On Tuesday, May 2 at 4:30 pm Eastern Time, Professor Jim O’Connell, Dartmouth ’71, will be our guest for a Casual Conversation.  Jim is an active member of our Traveling Troupe which reads plays on Zoom on roughly a monthly basis.  Jim was a Drama and Government major at the College, and he remains a superb actor.
As you will read below, this becomes part of a two-fer with Margaret Talbot’s Casual Conversation on April 30. about the history of the performing arts in the 20th century through the lens of her father, and Warner Bros. contract player, Lyle Talbot.
His topic is as follows:

Overtaken by Events: Why do North American communities keep building performing arts centers for art forms that cannot sustain them?”
To anyone who partakes of the social experience of being part of an audience at a concert, play, dance recital, ballet, opera, or hootenanny should care about this subject.  So should anyone who is a taxpayer, since most of these venues now are paid for (to build, to maintain, or both) from the public fisc.   Shakespeare’s Globe, while it proved to be a serious fire hazard, was extraordinarily simple in design and operation.  The following is attributed to the playwright Lope de Vega:  All you need for theater is “three boards, two actors, and a passion.”  Do we need more?  And how much more?

Here is what Jim has to stay:
I’ve been fascinated by the 40-year cycle of building booms in North American performance facilities for my entire career. That is, every 40 years communities all over the country renovate or replace (or both) their event facilities:
 - 1880s - Opera Houses
 - 1920s - Movie Palaces
 - 1960s - Performing Arts Centers
 - 2000s - People Magnets
Phase 1 - Downtown Broadway Road Houses
Phase 2 - School/Community Performance Spaces

I’ve looked into the nature of the buildings and the artistic and social dynamics that led them to be built and, two generations later, to be replaced or repurposed. I also speculate about what key factors might influence the next generation of performance buildings, due in the 2040s.
And here is Jim’s very impressive bio, written in narrative fashion.  Let’s put it this way: He knows whereof he speaks!

I serve as Associate Professor and Coordinator of the undergraduate Arts Management program at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP). I hold an M.A. in Arts Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Graduate School of Business (Bolz Center) and an A.B. in Drama and Government from Dartmouth College. Drawing on 47 years spent on staff, managing and programming performing arts centers, I teach the fundamentals of arts management and courses in fundraising, the community and the arts, artistic planning, and nonprofit management.  

To remain current on organizations and opportunities in Wisconsin on behalf of my students, I serve as a regular grant review panelist for the Creation and Presentation Program of the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Community Arts Grant program of the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin. I was instrumental in the development of both those programs.

Among my service commitments at UWSP have been strategic planning, historic preservation, and two ad hoc working groups (reviewing institutional budget models and developing the hybrid teaching framework that was adopted for COVID). For the Department of Theatre and Dance, in which our Arts Management program is housed, I was a founding member of the Allyship/Advocacy/Access committee which developed the first comprehensive departmental anti-racism plan on campus.

My students have honored me with three University Leadership Mentor Awards and an Alliance of Multicultural Diversity Organizations Inclusive Excellence Award.

As a researcher, I am fascinated by the 40-year cycle of North American performance facility construction booms and have presented various aspects of this phenomenon at regional booking conferences and the 2017 AAAE Conference in Edinburgh. I have also become curious about the names by which we describe our field, including arts administration, arts management, and arts leadership. That exploration resulted in an essay for the Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society and a panel discussion at the 2019 AAAE Conference in Madison.  

I am currently co-treasurer and executive committee member of the Association of Arts Administration Educators. With my predecessor as treasurer, Julie Goodman of Drexel University, I co-authored a case study on the successful transition of the 2020 AAAE Conference from in-person to virtual. It is due to be published in a book of nonprofit cases this year.

Finally, I have a personal interest in this subject matter.  My grandfather, after whom I was named, founded six movie palaces in New York and New England in the late 1920s.  Three survive.  The Garde in New London CT was restored with substantial infusions of State funds.  It is a beautiful building and the inside has been lovingly preserved, the design being faux Moorish with sand and camels abounding.  The old Paramount in New Haven has been more preserved than restored and is now the College Street Music Hall.  The movie house in Springfield MA is in a state of suspension with restoration promised with (lots of) State funds.  I love visiting the Garde, as I did the Castro in San Francisco, and the Senator in Baltimore, and I was there for the Garde’s re-dedication as the family representative, but their time, and as a place for 2-3,000 audience members, has long past, even before the pandemic.

The usual rules apply.  Let me know by the Sunday before, April 30, whether you want to attend.  RSVP to arthur.fergenson@ansalaw.com .

I very much hope that each of you—and mean YOU!—will attend.  If you do, my grandfather thanks you, my mother thanks you, and my wife thanks you (with apologies to Jimmy Cagney)!


Event format
Event category