at which
the secretary of state of NJ, Regina Thomas, addressed leaders of
the arts community. I asked, "Is our statement provided by ArtPride
true? Do the arts actually bring in $10 in state revenue for every
$1 spent or invested by the state?" She said yes! I replied, "That
is quite an extraordinary return on an investment. What sense does
it make to end this revenue source that also has enormous public
benefit in every arena, including economics, urban revitalization,
education, quality of life, cross-cultural understanding and the
humanizing effect of the arts on our people?" There was no answer.
She basically advised us to kick and scream our case to the legislature.
And, with great intelligence, planning and passion we will.
What will the impact
of zero state money be on Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company? Devastating.
It will mean cuts in artistic development and programming, fewer
weeks of work for artists, less all around programming and innovative
partnerships with other cultural, educational and community partners
to bring the arts/dance to audiences throughout the state and on
tour. Less arts education programming, in short, less impact on
the audiences, students and communities we connect with each year.
I create to speak. I create to share my work, its perspectives and
human journeys with audiences. Cutting presenters' budgets will
make producing dance in this state come to a virtual standstill.
It is already tough and there will be no risks taken. The public
perception of arts in this state will nose dive again. Raising other
monies will be extremely difficult with "ZERO VALUE" placed on the
arts by our governor and state leaders. Our "Discover New Jersey
Arts" campaign may take a new twist. Someone suggested that it will
need to say at the bottom: "But you'll need to go to NY and Philly
Make no mistake -- we
will survive. We will create and produce and we will suffer and
survive the worst blow to the arts community since the last time
a Democratic governor took office. (Amazing.) We are also going
to be part of the fight to regain what is critical to solutions
for NJ's difficulties.
Thanks for your support.
Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company
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