by Jennifer Agoston
The story is now local lore in New Orleans. In 1992, the New Orleans Symphony was facing some hard times and on the verge of bankruptcy. A few dedicated musicians from the group were struggling to find a way to keep from disbanding and leaving the city without a major symphony orchestra. They decided to approach the Arts Council of New Orleans for help.
The timing couldn't have been better. The Council was conducting research on the feasibility of starting a special focus business incubator for local artists and nonprofit arts organizations, and the musical group was the perfect example of an arts group that could benefit from such a program.
The orchestra became the first tenant of the Entergy Arts Business Center (EABC), a facility that would help arts organizations and individual artists and performers who needed guidance on how to turn their talents into money-making ventures. The orchestra members were not initially enthusiastic about developing a business plan, but they soon realized its worth. With the help of EABC, the symphony underwent a complete facelift and renamed itself the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO). The musicians became the owners of the organization and even agreed to forego being paid until the orchestra could become financially stable. The players eventually hired their own staff and a music director, a radical move for a symphony, and soon they found themselves back on stage.
Today, thanks to the services and guidance of EABC, LPO is making music for New Orleans-area residents while operating on a $3 million budget. It was named an NBIA Client of the Year in 1995 and has since graduated from the program and occupies an entire floor in a building adjacent to the incubator.
LPO is just one of the success stories to come out of the Entergy Arts Business Center. By leveraging community resources and partnering with local arts and business professionals the incubator has helped hundreds of fledgling arts entrepreneurs develop into successful businesspeople, and in the community in the New Orleans area. EABC's innovative approach to helping entrepreneurs with a special focus and unique needs has earned it the distinction of the 1999 Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year award, NBIA's highest honor.
Keywords: arts incubator, best practices, partnerships -- organizational/corporate
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