This is an email exchange I had yesterday that I thought you might be able to use or learn from, too. I've withheld names and town details, but otherwise have not edited it.
Becky, We are very interested in your professional opinion on any research or experience on the success of these small theaters in small communities.
We have a city manager that put 25,000 on property with out anyone knowing about. He then springs it on the community of his intentions. We would like some help or direction that will shed light on how good of a investment this is for our community if it all. I did not see this as one of your top 20 business's to open.
We have a city meeting this Wednesday and if possible we would greatly appreciate your input.
Our position it is not a good investment for us. We would rather see clean green industry come to our community that supports full time employees and benefits. Currently we have no such industry. What we are afraid as we all are, having something shoved down our pocket books in this poor economy. Currently we have more business's going out of business than opening.
We also want to sure this is not some GOOD OLD BOY DEAL BEHIND DOORS.
Thank you for your reply.
Can small theaters be a success in small communities? Yes, wholeheartedly. Small community-owned theaters can be a heart of interaction, give you a place to showcase local talent, and spur the development of your local arts assets.
Will your community make a success of one? Probably not. Because it seems like there is a major problem standing in your way. That problem is the attitude of the people.
Just from the little you have told me, the individuals in your community are struggling against working together. It's the council versus the manager, the theater versus jobs, outside experts versus locals. I've seen too many communities where fights like this sap the energy that is desperately needed for positive changes. You must address this problem right now.
Here's the secret of the "us versus them" "council versus manager" "arts versus jobs" fights that you have going on: they will kill your town. Digging in and fortifying your position will only make the decline go faster.
There is no "them," there is only us. There is you. Each of you on the council. You the manager. You the artists. You the business people. You the coffee drinkers. You the young people. You the unemployed. You. You. YOU.
You are all in this together.
I suggest you sit down and decide right now that you will work together. Just start with going over calendars and plans for the year. Get some outside help to make these meeting civil. What do you want to be? Where are you going together? How will you get there? How will you balance arts versus jobs? How will you support new businesses and grow your local entrepreneurs? What will make your community the place you want to live 10 years from now?
Why do I share this with you?
Because your town's future is too important to let fights tear you apart. I don't want your town to go down this road.
Three things you can do right now to start the change:
- Start changing the trajectory of your town by building community.
- Embrace and teach the attitudes to succeed in a small town.
- Build more cooperation in your community by getting groups together to share calendars regularly.