Friday, November 02, 2007

Note to Larry Wilker, new CEO of Miami's Carnival Center of the Performing Arts: Miami has no bookstores

Talk about dark energy (aka "irony"). Today's Miami Herald reports that the city, home of the largest book fair in the country if not the world, hasn't one bookstore. The paper asks:

"Can Miami claim to be a center of arts, culture and commerce without a major bookstore in its city limits? How can a city have a new half-billion dollar performing arts center but no bookstore?"

Good questions. The reasons given for that are the same reasons why finding what sells at the troubled Carnival Center will not reflect traditional productions of the past because most of the population doesn't speak English and probably hasn't read a book since it was required to in high school.

And it's not like its going to get any better. The Naples Daily News reports that the dropout rate from Florida high schools has never been worse. Half of the state's high schools are considered "Dropout Factories." This is four times the national average. In Miami-Dade, 13 high schools are considered to be "Dropout Factories" including one middle school. What was most shocking to those of us who have lived here longer than most was that once A-list high schools are now on that list: Miami Beach and Coral Gables.

What happened? A whole slew of things of which we won't get into here, but the main thing to consider is that the general population-- despite the big, gleaming half billion dollar performing arts center sitting smack dab in the middle of it-- doesn't care about the arts, i.e., the traditional forms of opera, ballet, live theatre, and symphonies. According to the experts, they even have an aversion to Broadway.

So, short of forcing them to board buses at gun point to be driven to Carnival Center to see a show, Mr. Wilker is going to have his work cut out for him.

Perhaps the only way to fill those empty but very expensive seats is to give everyone living in Miami-Dade county a graduated rebate on property taxes or the cost of obtaining a driver's license depending upon how many shows they can show they saw. For instance, if you show up to get your driver's license and can show proof of purchase of say, five tickets to the opera, you get half-off the cost of the license (since opera tixs are the most expensive, a better deal might be five tixs = a free driver's license). Or, the more tickets you buy for any program at Carnival, the less tolls you have to pay on our clogged highways (this could be discounted through a computer tie-in with the county's SunPass program).

Hey, these are just some ideas and they're all free from your friends at MVB-- unlike Wilker (and his sidekick Scott Shiller) who will be getting $40,000 a month to come up with something better. Unless you want to dumb down culture or, as Carnival's board of trustees chairman suggested, "let the audience decide," what other options do you have?

UpDate (11/3): Today's Miami Herald reports that Justin Macdonnel, the programming director, resigned yesterday. Wilker will assume that roll. Part of Wilker's plan to save the center is to produce more original programming-- the opposite approach of Michael Hardy whom he replaced. Hardy thought the only way to cut expenses was to stop producing. Wilker's "inclination is to present more...otherwise you're just a renter."

What does this all mean? Coupled with the head of the board of trustees prime directive to "let the audience decide" on programming, it will be interesting to see what Wilker wroughts.

UpDate (5/15/08): 6,400 south Florida high school kids (that's 1 in 5 Dade seniors) won't graduate this spring because they couldn't pass FCAT. Considering what it takes to pass-- students don't even have to show they are working at a 10th-grade level (passing scores are lower than that)-- it's worse than you can imagine.


Anonymous said...

Not a bad idea-- as long as that also includes all of the other venues out there-- small theatres, etc.

Verticus S. Erectus said...

Of course, but we believe more monetary incentive should go to those who support Carnival. Every dollar spent at Carnival, for instance, would count double.