Susan T. Danis, Noted Arts Fundraiser, Named Florida Grand Opera's New General Director

Florida Grand Opera named a successor to Robert M. Heuer, its CEO of 27 years, yesterday. After an exhaustive search spanning the globe, the company has appointed Susan T. Danis, executive director of Sarasota Opera, as his replacement.

The announcement touts Danis' 20 years of experience in arts administration, but also makes clear that one of Danis' most important qualifications, from FGO's perspective, is her proven fundraising ability -- a skill more and more highly prized amongst traditional arts organizations struggling to prove their relevancy to Miami's flighty audiences.

The new general director is "a leader with a proven track record of fiscal growth," FGO announced, noting that in her current position in Sarasota, Danis "has been instrumental in the company's continued fiscal development."

Times are tough for opera companies all across the U.S. Between the recent recession, which affected arts spending across all genres, and opera's seemingly unshakable reputation as an old and stuffy art form, many companies have seen a decline in income in recent years.

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Miami's Florida Grand Opera is no exception. In the past year, FGO has tested several unorthodox marketing tactics to entice audience members to its shows: free performances during Second Saturday Art Walk and social media-friendly seating sections where audience members can use their cellphones to "live-tweet" during a show, for example. These tactics earned FGO a New Times Best Of Miami award for "Best Arts Outreach" this year -- but it's unclear if they've translated into financial success.

Danis, it seems, might have a better chance at that success; her track record in Sarasota includes matching and surpassing fundraising goals, doubling the company's fundraising budget during her tenure. We've got our fingers crossed. After all, if there's anything to be learned from the similar funding woes -- and associated staffing drama -- at Miami City Ballet, it's this: Without a solid foundation of cash, the show might not, in fact, go on.

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