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Week of July 8-14, 2002

1. Special Interest
2. Dance
3. Media
4. Music
5. People
6. Publishing
7. Theatre
8. Visual Arts
9. Arts Issues
10. For Fun


TIME TO WONDER: Are today's overprogrammed kids losing their creativity? With little free time and more and more planned activities, today's kids don't have time to let their imaginations wander. "Today's youths don't play creatively, can't make decisions for themselves, and, thanks to technology, are lazy, impatient and get frustrated easily, critics say." The Star-Tribune (Cox) (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 07/10/02

RECONCILING ELITISM AND EQUALITY: "High culture is seen by some as the product of a hidebound establishment bent on excluding outsiders... Can people of left-liberal political sympathies believe that high culture has special and superior value which justifies state support for theatre and grand opera, but not for pop concerts or darts competitions? On the face of it the answer is surely 'Yes'; even if, after the characteristic British manner, left-leaning votaries of high culture... occasionally mask their interest under an appearance of irony, given the risk that such interests run of being branded affected or pretentious. The Guardian (UK) 07/13/02


SF BALLET GETS A WINDFALL: "[California governor] Gray Davis approved $20 million in bond financing Thursday to enable the San Francisco Ballet to renovate and expand its Franklin Street headquarters and fund the creation of new productions, including a new "Nutcracker" in 2004. The bonds will be issued by the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, and the Ballet has 30 years to repay the loan." San Francisco Chronicle 07/12/02

SOFT LANDING: Jacob's Pillow is 70 years old, and dance luminaries are gathering. "Ted Shawn started the tradition of welcoming the public to 'Tea Lecture-Demonstrations' in 1933, and then expanded his invitation into this annual summer festival. Jacob's Pillow was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest continuing dance festival in the United States." Christian Science Monitor 07/12/02

THROWBACK AT THE KIROV: "Makharbek Vaziev, the dynamic and opinionated 41-year-old director of the legendary Kirov Ballet, represents something of a break with the past. Unlike his recent predecessors, he was not a choreographer or a star dancer, although he danced respectably in principal roles through the early 1990's. And unlike ballet directors of the Soviet era, he does not seek to modernize the 19th-century classics, the Kirov's signature pieces. Instead, he has stirred controversy at home and abroad by presenting reconstructions of these ballets in virtually original versions, based on turn-of-the-century choreographic notation." The New York Times 07/14/02

REQUIEM 9/11: A flood of art about and commemorating September 11 is on its way. In Canada, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Ottawa's Opera Lyra company, and the Banff Centre for the Arts are teaming up for a piece called Requiem 9/11 - a dance set to Verdi's Requiem. The production funded in part by the Canadian government, has the feel of an official national commemoration. "I think they're quite relieved to see that we have this unprecedented collaboration that's truly national in scope and that's practically been handed over to them." National Post (Canada) 07/09/02

SORT OF AN ELITIST PR MAN: Gerald Myers has an interesting job, that of philosopher-in-residence at a dance festival. "In layman's terms, he is trying to give dance the intellectual respectability that many of its practitioners say it lacks. He contends that scholars like the college president who dismissed dance 'as that hopping and jumping going on down in the gym' need enlightenment." The New York Times 07/14/02

GENERATIONAL MALAISE? Several longtime New York City Ballet stars retired this season. That means a new generation of dancers is being asked to step up. But too many of them seem underpowered and passionless. "This is all too true of many City Ballet dancers these days: technical facility combined with a near-total lack of expressivity." New York Observer 07/11/02

DANCE AS CORRUPTING FORCE: "A Tehran court has sentenced Iran's best-known male dancer to a 10-year suspended jail term for promoting corruption among young people by setting up dance classes in the United States, his lawyer said Monday." Nando Times (AP) 07/08/02


DIE WEB, DIE: Web radio has been flourishing. But come October 20, many of the stations will go out of business because of royalty fees owed to music producers. The retroactive "bill due for all Webcasters represents several times the total revenue of the entire industry. The folks at the Recording Industry Association of America defend this on the ground that without music, you have no Internet radio." But shouldn't the producers be the very ones encouraging this dissemination of their products? Newsweek 07/15/02

PRODUCT PLACEMENT/PROGRAM DEFACEMENT: Increasingly, as traditional ads become less effective on TV advertisers are looking for new ways to get their products in front of viewers. "Networks say they are open to sponsor-supplied programs and elaborate product-placement schemes as long as the buyers don't dictate content, but who are they kidding? Why would companies pony up cash without expecting some input over how it's spent?" Los Angeles Times 09/10/02

THE NEW FILMMAKERS: The falling costs of making movies has attracted an army of new filmmakers. "Rather than using the pen to tell their stories, creative wannabees in Sydney are embracing film-making. The number of film industry hopefuls at short film festivals has tripled. There are now about 300 film festivals in Australia, compared with 100 three years ago." Sydney Morning Herald 07/08/02

ARTS CHANNEL TO FOLD: Artsworld, the UK premium TV channel featuring live performances of opera, jazz and ballet launched with great fanfare 18 months ago, is about to close. The channel needed about 140,000 subscribers to make it viable; it has only 100,000, and investors are reluctant to put up any more cash. The Guardian (UK) 07/11/02

AIDS AWARENESS COMES TO SESAME STREET: The producers of the most successful children's television program in history have announced that the South African edition of Sesame Street will debut an HIV-positive Muppet character this fall, and a similar character is being considered for the U.S. version. AIDS is, of course, rampant on the African continent, and the producers of the show say that "the goal is to help 'de-stigmatize' the disease, promote discussion about it and 'model positive behavior' toward an afflicted person among viewers of the program, who typically are age 3 to 7." Washington Post 07/12/02

NO BUSINESS IN SHOW BUSINESS: The shutdown of FilmFour, one of the UK's most interesting movie producers, rips a hole through the British film industry. Why did it fail? "There was no satisfactory route to profitability. FilmFour returned operating losses of £3m in 2000 and £5.4m in 2001, and the underlying business model was not a basis for building a commercial entity." The Guardian (UK) 07/12/02

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FARE FLATTENS FAMOUS FLICKS: "Last weekend, four of the 10 top-grossing movies in North America carried either G or PG ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America." In fact, kids' movies are cleaning up all across the map these days, and the trend has led to an explosion in the number of new releases you can take your five-year-old to. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/12/02


BATTLING OVER LA SCALA: The world's most famous opera house - La Scala, in Milan - closed in January for a 3-year renovation which will allow the company to present more operas more often, as well as upgrading substandard rehearsal spaces and backstage areas. But not everyone is happy with the restoration, and a local architect has filed a petition to stop the work, claiming that the company is destroying a beloved historic landmark. BBC 07/12/02

PAYNE-FUL SEPARATION: Nicholas Payne is out as general director of the English National Opera, following a disastrous year of controversy, massive renovation, and slumping ticket sales. The resignation, which came late Thursday night, was a surprise, although rumor has it that Payne had been clashing badly with the company's chairman. The Independent (UK) 07/12/02

STORM CLOUDS GATHERING: Orchestras around the U.S. and Canada are continuing to struggle with rising deficits and slumping ticket sales. But while orchestras in Chicago, Minneapolis, and the like can count on hefty endowments and high-profile public support to assist them, North America's small, regional ensembles are increasingly finding themselves on the edge of complete fiscal insolvency. The latest examples are in Jacksonville, Florida, which is cutting staff; and Shreveport, Louisiana, where the local orchestra has barely avoided a shutdown. The Business Journal (Jacksonville) 07/10/02 & Shreveport Times 07/11/02

HARD TIMES IN RIO: "Rio de Janeiro's most important opera and classical music venue, the Theatro Municipal, has scaled back its plans for the current season, after the new state government cut its R$27 million (US$9.5 million) budget in half. The cuts are part of the state's plan to pay down its debt and reduce expenditures... Musicians and staff at the Municipal were angered by the cuts, saying that the government had reneged on a promise not to alter the current season. Artistic director Luiz Fernando Malheiro resigned in protest." Andante 07/12/02

SUPERSTAR STOPGAP: Itzhak Perlman has agreed to join the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra as 'artistic advisor' for the next two seasons, as the orchestra continues its search for a music director to replace Hans Vonk, who was forced to resign the position for health reasons. The SLSO has had a rough year, what with Vonk's departure, several months of speculation that the orchestra was near bankruptcy, and a difficult reworking of the musicians' contract. The Perlman appointment will not only give the SLSO a high-profile name with which to attract musicians and audiences, it will buy them the time they need for a careful and complete music director search. Saint Louis Post-Dispatch 07/12/02

THE BAD OLD DAYS? Composer/critic Greg Sandow wrestles with the historical context of atonal music. "What was atonal music about? Most important, what should it mean to us today, now that we're partly free of it? As I've been saying, here and elsewhere for quite a while, it badly needs a reassessment. We still have (just to cite one obvious example) James Levine, conscientiously conducting Schoenberg at the Met, convinced that Moses und Aron is a classic that the whole world needs to hear. I'm not going to say it isn't one (that's another conversation), but what's odd is the all but explicit subtext, that Schoenberg still is music of our time." 07/02

MAINLY MONTREAL: The Montreal Jazz Festival is eclectic independent-minded. "Twenty-three years old and one of the biggest and most respected festivals of its kind, it attracted some 1.65 million people to some 500 free and paid concerts over two weeks. But unlike the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, it did not necessarily celebrate a regional culture." The New York Times 09/10/02

JACKO'S CRUSADE: Michael Jackson's tirade against the recording industry for being unfair to artists, particularly black artists, seems a stretch, given the mega-bucks he's made in his career. Last weekend he said that "the recording companies really, really do conspire against the artists. They steal, they cheat, they do everything they can, [especially] against the black artists." But Jackson has been locked in a dispute with his recording label, and his career hasn't been going well... Philadelphia Inquirer 07/10/02


FINAL COPY: The head of Australia's largest university has been forced to resign after multiple claims that he plagiarized. David Robinson, the embattled vice-chancellor of Monash University, quit after being summoned back from a trip to London. "He could see he was creating damage for the university. The only solution that he could see, and I could see, and we came to this together, was to leave." The Age (Melbourne) 07/12/02

WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO BE A SPANNER TOO: C-Span founder and host Brian Lamb has a cult following among viewers known as "Spanners" for their devotion to the cable network. "Lamb is open to interpretations of himself - the solemn ones, mocking ones, camp ones. He'll play along. He is resigned to his celebrity niche. He has been called the most boring and the most trusted man in America, both of which he would take as a source of pride, or, at least, humor." Washington Post 07/12/02

LIBESKIND SPEAKS: The architect of the new Jewish Museum in Berlin explains his vision of what makes for good architecture in the modern world. "Buildings provide spaces for living, but are also de facto instruments, giving shape to the sound of the world. Music and architecture are related not only by metaphor, but also through concrete space." The Guardian (UK) 07/13/02

JESSYE'S ROUGH NIGHT: Sopranos can rarely sing at a high level up to their 60th birthday. Jessye Norman is 56, and her first recital at Tanglewood in years was a disaster this week. Clearly not in good voice, she cut short her program, then "mouthed the words 'I'm sorry' as she swept from the stage after singing excerpts from Berlioz's Les Nuits d'ete.'' Boston Globe 07/11/02

COMMITTED: Alberto Vilar is "believed to give more money to opera than any other donor in the world, and he is one of the top givers to the arts in general, as well. His gifts include a total of $33 million to New York's Metropolitan Opera, $10 million to Los Angeles Opera, and $50 million to Washington, D.C.'s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. But since late last year - when Vilar was laid up with medical problems and his company was laid low by the downturn in the stock market - rumors and press reports that he is not honoring his pledges to the arts have surfaced in the United States and Europe." Los Angeles Times 07/09/02

STUDYING THE STUDIERS: Intellectual historians sometimes grumble that their peers don't regard them as doing "real" history. After all, they study books and ideas, rather than digging around in archives to chart the course of wars and revolutions, or the almost-unreconstructible life of, say, an Aztec peasant. Tony Grafton works on old, dead classicists. How much less-sexy can you get? And yet his work is read not only by medievalists and Renaissance scholars, but by a general audience as well." Chronicle of Higher Education 07/08/02


SUPERSIZE IT: How many Barnes & Noble stores is too many? There are 600 superstores in America now, and after several years of expanding rapidly, the pace of expansion has slowed in the past few years . But the company believes there is room for 1000 stores and is beginning to grow quickly again. The New York Times 07/08/02

GENERAL WRAPUP: In April, General and Stoddart, Canada's largest book distributor, shocked the country's book industry by declaring bankruptcy, owing $45 million to various creditors. This week a court allowed the return of thousands of books to small publishers, much to the relief of those publishers, but also a sign that the company's reorganization attempts have failed. Toronto Star 07/11/02

THEN THERE'S THE ONE ABOUT STALIN AND KRUSHCHEV... Russian police are investigating a Russian writer for a 1999 book he wrote that contains scenes of sex between the Soviet dictator Stalin and Khrushchev, his successor. "The investigation alarms advocates of freedom of expression, concerned about the possibility of a return to censorship under President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer who was elected in part on the strength of promises to re-establish order." Nando Times (AP) 07/11/02

UP THE CANADIAN AMAZON: The Canadian government has ruled that Amazon should be allowed to set up in Canada. The government, examining the deal to ensure the company met Canadian ownership quotas, said that " doesn't fall under majority Canadian ownership rules because the investment doesn't involve the establishment of a new Canadian business or the takeover of an existing domestic business." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/11/02

WHR4RTTHOU? Study guides have been a lifeline for many a last-minute student. For years CliffsNotes has been the go-to guide for the unprepared. Now there's competition. SparkNotes promises a hipper, more irreverent interpretation of the classics. How do they compare? "Either way, a crutch, a crutch. You'll be fortune's fool to rely on these! Beware." Washington Post 07/09/02


BROADWAY BOOM: How much does Broadway contribute to New York's economy? A study of the 2000-01 season, "indicates that Broadway contributed some $4.42 billion to the city's fiscal well-being during that time, a figure which equates to at least 40,000 jobs, both in the industry directly and through the commerce that the industry generates." Backstage 07/10/02

LIFE BEYOND ALMEIDA: Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid are leaving the leadership of London's Almeida Theatre after 12 years. They've built the theatre into one of the country's most admired companies. "Its Islington headquarters have become a magnet for every kind of theatregoer, from the earnest to the chic. If you found V.S. Naipaul and Madonna watching Al Pacino and Fiona Shaw in Taming of the Shrew, you wouldn’t be surprised." What's next? There are rumors the pair might head over to the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Times (UK) 07/08/02

RENTING THE FUTURE: The Denver Civic Theatre has longstanding money problems. Now the theatre believes it has found a way out. It proposes to mount a permanent production of Rent, which it can do if it comes up with a $600,000 investment. It would be the city's only production with an open-ended run. The company believes Rent would be the cash cow to solve all its financial woes. Denver Post 07/07/02

THEATRE AT A CROSSROADS: With the announcement that Gordon Jacobson will be stepping down at L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum, America's regional theatres, once a grand experiment designed to prove that serious theatre could thrive away from the bright lights of Broadway, have been forced to begin reassessing their place in the nation's theatrical consciousness. "Now the regional theater is a bit of a victim of its own success. We've built huge institutions -- stabilization for these companies always was the goal -- and consequently a lot of these theaters have big buildings and big overhead, which changes the stakes." Chicago Tribune 07/14/02

WHO'S WHO IN LONDON THEATRE: Can't tell the players without a program. Here's the Guardian's roadmap to the new generation of London theatre denizens taking theatre forward. The Guardian (UK) 07/06/02


FINDING MICHELANGELO: New York's Cooper-Hewitt Museum has discovered it owns a Michelangelo drawing. It was discovered in a box of light fixture designs. "The drawing, purchased in 1942, was one of five anonymous Italian Renaissance works for which the museum paid a total of $60." Its current value is between $10 million and $12 million, art dealers said. Washington Post 07/09/02

SUPERSIZE IT: Hilton Kramer isn't impressed with the Museum of Modern Art's new temporary home in Queens or with MoMA's expansion plans. "It is with mixed feelings that we face this bigger MoMA and the other overscale expansions now in the works for the Morgan Library, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the High Museum in Atlanta and, of course, the ever-expanding, ever-deflating Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The only thing we know for certain about this mania for perpetual museum expansion is that it has everything to do with money and ambition, and very little to do with the life of art." New York Observer 07/11/02

THE COLLECTOR'S EYE: Art collecting is a delicate process for the investor who expects to see any return on his purchases. Artists fall in and out of fashion faster than Oscar dresses, and a must-have engraving in 1900 may be all but worthless a few decades later. So what is the trick to finding value in something as undefinable as art? It's a lot more complicated than "I know what I like," but one of Canada's top collectors seems to think that that's not a bad place to start. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/13/02

BRINGING IT ALL HOME: China has spent a good amount of time over the centuries being invaded, attacked, and plundered. One of the upshots of such a beleagured history is that a great many Chinese art pieces have been scattered to the winds, and have wound up, legitimately or not, in museums and private collections far from home. A new generation of collectors is attempting to repatriate many of the artifacts, and in the process, is driving up the cost of Chinese art worldwide. Philadelphia Inquirer (Knight Ridder) 07/14/02

ART BY DESIGN: We depend do much on design for the modern museum experience. Design can help clarify art, help give it a context, help focus our attentions. But does design also overwhelm the art we care about? London Evening Standard 07/09/02

MURAL FIX: Fifty-one damaged outdoor murals in Los Angeles are awaiting repairs. "Many of the most heavily damaged murals were commissioned just before the 1984 Olympics by the Olympic Organizing Committee and local corporations, with the support of Caltrans. Most of the damage cited by the study was caused by vandalism, deterioration and dirt accumulation." But the state has allocated enough money - $1.7 million - to repair only about half the murals. Los Angeles Times 07/08/02

ROYAL ACADEMY MAY MAKE CUTS: London's Royal Academy is hurting for money, what with corporate sponsorships and ticket sales down since last fall. Now rumors that the RA may cut staff to save money. "The academy, which was set up in 1768 by artists for artists and counts David Hockney, Peter Blake and Norman Foster among its members, has become a £20m a year business." The Guardian (UK) 07/06/02

THE DIMMING LIGHT: Thomas Kinkade is the most-collected painter in America. "More than 350 galleries in the US are dedicated entirely to his work. The income from his painting last year was more than $150 million." Kinkade has also opened a housing subdivision based on his treacly paintings. But not all is going well for the "Painter of Light." :Last year, the company posted losses of $16.6 million, having turned in a profit of $16.2 million the year before. Shares that stood at $25.75 in 1998 are now $3.66." The Guardian (UK) 07/08/02


WHAT AILS US: Britain's arts seem caught in mismanagement and lack of creative direction. "The despondency that developed throughout the arts world after 20 years of starvation funding means that we have become too timid and defensive to subject ourselves to muscular public self-criticism. We are afraid to speak frankly and openly about the inadequacies of our major cultural institutions. We fear that if we burn down the opera houses, we will be left with nothing but a smouldering pile of ash. Yet what need is there for artists to demolish the major cultural institutions when we have the media to do it for us?" The Guardian (UK) 07/12/02

A ONCE-DIVIDED ARTS SCENE GELS NICELY: Berlin is like no other city on Earth, in that it spent 50 years divided squarely in two, then attempted to readapt to existing as a single entity. That kind of dichotomy can make or break any attempt at a coherant arts scene. "This is today's Berlin: a mix of old Disneyfication, new construction and eager renovation. And, tucked into any corners still waiting to find a place within that mix, a burgeoning world of contemporary creativity that makes the city one of the most dynamic art centers on the planet and a magnet for outsiders." Washington Post 07/14/02

ANOTHER 9/11 CASUALTY: At a time when appreciating other world views might be important in America, arts presenters are finding that getting visas for international artists to enter the US is getting more difficult. Village Voice 07/09/02

ART AS BRANDING EXPERIENCE: Increasingly, corporations are coming up with ideas for art, then funding them, often through arts organizations. "This is sponsorship, but not as we know it. Instead of waiting for an arts organisation to have a good idea and patronising it, these sponsors are generating ideas of their own - and putting their names up front in lights. In today’s uncompromising business climate, there is little cash for philanthropy. Arts sponsorship is being moved from 'charity' to 'marketing'. A warm fuzzy feeling isn’t enough; today’s executives need concrete results." The Scotsman 09/10/02

BASICS VS. CREATIVITY: A new report charges that the British government's emphasis on basics and testing in schools comes at the expense of teaching the arts. "Music teaching gets an average of 45 minutes a week - and in some schools just half an hour - religious education, history and geography just short of an hour, and art and design and technology just over an hour." The Guardian (UK) 07/05/02

10. FOR FUN 

IT'LL TAKE MORE THAN AN AGENT: America's health maintenance organizations are tired of being portrayed as the bad guys on TV and in the movies. So they've hired an agent to try to get a more positive image portrayed. "What we're trying to do is get a level playing field. We're not saying it's verboten to attack some part of the health care system. We're saying there is another side to what we do." Nando Times (AP) 07/09/02

STRIKE OUT: Outgoing Boston Symphony conductor Seiji Ozawa is a big baseball fan. So when the orchestra was planning his farewell, Ozawa suggested a final concert at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Sure, said the orchestra, and quickly negotiated a date with the ballclub. But then the numbers came in - it would cost "at least $500,000 to build staging, a sound system, and other support for the show." So the plans were abandoned. Boston Globe 07/10/02

MAKE THEM STARS: How to build interest in historic buildings? How about a TV game show? "The BBC2 series, Restoration, is designed to interest viewers in historic treasures around the country and raise money to save the winning entry. Viewers will take part in regional heats over 10 weeks, voting for their favourite endangered buildings. The winner will be restored from cash raised by the programme." The Guardian (UK) 07/09/02