After more than 18 months of scrupulous planning, a new coalition of metropolitan area arts groups will be put ot the test of whether it can iron out divisions between city and suburban, black and white, big and small factions - and at the same time act as an advocate for the arts.
The 22-member planning committee of the new Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington expects the alliance to prevent rival arts groups from bumping heads unnecessarily and to keep large groups from swallowing up small organizations.
Alliance goals for the first year include:
Establishment of a clearinghouse to provide a calendar of events as much as a year in advance so as to head off conflicting dates between groups.
Introduction of central cooperative purchasing to allow members to buy supplies, contract services or advertising in bulk and thus save through reduced rates.
Development of the role of advocate for the arts by speaking out as gadfly on cultural issues to government, business, labor and the media.
Provisions of seminars and workshops to inform members about fiscal and management techniques, legal services and uniform accounting systems.
Right now charter membership is open to all non-profit cultural institutions for a $25 fee. Individual memberships are $5. Eventually, non-voting associate and supporting memberships will be open to businesses, labor and other organizations.
"We found deep divisions in the arts community when we started the first meetings in early 1975," said Atlee Shidler, president of the Washington Center for Metropolitan Studies, the urban research group that helped lay the groundwork for the alliance.
He said sharp lines were drawn between city and suburb, local and national and black and white. The black-white questions centered around the question of whether there was going to be united arts campaign funding, he said, a device that would have helped well-known white groups but ignored tiny black groups.
Other factions thought the small groups such as Capitol Ballet would be engulfed by larger groups like the Kennedy Carter - that they would be "Kennedized."
And John Kinard, director of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, led the fight for the alliance being city-focused. "John's insistence on discussing the District as opposed to the suburbs was very good for thoroughly airing the problem," said Shirdler.
Commented Kinard: "I thought the city groups should be helped first. My original thought was that both city and suburbs go separetely. I didn't think that enough attention would be given to Washington community groups."
Shirley Udelson, director of cultural arts of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, said she was skeptical initially about how the city and suburban groups would cooperate. "The first meeting I went to I thought there was too much divisiveness," she recalled. "There were too many groups fighting for themselves."
But at later meetings she said she's witnessed "a whole impression of working together toward a common goal."
What Udelson also saw was the committee deciding that the alliancec would work from the city outward and that there would be equal treatment of small and large organizations.
The Washington alliance has been modeled on similar ones in Philadelphia and Boston, both of which were organized in 1972 and have been successful in serving organizations.
Lewis said the local group will strictly follow a basic rule of the Philadelphia and Boston alliances: It will not become a fund-raising organization, since that would divert its energies toward an area member groups can do better on their own.
The idea of forming cultural alliances has been spreading throughout the country in recent years, said Putsch.
"In most areas the bodies are called community arts councils," he explained. "There are about 70 around the country. But they differ from the Philadelphia and Boston alliances in thet they are under control of a board of directors who are not directly connected to professional arts groups.
"In some cases the people are dilettantes. Some of the groups are based on united fund notions, others on government. In St. Paul and Seattle the arts group is run out of the office of the mayor.
"There's a need for a private sector voice who can go to the city council. Government can't lobby government. In the ideal situation, you nee dboth - a government unit and private sector unit."
The local government toward establishing a cultural alliance began shortly after a speech by Nancy Hanks, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, in which she urged cooperation among administrators, patrons and creators.
A group of people, including Patrick Hayes, managing director of the Washington Performing Arts Society, who had been trying to organize a united arts fund, turned their efforts toward building a cultural alliance.
The planning committee expects the alliance will be fully operational in early 1978 with a $80.000 budget, three fulltime staffers and a dues and fee schedule that will provide 20 per cent of the operating funds by the second year.