The Great Hibernation is Over

HibernationEconomists appear to have concluded that the “Great Recession” that began in December, 2007 officially ended in June, 2009.

So, what shall we in the arts & cultural sector call the pro-longed period of hunkered-down existence that we’ve endured ever since?

For more than six years, we’ve persevered in the face of withered philanthropy, slashed public funding, preempted corporate sponsorship and the contraction of consumer spending.

We – our staff, leadership and volunteers – have responded with every bit of tenacity, penny-pinching, artistic creativity and painful decision making that we can muster.  We haven’t talked about “cutting the fat” from our budgets for years – because there hasn’t been any fat for a very long time.   We’ve endeavored to protect what’s sacred about our organization’s artistic mission and the quality of audience experience that we deliver.

Is our long winter over?  Perhaps, not yet.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s not time to “wake up.”

How many people in your organization have worked there – or elsewhere in the nonprofit arts & cultural sector for less than 10 years?  How many of your organization’s Board members served in such a volunteer leadership capacity only since the economic downturn of 2007?  How many executive and senior management leaders rose to their positions in recent years and have never experienced leadership in anything other than “tough times.”

That’s practically an entire generation of arts & cultural leaders who have only known existence “in winter.”

It’s time to be mindful of the need for a great awakening.  (And as I travel the country, I’m discovering evidence of it happening everywhere!)  I look forward to citing examples – MANY EXAMPLES – in future posts.

It’s time to embolden ourselves and our organizations.  It’s time to invigorate our mission statements and strategic plans.  It’s time to champion a vision of what our towns and cities can – AND SHOULD – be with arts appreciation and cultural experience asserted as essential community values.  It’s time to champion forge innovative partnerships, business models and technological advancements.

Yes, there’s still snow on the ground and the landscape is less hospitable than it was before.  But the promise of “Spring” is in the air.  The arts & cultural sector is fast approaching its season of renewal and revitalization – of the blossoming of artistic potential and entrepreneurial opportunity in service to our audiences and communities.

The Great Hibernation is over.  Possibilities are again in season.

Ambition welcome.



Matt is on the road teaching arts & cultural leaders how to get smarter, grow stronger & gain audiences.  One participant recently called his Audiences Everywhere™ workshop, “Mind-opening, rut-clearing, possibility renewing.”

Check out where & when: – or contact Matt directly at to schedule a visit to YOUR community.

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  1. MWnyc says

    Really, Matt, we’re not only talking about since 2007; we in the arts in the U.S. went through a similar, though shorter and less deep, period of trouble after 2001.

    The ’00s was the first time within living memory that we had two stock market crashes inside of a decade. How many of the people we now have in leadership positions were already in leadership during the late ’90s? Some, but not many.

    Problem is, we could still have another crash all too easily. Should artists and arts organizations be supporting financial re-regulation?