Museums, for their part, have had an easier ride: Surveys by the American Assn. of Museums and the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services show that museums of all sorts had 550 million visits in 1999 but that last year the total was 800 million.
"You can go at 10 a.m., 3 in the afternoon, sometimes after 10 at night," he says. "You can choose your own narrative: 'I'm going to spend five seconds in front of the Chagall and five minutes in front of the Picasso.' They are in sync with emerging customer expectations."
Pluck, flexibility and eagerness to innovate in the arts are fine things, but the strength of such intangibles against another "perfect storm" that sucks money from each pot that nonprofit arts groups need to tap is another mat- ter.
Ticket sales and other earned income account for half the revenue of the average nonprofit arts group, according to Americans for the Arts, a service and lobbying group for local government arts agencies.
Individual donors and the arts groups' endowments account for 35.5%; federal, state and local governments, a combined 7%; charitable foundations, 5%; and corporations, 2.5%. The National Endowment for the Arts may be the nation's highest-profile arts funder, but its $144-million budget packs just two-thirds the inflation-adjusted buying power the agency had at its 1992 peak.
Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, hopes that while government bails out banks and investment firms, it will dig down to preserve America's creative capital as well.
The danger in a time of crisis, he says, is that again, the arts will be seen as society's filigree, "just another area to cut in a bad economy."
"There's serious stress and anxiety," says Gibson of the performing arts presenters' association. "The [economic] shifts and changes we're seeing now are significant, they're perilous."
"Everyone is watching very carefully," says Scorca, the Opera America president. "My sense is there is silence in the room, and people are listening very carefully to whether the storm will hit or pass over."