Working Together

So today was my first day of work. I had already gone through the introductions and the paperwork filling out phase of the job over the course of the last week or so when I wandered on to campus to use the computers to search for housing, etc.

Today was taken up looking over the piles of papers and handbooks on my desk to find out what sort of job I actually agreed to do. Then there was the long discussions on what the heck it all meant. Fortunately, the interim director was available to discuss some of the more confusing parts.

One of the more confusing sections which was worth learning about was the way the various arts organizations on the islands work out block booking arrangements. The formed an organizations called the Performing Arts Presenters of Hawaii (PAPH) When they go to the booking conferences, one person concentrates on theatre offerings, another on dance, another on jazz, etc and reports back to the group on what they saw.

Later the members decide what acts they are interested in presenting and discuss who will approach the agents with the offer from the interested members of PAPH. They have worked out a whole system of how airfare, hotels, car rentals, etc and even assess a fee that is paid to the member who books the act on behalf of the others.

Not all members of the group participate equally or coordinate closely with the others and will in fact, make their own arrangements. However, the way the members coordinate to reduce their costs can provide a good example for others. The PAPH people do it out of necessity given that airfare adds so much more to the asking cost than someone driving through the region on the way to another gig might. So just think how much more mainland arts organizations could save if they coordinated so an artist was guaranteed work and had the hotels secured as she drove from Boston to NY to Philly to DC to Raleigh, etc.

One thing that surprised me too was that the PAPH members block booked within close proximity to each other. It stands to reason that an organization on Maui wouldn’t share the same audience as one on O’ahu. However, some of the acts my predecessor booked are performing one night for me and then on the other side of the island the next night. Now granted, it is a 45 minute to hour drive to the other venue even without traffic, but that was something that was really never done when I was on the mainland—and there are far more people in a 45 minute geographic radius on the mainland than on my island.

Somehow it works and it works well which again makes me suggest that other locales consider it too.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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