Got Spaulding?

The same publicity firm, Weber Shandwick, that launched the “got milk?” campaign is doing damage control for Citi Performing Arts Center and its beleaguered Chairman and CEO Josiah Spaulding, Jr. Perhaps a recent Boston Globe editorial calling for Spaulding to be replaced was the last straw. WS has sent out an image-repair “open letter” to about 15,000 of the CPAC subscribers, donors, and assorted journalists. It should be no surprise that the missive proclaims that CPAC is just thrilled to have the “visionary” Spaulding and that, after presiding over five years of budget shortfalls, he is staying put. Bill Marx

Why did Spaulding receive a retention bonus, which started accruing since 2001 and paid off this year to the tune of 1.265 million dollars? Among other factors — increased competition from giant for-profit players such as Clear Channel and the refurbished Opera House — the board wanted to fend off “heavy recruiting from national performing arts centers with CEO vacancies.” Sure, that makes sense. Other nonprofit arts centers, admiring Spaulding’s winning ways, such as importing the Rockettes and presiding over budget overruns, must have been standing in line to snag him.

Somewhere Spaulding is smiling, without a milk mustache, hugging his bonus check.

Regarding the drastic budget cut for Shakespeare on the Common, the letter explains “the Center has invested more than $4 million in Free Shakespeare over the last five years but faces an accumulated loss on production-related expenses during that time of $1.366 million.” Who oversaw the budgets for Free Shakespeare during that period? Surely the CPAC CEO is supposed to supply financial oversight and discipline – along with “integrity, energy and drive.”

As in most corporate airbrush jobs, what the letter doesn’t say is more revealing than what it does. Transparency is trumpeted, but we hear little about the vaunted secret plan to turn CPAC into a “virtual performing arts center.” Here is the closest we get:

“Two years ago, the Board of Trustees of the then Wang Center embarked on a comprehensive strategic planning process to refocus the Center’s programs and operations. The strategic plan envisions collaborations with many other arts and educational organizations, more self-funding programs, and technology upgrades to better serve our customers, among other initiatives.”

There is nothing more about the nebulous scheme on the CPAC website. Those wondering about what concrete steps the organization is taking to insure its future have only this valentine, along with some similarly vague news reports, to go on. And the assurance that Spaulding is going to remain in charge.

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