I am a native of Atlanta and know well the history of the Atlanta Memorial Art Center as one of my relatives was killed in the Orly Plane crash. These were cultural leaders who died trying to bring some culture and art into their new beloved city. The Atlanta Memorial Arts Center was built to honor those who died and to create cultural awareness in our city. Management of a large city orchestra and its parent company WAC should step back and think about the origins of The Atlanta Memorial Arts Center and what it meant and means to us.
This is one reason I am so horribly disappointed that the WAC and the ASO have come to the point where they are using the artists, who are the reason citizens of this city come to the arts center, as the scapegoats in their financial debacle. The artists do not make budgetary decisions on guest soloists and conductors. They are not the ones who decided to build Verizon even though they already had years of proof with Chastain that it would not be a moneymaker. These decisions rest entirely with the top managers who certainly seem to have comfortable salaries and bonuses.
Nor was it the musicians’ choice to be stuck playing in antiquated Symphony Hall.
This multi-purpose hall still looks the way I remember it looking like back in the late 60s! The over the top design for the new hall never made it off the ground. I’m sure the architect, Calatrava as wonderfully talented and famous as he is didn’t come cheap. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if real thought, planning, and a practical budget had gone into designing a new space, which could have been a reasonably attainable goal? Then perhaps Atlanta audiences could experience the true sound of our orchestra. I heard a different orchestra when they played Carnegie Hall. I was astounded that we have an orchestra of such talent, but they are left to play in the horrible acoustics of our multi-purpose Symphony Hall, which looks all too similar to school auditoriums and joint cafeterias all the way down to the flag in the corner and the vanilla paint. Until very recently the conductor of our world renown orchestra conducted from a stand made of plywood. While that has finally been upgraded, the orchestra members still sit on unpainted plywood platforms. This is how our musicians are treated. Atlanta has no idea of the talent we are so fortunate to have. An orchestra such as this takes many years of practice and of being together in order to blend and to anticipate each other’s reactions to produce the kind of sound we are privileged to hear. It seems the WAC has been able to remodel its offices twice in the not so distant past yet Symphony Hall, which the ASO has RENTED from WAC for almost 50 years, is left with nothing.
So is it any wonder that of course all the deficits and financial difficulties are put on the musicians. For the musicians’ proposals and supporters’ questions and desires for this unfortunate and futile lock out to end, the only response from management is the same rote version, carefully worded with miscalculated errors, which neglect to tell the real story. The musicians received raises, which they then gave back, twice I believe in 2009 and in 2010. But there is no mention of those sacrifices. Did the ASO management also give back raises? I’m betting no. You talk about what you provide for the musicians, what about their instruments? Instruments are not provided like businesses provide computers, cars, homes and expense accounts. Do you realize the cost of their instruments would make most corporations weak in the knees just thinking about the cost of even relatively good instruments, not to mention the phenomenal instruments we have the opportunity to hear played with decades of experience. This country is tired of greedy management who waste money and spends unwisely and then blames others to get away with their mistakes. You all paint a picture of musicians who hardly work for their money and get everything in return. So, whom are you all going to get to take their places when the crème of the ASO leave for other orchestras where they will be appreciated? Do you think audiences will flock to a small pared down orchestra? Do you think the arts in Atlanta will be a selling point for tourists and business travelers and companies?
The Atlanta we so enjoy today is because of men like Robert Woodruff, Richard Rich and Ivan Allen. These men made Atlanta a place to love and be proud of. They believed in what was good for Atlanta was good for them – the businessmen of Atlanta were the business leaders of Atlanta who generously donated to charitable and civic organizations. Now… it is all “what is in it for me?” No wonder Atlanta is no longer a place to be proud of, a place that business is fighting to move to, or a place where the arts – a gracious form of entertainment that has been loved for centuries is now something that if lost,” isn’t a big deal”?
So, the musicians offered to again take a cut in pay, but why is it so unreasonable for management to do the same. If not all management then the one’s at the top. How about doing what Ivan Allen would do at meetings. He would have Robert Woodruff’s generous support then all the rest of the movers and shakers of the city would happily join in to contribute, because it is the right thing to do. Surely you all should be able to think of other solutions. Sell the property for the new hall that has no plans to be built, sell Verizon Wireless and court and inspire more corporate donors. If anyone should be able to do this I would think it would be the Woodruff Arts Center. You all should be able to appreciate the irony of how in 2012, 50 years after the Orly plane crash, it is the Woodruff Art Center management who will change and possibly destroy the art and culture started in the building you are custodians of. The very building that was built to encourage the arts and lead Atlanta in appreciation and love of great artistic talent. I hope you all can be proud and live with your legacy.
Patron of the Art