Remembering Skip

Alvin 'Skip' Reiss

Skip Reiss: 1930-2013

I was saddened to hear that friend and colleague Alvin ‘Skip’ Reiss had passed away in February. He was 82.

Skip was a pioneer of arts management, capturing the evolution and events of the profession as a keen and curious observer. In addition to his Arts Management newsletter, which ran without interruption for 50 years (I’ve uploaded a PDF of the very first issue, from February 1962), he wrote multiple books, presented lectures, workshops, and discussions with young arts leaders, and recognized exceptional leadership through the Arts Management Awards.

I was fortunate to work closely with Skip as a co-publisher of the Arts Management newsletter for its final few years. He was among the most passionate, committed, and connected individuals I’ve met. He gave voice and perspective to arts and cultural management. That voice will be missed.

Skip was honored as a ‘Beautiful Mind’ back in 2011. So we’re all fortunate to have this short video of him describing how he stayed connected and vital throughout his life. You can also read his New York Times obituary here.

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Comments

  1. says

    Andrew – thank you so much for this tribute. I knew Skip very well also, and I know it was disappointing to him that he felt his seminal contributions to the field of arts management had been somewhat forgotten by the current generation. He was one of the founders of what became the Arts & Biusiness Council in NY, and besides publishing Arts Management, his Performing Arts Management Instiute training program was sort of the precursor to the many arts management training programs that are out there now. I spoke at PAMI for him many times, and also taught courses for him at the Marymount College arts administration program he used to run. He also did lots of training for the Arts & Business Council in NYC over the years. But my oldest connection to Skip is that he was a neighbor in the building I grew up in on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In the 1965 blackout I was trapped in our building’s elevator between floors (alone, as a young child – had been running a little errand to another apartment for my mother). Eventually I was rescued and pulled to safety on the 4th floor, where Skip and his wife lived and took care of me until my mother could collect me. We lived on the 14th floor and I had younger siblings so my mother was unable to leave the apartment to come down and get me for quite some time. Many years later, as I entered the field of arts management, Skip and I realized we had this connection from earlier in our lives. As you say, a great, passionate, committed leader and voice in our field, who will be missed deeply.

  2. says

    Gary, I remember you telling that story just before I got Skip on the phone for the first time. At that point in my career, I was trying to soak up every possible detail of how the field of arts management emerged and I was blown away by what Skip had done and the spirit that shone through it. I know Andrew is teaching about resilience in his classes and it’s a favorite topic of mine these days too. Skip was an early example of what resilience looked like in practice and I came to better understand the long game of cultural leadership through his lens.

  3. Randy Cohen says

    Thanks for the post, Andrew. I, too, connected regularly with Skip. Whenever I shared what I thought was an original idea or new initiative, Skip politely summoned forth from his expansive memory a plethora of examples going back to the 60s of similar work that had been accomplished long before. And, he had 50 years of newsletter examples to prove it! Skip is a humbling reminder to keep those who gave their time and industry before us both present and engaged.

  4. says

    Thanks for your post Andrew, and for all the comments. Skip was indeed an amazing man. I first met him when I did my graduate internship with the American Theatre Association (ATA is an organization that no longer exists but that’s not solely the fault of my internship work). He was on the board of ATA and I was quite intimidated by all the board members but Skip saw the new face in the room and immediately came over and introduced himself. He was kind, inclusive, and supportive — and a regular guy. I appreciated both his seriousness and his sense of humor.

  5. says

    I was fortunate enough to be honored by Skip at the Kennedy Center in 2000–one of the highlights of my professional career. He was indeed a pioneer in the field and I always read his newsletter with great interest. I got many good ideas from it and from him. Young people in arts management need to know about him. Skip was also a great traveller and I got to host him and his wife for lunch when they were here on a stop-over on the Delta Queen riverboat several years ago. I will miss him.

  6. says

    Thank you, Andrew, for your honoring Skip. I first spoke with him in 1970 when I was working on my MBA in Performing Arts Management. I called him up to get a complete set of the Arts Management newsletter. When he told me the price, I told him I would have to live on cereal. When He sent the newsletter, he sent a small box of raisins to make the cereal taste better. The raisins became a running joke between us for all this time. Every time I spoke at his workshops or taught a class for him, I would hand him a box of raisins to sy thank you for all he had done for our field and for me. He was joyful. We hugged regularly when we saw each other on the street here on the Upper West Side. He will be missed. Thank you, Skip, for plowing the path for the rest of us to follow and for the raisins!

  7. Michael Chang says

    Thank you for honoring Skip, Andrew. There are so many fond memories. His mentorship in my cultural and educational tourism work and arts management adventures has been invaluable. He will be missed.

  8. says

    Thanks for this tribute. I had the chance to attend PAMI 27 and that experience helped me start and manage, for 10 years, a theater of my own. I will always be grateful of the knowledge Skip imparted so well.