Austin Cuts Back Performing Arts Center

Plans for a major performing arts center in Austin Texas are scaled back – for now, at least. “The price tag for the project, stalled by escalating expectations and then an economic downturn, drops from $125.1 million to about $72 million. The group still must raise nearly $25 million – that includes $10 million for an operating endowment – before it can open the center a year later than planned: 2007.”

B of A: A Bank Where A Could Stand For Arts?

Charlotte-based Bank of America is taking over FleetBoston to create the second largest bank in America. That may be good news for the arts. “Bank of America has been ‘a real driving force behind the arts really coming front and center in the state, and particularly in Charlotte. It’s just offered the most incredible leadership – not just funding and resources, a lot of human resources, but just really understanding the importance of the arts. It’s in large part because of the bank’s leadership,’ that Charlotte regularly leads the nation in per capita arts spending.”

Norwegian Bestseller – Got It Wrong In Kabul?

A Norwegian journalist observes an Afghan family, then writes a best-selling book about them. The subject of the book is outraged, and flies to Europe to protest. “Since then, the public confrontation over “The Bookseller of Kabul” has become the talk of Norway, with televised debates galore, some newspapers jumping at the chance to run photographs of the striking blond author and more serious newspapers arguing the political correctness of first world journalists judging third world cultural traditions.”

Book-Of-The-Month Club (With A Twist)

Write a book in a month? That’s the premise of a competition in which you have to write 50,000 words (175 pages) in 30 days. “Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create.” The number of winners – writers who cross the 50,000-word finish line – has grown from six out of 20 in 1999 to more than 2,000 out of 14,000 in 2002, with 4,000 expected to qualify this year.

Pittsburgh Turns It Around

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which has been seen as a textbook case of the financial chaos enveloping American symphony orchestras, has somehow managed to balance its budget. “The PSO had projected a $2.5 million to $3 million structural deficit for the 2003-04 season, but expects to avoid it through increased endowment performance, augmented annual fund contributions, reduced musicians’ salaries, increases in ticket revenue and enhancement of shared services… Other positive fiscal factors include fund raising that is $250,000 ahead of this time last year, a new musicians’ contract that includes a 7.8 percent wage cut for the first two years, and a 30 percent increase in new classical subscription sales from last year to date, totaling 1,550 new subscribers.”

Based On A True Story…

As if the controversy surrounding the impending move of the Barnes Collection to center city Philadelphia weren’t confusing enough already, a new play by Thomas Gibbons threatens to muddy the waters even more. Permanent Collection is a fictional play, with made-up characters and a central conflict invented in the author’s mind, but it takes place at the Barnes, and uses the conflicts that have occurred there over the past decade as its historical base. “The wiliest trust lawyer could get lost in the baffling dilemmas involved, but Gibbons sees the difficulties as an invitation to compress some of them into a two-hour drama.”

Not Violet’s Finest Hour

“What’s going on with The Violet Hour? Richard Greenberg’s eagerly awaited new play has been in previews a couple of weeks and already there are so many bodies piling up, the producers might as well park a hearse outside the stage door.” Two lead actors and a director have been axed as the troubled production snowballs towards its official opening, and while the company producing Violet insists that things are under control, Michael Riedel isn’t convinced.

Satellite Radio On The Rise

After a decidedly slow start, the satellite radio industry seems to be gaining some long-awaited traction. This week, XM Satellite Radio, the larger of the two currently operating networks, will announce that it has passed the key benchmark of a million subscribers. Sirius, XM’s only competitor, has approximately 250,000 subscribers. The significance of the million-listener mark is likely to be felt on Wall Street, where investors are expected to begin taking the industry seriously for the first time.

Everyone Loves A Good Brawl

In America, the debate over whether newspapers have a right to kill negative book reviews in order not to offend readers and authors has been raging in recent weeks. Meanwhile, in the UK, book reviewers regularly take great delight in savaging not only the works of famous authors, but the authors themselves. (Can you imagine an American review comparing a novel to “catching your favourite uncle masturbating in the school yard,” as a British review of Martin Amis’s latest recently did?) The British approach to literary criticism might be exhausting, says Kate Taylor, but it’s exhilirating, too, and vastly preferable to the vague disinterest favored by North American critics.