Florida Philharmonic Demise Could Threaten Region’s Culture

Last week the Florida Philharmonic announced it must raise $20 million by May 2 or face a bankruptcy. “In the meantime, some arts executives and community leaders fear that bankruptcy could cloud major cultural plans, including a proposed concert hall in Boca Raton, and send a dangerous message about the health of the cultural scene. But some also say the orchestra’s collapse is long overdue, given the organization’s nearly $3 million deficit and constant cries for help.”

Orange Prize Shortlist Plays It Safe

Big names dominate the shortlist of six for this year’s Orange Prize. “The triumvirate of Donna Tartt, who shot to worldwide fame with her debut novel The Secret History, Zadie Smith, another novelist who struck gold first time with White Teeth, and the grand dame of Canadian letters, Carol Shields, are the favourites for the £30,000 award, which is for women writers only. The Scottish novelist Shena Mackay, nominated for the Booker for her bestseller The Orchard On Fire, is the fourth heavyweight on the list with her book Heligoland.”

Rem Koolhaas – Beating A Retreat To Europe?

Star architect Rem Koolhaas is closing his New York office after several of his American projects were cancelled. “It’s been a tough year for the high-flying Mr. Koolhaas, who won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2000. Two weeks ago the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York scrapped his $200 million expansion, saying the project was too big for the cash-strapped institution to take on. A few months earlier, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art had iced his $400 million building, citing budget and fund-raising problems. The Prada superstore in San Francisco that Mr. Koolhaas designed has been axed, and his glitzy, casino-cushioned Guggenheim Las Vegas closed after 18 months. In a recent lecture at Columbia University, Mr. Koolhaas suggested that he was fed up with New York and America and was shifting his focus elsewhere – to Beijing, for example, where he is designing a $650 million broadcast center for the 2008 Olympics.”

Florida House Votes To Slash Arts Funding

Florida’s legislature takes its first steps to kill or drastically reduce state arts funding. “The House wants to slash arts funding to $6 million – down from $28 million – while eliminating the Corporations Trust Fund, which comes from a tax on corporations and helps fund Florida arts programs. The Senate would keep the trust but allocates nothing for arts programs. The bill, which passed on a 67-44 vote, was immediately sent to the Senate. It is expected to come into play during budget negotiations.”

United Arab Emirates Modernizes Its Biennale

“The five previous editions of the Sharjah biennale had focused mainly on the local and traditional art scene and were aimed at an exclusively local public; this year, however, 117 artists from 25 different countries have been invited and the biennale has taken on an international aspect. It is an ambitious project, entirely the effort of the emirate government led by Sheikh Bin Mohammed al Qasimi. His aim is to show Sharjah as the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates, and indeed of the entire Persian Gulf.”

Venice To Build Protective Barriers

Venice’s government has voted to build mobile barriers for the city’s lagoon to protect the city from flooding. The barriers “will consist of 78 hollow, hinged steel flaps, each 18-28 metres high and 20 metres wide, at the three entrances from the sea into the lagoon. In normal conditions they will lie on the sea bed, but when there is the threat of a tide higher than 110 cm above mean sea level, air will force water out of the flaps, which then rise up to hold back the water. The €6 billion (£4.1 billion; $6.4 billion) project, which is expected to be completed by 2011 (to put this cost in proportion: the road works in the centre of Boston have cost $14.6 billion).”

Wiping Out Florida’s Arts Trust

“Both the House and Senate passed bills Thursday eliminating the trust fund for the arts and putting the money into the state’s general-revenue pot. The only difference between the bills: The House budget includes $6 million from general revenue for the arts. The Senate version: zero. The House version now goes back to the Senate. If the Senate approves, the bill would go to Gov. Jeb Bush for his signature.”

Iraqi Artists Fight To Keep Their Buildings

“In Iraq — where the fine art is considered some of the best in the Middle East — artists were both coddled and repressed. They were given studios and supplies even as their work was censored and they were forced to paint and sculpture the ubiquitous images of a heroic Mr. Hussein.” Now, other Iraqis want their buildings, their studios. “Culture was controlled by the regime. This has caused many of the new political leaders to view cultural organizations as a remnant of the old regime.”