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Building for the Arts

The Strategic Design of Cultural Facilities

Over the past two decades, the arts in America have experienced an unprecedented building boom, with more than sixteen billion dollars directed to the building, expansion, and renovation of museums, theaters, symphony halls, opera houses, and centers for the visual and performing arts. Among the projects that emerged from the boom were many brilliant successes. Others, like the striking addition of the Quadracci Pavilion to the Milwaukee Art Museum, brought international renown but also tens of millions of dollars of off-budget debt while offering scarce additional benefit to the arts and embodying the cultural sector’s worst fears that the arts themselves were being displaced by the big, status-driven architecture projects built to contain them.
With Building for the Arts, Peter Frumkin and Ana Kolendo explore how artistic vision, funding partnerships, and institutional culture work together—or fail to—throughout the process of major cultural construction projects. Drawing on detailed case studies and in-depth interviews at museums and other cultural institutions varying in size and funding arrangements, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Atlanta Opera, and AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Frumkin and Kolendo analyze the decision-making considerations and challenges and identify four factors whose alignment characterizes the most successful and sustainable of the projects discussed: institutional requirements, capacity of the institution to manage the project while maintaining ongoing operations, community interest and support, and sufficient sources of funding. How and whether these factors are strategically aligned in the design and execution of a building initiative, the authors argue, can lead an organization to either thrive or fail. The book closes with an analysis of specific tactics that can enhance the chances of a project’s success.

A practical guide grounded in the latest scholarship on nonprofit strategy and governance, Building for the Arts will be an invaluable resource for professional arts staff and management, trustees of arts organizations, development professionals, and donors, as well as those who study and seek to understand them.

288 pages | 19 halftones, 4 figures, 7 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2014

Art: Art--General Studies

Economics and Business: Business--Business Economics and Management Studies

Sociology: Sociology of Arts--Leisure, Sports


“Are large-scale building projects good for the arts? And why do so many go so horribly wrong? These are some of the questions that Peter Frumkin and Ana Kolendo address in Building for the Arts. The authors bring to life the processes by which decisions get made with compelling interviews and colorful characters, revealing a tangled web of internal politics, personal ambitions, miscalculations, community conflict, and public relations fiascos. Throughout, they provide thoughtful analysis to help planners and project directors think about how to approach decisions along the way. Their book should be essential for arts and public administration programs.”

Steven J. Tepper, dean, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University

“Freakonomics meets facilities planning. Through incisive case studies and insightful analysis of decision making, Peter Frumkin and Ana Kolendo shine a bright light on why cultural building projects often go awry and show how a deeper (and earlier) understanding of the logic of the situation can contribute to happier endings. Important reading for anyone—professional, board member, or funder—who comes within a mile of one of these demanding, multifaceted projects.”

Adrian Ellis, AEA Consulting

Building for the Arts makes a valuable contribution to the field of arts management by addressing a topic—how arts organizations make the difficult decision to launch major, new building projects—on which there is relatively little research and for which the financial, institutional, and community stakes of ‘getting it right’ are high. The authors present well-written case studies, including both success stories and cautionary tales of projects gone awry—to remind the reader that strategic facility design is an interactive process that can move into and out of alignment at different times.”

Margaret J. Wyszomirski, Ohio State University

“The central question of Building for the Arts is whether the cultural infrastructure in the United States is overbuilt. Organized around the topics of funding, the relationship between institution and community, mission, and organizational capacity, this volume explores how cultural organizations can put themselves in peril by overextending their reach and embarking on unsustainable building campaigns. . . . Recommended.”


“Frumkin and Kolendo have produced a fine study of the complexities of undertaking capital projects in the arts. Building for the Arts is timely, relevant, and engaging for nonprofit scholars, executives of arts organizations, and foundation program officers. Moreover, any community member who is interested in participating in the arts as a donor, board member, subscriber, or audience member will benefit from reading this book. Everyone will enjoy gaining a deeper understanding of how best to achieve strategic alignment that will give a proposed building project the greatest opportunity for success.”

Voluntas: International Society for Third-Sector Research

"A valuable resource for practitioners in the arts world, . . . [Building for the Arts] provides illuminating descriptive narratives, going behind the scenes to graphically document the organizational politics of decision making and organizational strategy and action in connection with planning, fund-raising, and capital campaigns, building design, programming, and connecting with audiences and local communities. All of these are essential dimensions of professional practice in art organizations."

American Journal of Sociology

“Building for the Arts makes a significant and much-needed contribution to the broader arts management literature.”

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

Table of Contents


1. The Idea of Strategic Design
2. Elements of the Building Decision
3. Seeking Funding
4. Connecting to Community
5. Growing Operational Capacity
6. Refining Mission
7. Seeking Strategic Alignment
8. Better Building for the Arts


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