5Q: Mihailo Djuric

 / PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
/ PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

Mihailo Djuric | Artistic director, Festival Ballet Providence

1. Festival Ballet Providence is in its 39th season – how do you manage the ballet to keep it relevant at a time when ballet may not be as popular as organized sports? I try to bring a sense of the unexpected with new talent and by collaborating with artists from many disciplines. One of my priorities is growing our existing educational outreach programs and cultivating new ventures in schools, especially bringing the arts to underserved communities.

2. What challenges did you face when you assumed the role of artistic director 20 years ago and are you still facing them today? When I arrived, FBP was a semi-professional company. My challenge was to bring the company to a professional level, which we were able to do in a short time. Now, the challenge is to keep it going and grow financially.

3. How has FBP been an economic driver for the community, even with its own financial difficulties? When we moved into our building in 2001, there were many vacancies on Hope Street. Opening our Black Box Theatre helped make it a cultural destination and our school brought in a diverse population of parents and kids. Our performances attract thousands who dine in restaurants, drink, park and stay overnight in hotels. We had a setback in 2010, after the recession, and we reorganized internally and steadily reduced our debt. Each season since has finished in the black.

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4. How do you balance the creative side of running FBP with the practical aspects of running a business? I have dual roles. As artistic director, I want to achieve our artistic goals. As managing director, I need to make practical decisions. Sometimes I feel like I am debating myself, balancing the desire to innovate with the need to be smart with how we spend money.

5. How important is corporate sponsorship to the ballet’s sustainability and how has that financial support trended over the past decade? Our budget quadrupled since I’ve been here and through this time, we’ve seen funding fluctuate with the economy. Private individuals have stepped up generously, but we wish there was more support, both from corporations and the government. The money goes into creating artistic experiences, educating our community and increasing quality of life for Rhode Islanders. A greater investment in what we do is a greater investment in the economy of our state.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, gowdey-backus@pbn.com.