Issues: November 2002

Friday, November 29, 2002

Too Much Heavy Lifting Why must the British government try to coerce arts organizations who want funding? The arts get attached to education, to multiculturalism, to every social good of the moment. “There is a feeling across the performing arts that subsidised companies have been drained of vital energies during the Blair years – or, at the very least, have been distracted from their core function of creating art. A resentment has crept in. Many performers don’t want to be educators.” London Evening Standard 11/26/02

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Closing The Borders On Culture The US’s new visa controls are keeping many international artists from appearing in the country. “The long-term effects of the visa delays already are being felt. In addition to fewer U.S. concerts featuring artists from countries on the State Department’s terrorism watch list (which includes Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Morocco and Sudan), fewer albums from those artists will be released in the United States because record companies can’t count on performances to publicize the artists’ new songs. “The impact of this crisis will show up two to three years from now. This crisis will have a long- term impact on the music world and cultural exchange marketplace.” San Francisco Chronicle 11/26/02

New York’s Growing Arts Development A study of the arts in New York says activity is expanding rapidly, and not just in traditional arts districts. “With an astonishing 52% growth rate over the past nine years, New York’s cultural industry is responsible for more than 150,000 jobs. While analysts foresee continued slow or flat employment growth for financial services, they predict the creative economy will continue growing, almost across the board.” Backstage 11/26/02

Hawaii – Returning Art To The Classroom In the 1980s, Hawaii, like most American states, saw its school curriculum stripped of arts education. But recently a series of new initiatives has found the teaching of creativity returning to the classroom. Honolulu Advertiser 11/15/02

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Not To Take Offense, But… The Australia Council releases a set of guidelines for artists in “dealing with indigenous communities”. The intent of the guidelines is to “encourage greater respect and understanding among the arts industry in working with indigenous communities” But one section “asks artists to consider how their work will affect the indigenous group on which it is based, whether it ’empowers’ indigenous people or whether it reinforces negative stereotypes.” Is this a reasonable (or wise) request? “How do you judge whether a work empowers or not? And one person’s negative stereotype is another’s attempt to tackle a tough subject.” Sydney Morning Herald 11/26/02

Freedom To Create Is freedom of expression in the arts at more risk now than in the past? A conference organized by the National Arts Journalism Program debated the issue last week in New York. “Copyright is stronger than ever, which experts say will plunge us into the Dark Ages. Copyright is weaker than ever, which experts say will plunge us into the Dark Ages. The confusing thing is that both statements happen to be true.” The New York Times 11/26/02

  • Do Students Have The Freedom To Express? Last year, a student in a San Jose high school showed a violent poem he had written to another student, who was so scared she reported him. He ended up being expelled and spending time in juvenile hall, though he hadn’t commited violence himself. Is student speech protected? “While there are no concrete statistics, students increasingly face a range of punishments for threats as school administrators take a closer look at conduct that could presage violence.” San Jose Mercury-News 11/25/02

Imagineering Without Imagination (Or $) Disney built its name on the imagination and investment of creative “Imagineers” who succeeded in capturing the imaginations of visitors of all ages. But as the Disney stock price sinks and revenues slip, the company is slashing at that all important R&D that made it famous. “Disney is in a bear trap right now. They’re incredibly investment-averse. But the problem is, if you don’t fund the Imagineers to constantly come up with something new, you lose a big piece of what the brand means — which is that you go to the Disney parks to see stuff you can’t see anywhere else.” Wired 11/25/02

Monday, November 25, 2002

Art Matters Does art matter? “I know there is a sneaking feeling, even among art lovers, that art is a luxury. While pictures, books, music and theatre are not quite handmade luggage or perfume, most people would not admit that art is essential. The endless rows over funding centre on an insecurity about the role of art in society. Nobody doubts that hospitals and schools must be paid for by all of us. Modern art has become a media circus; a money-driven, prize-hungry extravaganza, dependent on marketing and spin, which may leave the public with a few extra names it recognises, but that makes everyone cynical about the product.” The Guardian (UK) 11/25/02

Still Wild About Winnie After a month of debate, a BBC poll names Winston Churchill the greatest Briton of all time. “Participants in the survey voted the second World War leader top of the list of the country’s 100 most significant individuals, with 447,423 votes. He beat his nearest rival, engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, by more than 56,000 votes.” BBC 11/25/02

The Art Of Getting Elected In American elections, arts policy hardly even rates a mention. But Australia’s Victorian government is up for election, and the major parties are scrapping to differentiate their arts policies from one another. If campaign promises are to be believed, the arts are in for soime funding increases. The Age (Melbourne) 11/25/02

Artists Priced Out Boston has a redevelopment program that includes significant new space for artists. It’s just that artists complain that much of the new space is so luxe they’ll never be able to afford it. Boston Herald 11/25/02

Sunday, November 24, 2002

More Visa Woes This week the Dallas Symphony Orchestra had to find a substitute when Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden’s visa wasn’t issued in time for his scheduled performances. “Visa process that once took 45 to 60 days has more than doubled, with 4 1/2 months being the average time at present. Since applications for work visas are not accepted more than six months before the date of entry, there’s little room to deal with the problem of visas that take longer than average.” Dallas Morning News 11/24/02

In Search Of Funding Earlier this year the Nova Scotia government disbanded its arts council, looking for “administrative savings.” Now a group of arts supporters has formed its own arts support group. “The new group, Arms Length Funding for the Arts (ALFA), calls itself a ‘broad group of concerned Nova Scotians’ trying to restore funding for the arts.” CBC 11/22/02

Friday, November 22, 2002

Is Arts Outreach Futile? The need to widen public access to the arts has become a modern political mantra. If government is to fund the arts, the argument goes, then the arts must be made available to as many people as possible. They must be made accessible to new audiences, especially to young audiences, by opening doors, by cutting or abolishing entrance costs – and by reaching out to the public through activities such as the opera workshops in East End schools. The virtue of such efforts as these is now so universally accepted that it is striking to discover that many in the arts have got their doubts about aspects of it, and that those doubts are increasing.” The Guardian (UK) 11/22/02

Is London Foundation Dumping Assets? Three years ago the British government decided to wean the Commonwealth Institute off its subsidies and privatize it. A plan was worked out for a dowry of £8 million, half of which was for repairing the roof of its prestigious London building. But even before the privatization is about to take place, the institute’s “library is closed to the public, most of the staff on short-term contracts have been sacked and the unique collection of works is being put into vans, with the institute’s art, for removal to the underfunded Museum of Empire and Commonwealth, in Bristol. The trustees and governors are accused of planning to sell off the organisation’s prestigious headquarters for millions of pounds and dump its unique 50-year-old library.” The Guardian (UK) 11/22/02

Thursday, November 21, 2002

$100 Million + $80 Million – Soon You’re Talking Serious Money A few more details about Ruth Lilly’s $100 million gift to Poetry Magazine this week. “According to local court records, Lilly also donated at least $80 million to Americans for the Arts, an advocacy and educational group based in Washington. Its president and CEO, Robert Lynch, said that his group’s annual budget is currently $8 million and that its endowment is less than $1 million.” And this: “In 1981, a court declared Lilly mentally incompetent, and the control of her estate was turned over to her brother, Josiah K. Lilly III. Since his death, her lawyer, Thomas Ewbank has served as her attorney. National City Bank in Indianapolis has managed her estate, now worth about $1.2 billion. Nonetheless, she can make her wishes, Ewbank said.” Boston Globe 11/20/02

  • Previously: NO HARD FEELINGS – FAILED POET GIVES MAG $100 MILLION: Some 30 years ago, the editor of Poetry Magazine rejected a submission by one Mrs Guernsey Van Riper Jr. of Indianapolis. Over the next few decades she kept submitting poems and he kept rejecting them. It turns out she was fabulously wealthy, and, now 87 years old, has just made a gift to the influential Poetry of $100 million over the next 30 years, with “no strings attached.” Chicago Tribune 11/18/02

Continuing to Build The arts building boom continues, even though arts groups around America are struggling for money. “Despite terrorist attacks, rising costs, decreases in consumers’ discretionary spending, and myriad philanthropic challenges, the theatrical building and renovation boom is arguably as hot as it was in the 1990s – and not just in New York City.” Backstage 11/20/02

Things You’d Think You Wouldn’t Need A Law For: The New York City Council is close to passing a law which would ban the use of cell phones at public performances, concerts, etc. The definition of “use” in this case would include “allow to ring” as a violation. Violators would be subject to a $50 fine, but there is some question as to how such a measure would be enforced without creating an even greater disruption than a phone. The New York Times 11/20/02

The Death of Higher Literacy? Scholar and cultural critic George Steiner is worried about us. Specifically, he worries that while nearly all of us know how to read a computer manual, very few of us have read The Iliad or Ulysses. Is the modernity of Western life destroying our cultural history? “Every generation loses a little bit of the past, as new poems and novels jostle for attention. But Steiner (like Baudrillard, Sontag and Paglia) believes that the catastrophic forgetfulness that has overtaken the West since the Second World War is a sign that the print culture that sustained us for six centuries is actually dying.” The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/21/02

Things You’d Think Wouldn’t Need To Be a Law The New York City Council is close to passing a law which would ban the use of cell phones at public performances, concerts, etc. The definition of “use” in this case would include “allow to ring” as a violation. Violators would be subject to a $50 fine, but there is some question as to how such a measure would be enforced without creating an even greater disruption than a phone. The New York Times 11/20/02

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Bay Area Blues Northern California’s East Bay arts groups are hurting in the economic downturn like arts groups everywhere. Ticket sales are down, government funding has been slashed, and corporate donations have slipped. Contra Costa Times 11/19/02

  • And Minnesota Minnesota has traditionally funded the arts at a higher level than the rest of the country. But a new report says that foundation giving to the arts has been scaled back, and that small arts groups are hardest hit by the financial squeeze. Dance is the poorest-funded of all the arts. The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 11/19/02

Monday, November 18, 2002

The Man who Saved UNESCO: Unesco is the United Nations’ cultural wing. But it’s been disorganized and ineffective for much of its 30 years of existence. But under a sharp new director, “today Unesco not only displays more dynamism, efficiency and financial transparency—’accountable to all State holders’—than has been seen since its foundation in 1945, but it has also persuaded the US to return to membership.” The Art Newspaper 11/15/02

An Arts Mayor Has Difficulty Delivering When Atlanta’s new mayor was elected last year, hopes were high in the cultural community. “She not only understood the arts, she consumed them, championed them and lived with them long before she reached the top job at City Hall. The business of running Atlanta, however, has stifled the artistic muse. The city’s financial mess and archaic sewer system have prevented her from making arts and culture more of an official priority.” Atlanta Journa-Constitution 11/17/02

Peel Back The Screen It’s the art of worrying over the study or explanation of something. Suddenly ” ‘Meta” is a liminal term these days; it’s creeping more and more into everyday conversations, even if it’s not nearly as widespread as, say, ‘irony’. Some people talk about meta all the time… New York Times Magazine 11/17/02

Sunday, November 17, 2002

How to Liven Up your Textbook: “Looking for fresh ways to engage overloaded students, a growing number of professors at big universities and small colleges are supplementing traditionally sober textbooks with a curious genre: the textbook-novel. Written specifically with the college classroom in mind, these works are often by professors who have created characters ranging from a free trade-spouting angel to a short, bald professor (take a bow, Milton Friedman) who likes to solve mysteries. And while pedagogical novels are not new, their growing popularity is.” The New York Times 11/16/02

Do the Arts Ignore the Poor? For all the lip service paid by arts organizations to the concepts of education and diverse audience access, most orchestras, galleries, and theatres are still shockingly devoid of low-income patrons. The causes are myriad, from societal pressures to overbearing formality to high ticket prices, but solutions seem to be nearly nonexistant. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 11/17/02