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Week of August 26-September 2, 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


ART VS. PROFIT: When exactly did it become an incontrovertible truth that arts organizations should be run like for-profit businesses? Certainly no one would argue that a dose of fiscal sanity and even occasional conservatism is no bad thing in the service of art, but recently, there seems to be a general assumption that art should pay its own way or hit the road. And that, says Peter Dobrin, is a dangerous philosophy. "Marketing teams are now part of the artistic planning process from the inception of an idea, weighing in on whether repertoire will win audiences. No surprise that programming has grown conservative. The spirit of daring at the Opera Company of Philadelphia can't be heard amid the din of a march from Carmen." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/01/02

CLAP TRAP: Does applause mean anything anymore? In some cities, any performance, no matter how mediocre, is greeted with a standing ovation. In other cities, applause is never more than polite. There was a time when making a terrific noise after a well-executed performance was a sign of an audience's engagement. Is it anymore? Toronto Star 08/25/02


WHO OWNS A DANCE? "A federal judge has ruled that the majority of dances that modern dance legend Martha Graham created belong to the Martha Graham Dance Center, dealing the second blow in as many months to Graham's heir. Ronald A. Protas had claimed sole ownership to Graham's dances and their sets and costumes. But U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum ruled that Protas only has the rights to one dance, "Seraphic Dialogue," a dramatic piece about Joan of Arc. The Martha Graham Center dismissed Protas, who was a close companion of Graham, as artistic director more than a year ago. Graham died in April 1991." Baltimore Sun (AP) 08/27/02

GOOD BEAT, BUT CAN YOU DANCE TO IT? Selecting music is one of the hardest jobs a choreographer has. Audiences judge a performance almost as much by what they hear as by what they see, and a score which is grating, or too complex, or, heaven forbid, too pop-based, can ruin a perfectly good dance for a large chunk of the crowd. So when Christopher Wheeldon choreographed a trio of dances to the music of noted atonal, arhythmic composer Gyorgi Ligeti this year, eyebrows were raised all across the dance world. The central question, of course, is what makes a piece of music danceable? The New York Times 09/01/02

WHY BILLY'S LEAVING: Long before William Forsythe announced this week he would quit the Frankfurt Ballet, there had been rumors. Rumors his contract might not be renewed. Rumors city funding was to be cut. Critics have charged that Frankfurt's cultural policy has been half-hearted, and that its commitment to excellence is weak. "The short-sighted discussions on whether the culturally derelict banking city wants to keep financing a choreographer of world renown has been simmering for quite a while." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/30/02

  • CAN YOU FIGURE OUT WHY HE'S LEAVING? Here's a resignation speech for you. William Forsyth announcing he'll leave the helm of Frankfurt Ballet (which he tuned into one of Europe's most experimental contemporary companies) in 2004 after 20 years: "For the present, I feel strongly that my own methodological evolution would be best served if conducted in a context less integrated into a field of political practice that is, understandably, challenged by the task of establishing primary descriptive models of cultural policy that can be accurately represented by numbers." The New York Times 08/29/02


RIGHT TO EDIT: A video store chain that edits profanity, violence and sex from films asked a judge Thursday to rule the practice is legal, despite protests by such directors as Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg. Nando Times (AP) 08/30/02

  • WE WANT OUR SEX AND VIOLENCE! Hollywood directors are looking into the possibility of legal action against a handful of Utah companies which specialize in distributing video tapes and DVDs of popular movies with all the bad language, sex, and graphic violence stripped out for family consumption. The directors say that such edits amount to censorship and leave the films devoid of meaning. Wired 08/28/02

THREAT TO WEB RADIO: So the US government has decided that webcasters will have to monitor and report any music they play over the internet, and pay a small fee. But if the ruling goes into effect, it will effectively push many small stations off the air. "While it sounds simple enough, the ruling would force low-budget operations to add expensive hardware and software to comply with the order. The stations that can afford the upgrades face the task of training their unpaid volunteers to monitor and run the systems." Wired 08/29/02

STAR TURNS: Accountants and financiers have such a strong grip on the British film industry that they dictate how movies get made. And how they want them made is with recognizable big stars. "If you're making your film for less than £2m, then you've bought yourself a degree of freedom in casting. Much over that, and the pressure from investors to use recognisable names becomes intense." The Guardian (UK) 08/30/02

HOLLYWOOD'S WAY OF SEEING THE WORLD: Hollywood makes movies to appeal to demographic groups. Which groups? Simple. "The movie audience has been reduced, for marketing purposes, to four identifiable groups. They are: males under 25, males over 25, females under 25 and females over 25. That's it. You are a member of one of these groups, whether you like it or not. No one can escape the inevitability of being in one of these groups. Only death excludes you from being in one of four quadrants, but give the marketing geniuses in Hollywood a little time. They'll figure a way to make movies for dead people." Hartford Courant (OCR) 08/29/02

OSCAR - PLEASE DON'T GO: New York officials asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to consider holding part of next year's Oscars in New York - splitting the telecast between LA and New York for one year only. But California State legislators are considering a resolution asking Oscar to stay put. "California, like New York and many other states, is suffering an economic downturn and cannot afford the loss of the Academy Awards to another location." Nando Times (AP) 08/23/02

MAKING THE CUT: Movie fans no longer have to sit through movies the way directors shot them. Fans are taking digital copies of movies they like and re-editing them to remove parts they didn't like or to change the story line. Fan edits of movies like AI have downloaded hundreds of thousands of time over the internet. And about the copyright... Toronto Star 08/25/02

TAKING ON HOLLYWOOD: Is a grassroots movement beginning to organize over the internet to fight old-line media's grab to control creative works? "The entertainment industry and its supporters are threatening free speech and innovation in their zeal to protect an outdated business model. A movement is beginning to stir in America, an overdue reaction to the predations of a cartel that is bidding to control how digital information may be created and used." San Jose Mercury-News 08/26/02

MONTREAL TO BUILD WORLD'S LARGEST MOVIE STUDIO: Montreal investors are set to announce they will build the "largest film studio in the world" in Quebec. The project "will create 300 direct and indirect jobs in the short term and 1,200 in the long term." Toronto Star 08/29/02


BAD NEWS FOR CLASSICAL MUSIC: A new study of UK and US music habits "found that concert attendances by British people under 47 had plummeted since 1990. Young audiences 'distrusted' cultural institutions, including orchestras, which they perceive as 'authoritarian'. The report found that over one third of British people had attended a classical concert, and only 12% did so in the past year. This was a sharper fall-off rate than theatre, visual arts or festivals, suggesting people who went into a concert hall did not like what they found and did not go back." The Guardian (UK) 08/28/02

AND IN THIS CORNER... For a critic, reviewing a work of new music presents unique challenges, not the least of which is that the composer is still around to shoot back if s/he doesn't like what's written. Two Pulitzer Prize-winners - one a composer, one a critic - see the conflict from decidedly different angles, and the debate ranges from whether critics are capable of recognizing a bad performance of a good piece to whether composers drastically overstate the impact of critical assessment. Andante 09/01/02

TOO MUCH MUSIC: This year some 7,000 commercial recordings will be released in the US. That's more than 140 new CDs a week. "Add thousands of albums released through independent labels, thousands from do-it-yourself acts, thousands of back catalogue re-issues and thousands more singles, EPs and mini-albums and it's evident we have entered the era of musical overload." How could anyone make sense of it all. How to find what's good out of this slush pile? Sydney Morning Herald 08/26/02

MUSIC SALES DOWN: Sales of CDs are down 7 percent in the first half of this year compared to last year says the Recording Industry Association of America. That, says the RIAA is evidence that internet filetrading is impacting music sales. "I would not argue that downloading and copying are the only factors at work. But we have clear evidence that downloading and copying do not have a favorable effect on record sales." Wired 08/26/02

  • PROPPING UP THE SKY: Recording companies have been whining for decades that each new technology that comes along will put them out of business. "Then they go about finding numbers to back up the claim. But the industry weathered similar downturns when the disco era came to an end - portable music devices like the Sony Walkman were introduced, and video arcades were competing for teenagers' limited cash reserves." Wired 08/27/02

CITY OPERA TO WTC SITE? New York City Opera, thwarted in its wish to have a new home of its own at Lincoln Center, is seriously considering a move to a site close to where the World Trade Center once stood. "The project, still in the early stages of formation, envisions City Opera as the anchor tenant of a cultural complex that would include other arts groups. In one configuration, the center would provide a 2,200-seat opera house and a 900-seat dance space. The project has attracted interest from the Joyce Theater, the Chelsea-based home of contemporary dance." The New York Times 08/24/02

RATTLE SOUNDS OFF: Conductor Simon Rattle has sounded off about British culture in an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit. "About to take up his post as director of the Berlin Philharmonic, [Rattle] has had it with the caterwauling crudities and street-trash vulgarities of British culture. He much prefers the high cultural seriousness of Germany with its great, well-funded orchestras and modernist-minded public. Finally he will be free of those Hogarthian urchins and sluts he singles out as the image of all that is philistine and glib in the arts in Britain - the Britart generation, "artists such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the others. I believe that much of this English, very biographically oriented art is bullshit." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/02

I HEAR GHOSTS: TV show deadlines are so hectic, more and more composers are delegating work to ghostwriters. "It's definitely one of the dirty little secrets of the film and television music industry." But what happens when royalties are paid out? The composer listed on the credits gets paid, but not the ghostwriter, who often doesn't have a contract. Now a prolific ghost is suing, and the system of paying for TV music is under attack. Detroit Free Press 08/27/02

TROMBONE IN TROUBLE: So few students are taking up study of the trombone (and a few other unpopular instruments) that some experts say there will be a shortage of players in years to come. The British "government's youth music advisers are so concerned that they are preparing a national campaign to rescue the trombone and other 'endangered' instruments such as the bassoon and double bass, warning that British orchestras might soon have to look abroad for players." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/02

TROUBLE IN TEXAS: For some orchestras, it just seems as if nothing they do is ever enough. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has risen to national prominence in the last decade under the baton of a popular young conductor; it has increased ticket sales; and in a year when many orchestras lost tens of millions of dollars from their endowments, the DSO actually increased its stockpile of money by $4.3 million. And yet, as their new season opens, the orchestra is staring down a massive deficit, and wondering what it will take to sustain its recent success. Dallas Morning News 09/01/02

DEAD MAN TELLS A TALE: When Gerald Segalman died, the elite, secretive world of violin dealers was salivating even before the casket was in the ground. Segalman was known to be one of the world's foremost collectors of priceless instruments, and his estate promised to make millionaires of the dealer who managed to oversee the sale of the valuable fiddles. What none of the dealers foresaw was that Segalman's legacy would blow the lid off their deceptive, underhanded fraternity, which for years has been over- and under-valuing instruments based on their own desires, and gouging the musicians who actually need them. The Guardian (UK) 08/31/02

THE LITTLE LABEL THAT COULD: "This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of Naxos, the once dowdy little budget record company that is now the biggest independent classical label in the world. Back in 1987, Naxos’s founder and CEO Klaus Heymann decided to record 100 popular classical music titles as a sideline to his main business of distributing sound systems in Asia. From that humble beginning Naxos grew into an international conglomerate with 250 employees and a catalogue of over 2400 CDs... Today Naxos dominates classical music sales in the UK, Germany, and Scandinavia with 30%-80% of the per unit classical market." La Scena Musicale 09/01/02

WHO FORGOT TO STROKE THE MONEY GUY? Opera patron Alberto Vilar, whose fiscal generosity may be exceeded only by his considerable ego, is pitching a rather public fit at the British government, which he accuses of ignoring him and forgetting "to say the two most important words - thank you." Vilar says his support of London's Covent Garden will continue, but also promised that the UK would "regret" its treatment of him. BBC 09/01/02

BETTER - BUT AT WHAT COST? What's that? A new music format? So good it'll revolutionize the way you listen? "To many people, word that the music industry is launching a newer, shinier music disc when they have only just mastered opening a double-CD jewel case without the contents braining the cat, is not a cause of unalloyed joy. The sound is 3D, thrilling and — of course — thoroughly depressing." The Times (UK) 08/30/02

TONE DEAF REMEMBRANCE: Songwriters so far haven't been very eloquent around the subject of 9/11. Many have tried, and "it's understandable that successful songwriters (as well as scores of aspiring ones) feel compelled to express themselves in a time of trauma. They have been blessed with the ability to communicate and feel it is their duty to make music, the same way a firefighter feels it's his or her duty to go into a burning building. In the process, it is easy to lose artistic discipline and judgment. The biggest mistake is trying to write an anthem that addresses the topic head-on rather than with a poetic distance." Los Angeles Times 08/28/02


LIONEL HAMPTON, 94: It's a good bet that, absent Lionel Hampton, the world would never have come to think of vibraphone as a great jazz instrument. But Hampton, who "until recently continued to tour the world with his own immensely popular big band, was an extremely important figure in American music, not only as an entertainer and an improvising musician in jazz, but also because his band helped usher in rock 'n' roll." Hampton died in a New York hospital this weekend. The New York Times 09/01/02

BACK AND NO LESS PASSIONATE: Playwright Harold Pinter is 71 and has just come through a fight with esophageal cancer. "I found myself in a very dark world which was impossible to interpret. I could not work it out. I was somewhere else, another place altogether, not very pleasant. It is like being plunged into an ocean in which you can't swim. You have no idea how to get out of it. You simply float about, bob about, hit terrible waves. It is all very dark, really. The thing is: here I am." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/02

WILLIAM WARFIELD, 82: Bass-baritone William Warfield, best known for his stirring performances of Porgy in Porgy and Bess, has died in Chicago, after complications due to a broken neck suffered last month. He was 82. The New York Times 08/27/02

DOROTHY HEWETT, 79: Yesterday morning, Australian literature lost, if not one of its saints, than one of its most cherished and authentic larrikins, when Hewett, poet, playwright and novelist, died, aged 79. The Age (Melbourne) 08/26/02

  • A GREAT AUSTRALIAN: "Dorothy was one of the most inspirational women I know. A great writer and poet with a lifelong commitment to her craft, she never lost her passion for social justice or her courage in supporting left-wing causes. Her sardonic irreverence, intellect, honesty, warm heart, her encyclopedic knowledge of Australian literature and history were some of the qualities that made her a formidable friend, a wonderfully talented writer and a great Australian." Sydney Morning Herald 08/26/02

GANGING UP ON JK ROWLING (AND OTHER STORIES): Author JK Rowling is celebrated for her rags-to-riches story - that she wrote the first Harry Potter book in a coffee shop while on welfare. It's a classic tale - "too good, it turns out. Yes, Rowling was a single mother with a bad marriage behind her, and yes, she was briefly on the dole. But the coffee shop was owned by her brother-in-law and Rowling was never far from her middle-class origins." The Age (Melbourne) 08/28/02


SMUGGLED TREASURE FOR SALE: A set of scrolls known as Buddhism's "Dead Sea Scrolls" are about to be sold for £70 million. But there's a moral issue about the sale. The scrolls are owned by a Norwegian collector, who bought them after they were smuggled out of Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. They are believed to come from the Bamiyan area, and at least one expert believes that "this cache of manuscripts, although obviously very different, is of 'comparable importance' to the Buddha statues, which were destroyed by the Taliban last year." The Art Newspaper 08/23/02

REMIND YOU OF ANYONE? Books no longer stand by themselves - they're all planned and marketed to make the potential reader relate them to successful books which have come before. It's "harder all the time, however, to distinguish the descendants from the ancestor, and at some stage, when the proliferation of similar titles—with their sometimes intentionally confusing similarity of cover designs and jacket copy—reaches a true saturation point, it ceases to matter. How many long-dead statesmen can the market bear? How many fatal voyages, doomed expeditions, valiant racehorses, Tuscan reveries, and tales of botanical obsession?" Speakeasy 08/02

BOOK SALES UP: This is turning out to be a pretty good year for book sales. Revenues for America's three largest bookstore chains increased 3.9%, to $1.73 billion in the second quarter. "The increase was slower than the 4.8% increase recorded by the booksellers in the first quarter." Publishers Weekly 08/26/02

PESSIMISTIC ABOUT BOOK SALES: Publishing industry stocks have been falling, and sales projections for the rest of this year are down. "A fragile economy, the stock market meltdown, the lack of job growth, huge government deficits, fears of war and the dampening affect of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks are working together to make analysts pessimistic about retail sales for much of the rest of the year." Publishers Weekly 08/28/02

THEY'LL NEVER RUN OUT OF SUBJECTS: "It is a sort of writers' colony for the mind." The Lucy Daniels Foundation is running a study of the effect of psychotherapy on the creative mind, and has enlisted the help of eight writers, described as "successful but neurotic," as test subjects. The program pays the bulk of the cost of their therapy, and the foundation, which is named for a successful novelist who was forced to undergo electroshock and other torturous methods of 'therapy' in her youth, uses the information it gathers as fodder for its main mission: to reestablish psychotherapy as a respected branch of the analytical sciences. The New York Times 08/31/02

MISSING THE MOB: Simon & Schuster is suing a Hollywood talent agency for misrepresenting the identity of a writer. S&S paid $500,000 to the author of The Honored Society, who was represented as " the highest ranking mob member ever to record the innermost workings" of the Mafia. The writer was said to be the grandson of mobster Carlo Gambino, but is not. Nando Times (AP) 08/29/02

SCOTLAND IS FOR WRITERS: Scotland is attracting writers - particularly women writers - from abroad. "Scotland has the most fantastic opportunities for first time writers. In Edinburgh, not only are there some brilliant publishing houses like Canongate, but with the city being so compact there is a real writing community that is facilitated by the Scottish Art Council which is fantastically supportive in the way of grants and advice for first time writers." The Scotsman 08/29/02

POETIC PORTRAIT OF A CITY: Really - do your run-of-the-mill postcards capture the sense of a city? Doubtful. So along comes a new project that puts poetry of postcards. "Chosen in an open competition, with winners recently selected, poetic likenesses of L.A. will begin appearing on thousands of free postcards around the city in November." Los Angeles Times 08/28/02


IMPORTED ACTING: The British theatre union is protesting the number of American actors hired by London theatres. The protests may lead to debate about reciprocal agreements about US and UK theatres employing each other's actors. "The answer is not to make it harder for foreign actors to work here, but to make it easier for British actors to work in America. The British theater community has been open to Americans. There's been interchange between the two, but it's a long way from being reciprocated abroad." Los Angeles Times 08/26/02

NOBODY'S GETTING RICH: There's a lot of money swirling around the Edinburgh Festival. But no one seems to have any money or make any money. So where does it go? "It is clear that the army of theatrical agents, promoters and managers in Edinburgh tend, at least, to cover their own backs. But do they actually make money? The answer seems to be: a little." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/02

RAPPIN' TO THE BARD: "Most people would run a mile from a production that, in the US, was billed as 'an 'ad-rap-tation' of Willy Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors'. In the wrong hands, an attempt to mould Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identities to the rhythms of hip-hop would be disastrous - as embarrassing as a teacher wearing a baseball cap backwards and bigging up Shake to the Speare." Instead it ended up the hit of the just-concluded Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Guardian (UK) 08/28/02

MILLER TAKES ON THE CRITICS: Arthur Miller isn't fazed by the bad reviews his angry new play Resurrection Blues has received. "Most of my plays have been rejected to start with. The Crucible was destroyed first time out. It was the same with All My Sons. Every other critic condemned it. Why? I rather imagine that it is because they are attuned to entertainment. That's part of the culture we are dealing with: entertainment for profit. When society and its ills are brought onto the stage, they don't know what to do about it. Until they see the aesthetic in the play, that it is not just a political tract, they are at a loss. And that takes time." The Telegraph (UK) 08/29/02

STRATFORD STRUGGLES: Stratford's 50th anniversary season may have been a public success, but one critic says it felt awfully derivative. "It's sad to think that after 49 years, Stratford still has to look to Britain to see how it's done. But if the company is going to rise out of the artistic mire, it needs to build ongoing relationships with such talents, just as Toronto's Soulpepper troupe and the Shaw Festival regularly bring back European directors to challenge their actors. Trouble is, introducing guest artists into the Stratford machine is often difficult: The logistics of running a dozen large productions in repertory creates a tumbling schedule that can leave directors with insufficient or interrupted rehearsal time." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/31/02


GIANT COMMEMORATION: In one of the larger scale commemorations of 9/11, "thousands of volunteers will unfurl a 5-mile-long silk banner with 3,000 American flags under the Golden Gate Bridge and wrap it along San Francisco's coastline on Sept. 8 in a massive red-white-and-blue commemoration of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The memorial artwork is the product of Chinese American artist Pop Zhao, who stretched the world's longest artwork on the Great Wall of China last year." San Francisco Chronicle 08/27/02

FURTHER BAMIYAN PERIL: The hollowed-our niches that once protected the Bamiyan Buddhas before they were destroyed by the Taliban last year are in danger of being destroyed themselves. An expert who has examined the site says that "explosions caused by the Taliban have perilously weakened the cliff face. Cracks have appeared, allowing rain water to percolate into the decorated caves. The water then freezes at night, enlarging the cracks." Unless emergency conservation is undertaken, the niches will "disappear within a decade." The Art Newspaper 08/23/02

WILL THERE BE ANY NEED TO LOOK AT THE ACTUAL ART? The Tate Museum is experimenting with giving visitors handheld computers on which they can wirelessly access multimedia guides to the exhibition they are visiting. "If the trial, being offered free to enthusiastic visitors, is a success, the multimedia tours could be offered alongside the existing audio tours." BBC 08/30/02

  • LISTENING TO ART: "The desire of galleries to make art accessible is subtly altering the way the work itself is presented. Visitors are being invited not just to contemplate, but to engage in a more active experience. Not just to look, but also to learn. Hence the growing popularity of audio guides. Rough estimates from their producers suggest that, whereas five years ago just two per cent of visitors to major exhibitions would use one, now 40 per cent will." The Telegraph (UK) 08/28/02

COME TO BOSTONLAND! The city of Boston is about to have a big chunk of open land, once the major traffic artery through the city is shifted underground. And this week, a city councilor proposed that a parcel of the land be used to create a sort of colonial theme park, an idea which Robert Campbell calls "stupid... Hey, why not turn the Artery into Venetian canals? How about a bullfight arena? Maybe a giant balloon launcher for tourists? The problem isn't dreaming up ideas. The problem is that there's nobody in charge of sifting those ideas and figuring out what will really work, what will really make a better city." Boston Globe 09/01/02

ART-AS-COMMODITY REPORT: The art market has been good the past few years. But will the good times continue? "Simply looking at beguiling prices realised and touted by auction houses might lead one to think that the art market has defied gravity and has, and can, continue, oblivious of the wider economic slowdown. While such a scenario would be lovely, the truth is it is impossible to imagine. But the slowdown of 2003 is not going to be a repeat of the crash of 1990. Times have indeed been good, but an economic shakeout is not a collapse: the underlying global economy remains healthy: so too with the art market." The Art Newspaper 08/30/02

  • WHERE'S THE ART? The amount of quality art for sale has been declining over the past decade. "The sellers have simply fled. The art market gets back to business for the 2002-03 season next week with one auction at Sotheby’s in September and six at Christie’s. September sales, ten years ago, were around 15 in each house; now, the great rooms in Mayfair and St James’s echo with inactivity. You can’t walk the London art suburbs without hearing the choral sadness of the art trade that yes, wallets are bulging, buyers are everywhere, but no, we’ve nothing of quality to sell." The Times (UK) 08/28/02

THE 'HOLD-BACK' ROOM: Starting in the mid-18th Century, museums began holding back items in their collections deemed too...shall we say...startling...for visitors of refinement. "By the 1830s the British Museum, too, had started hiving off items considered potentially too corrupting to be perused by ordinary mortals — particularly women and the lower classes. Such material, it was felt, would lead to moral degeneracy, which in turn would lead to the collapse of social and economic values and — who knows? — the decline and fall of the Empire itself." The Times (UK) 08/30/02

OF SUNFLOWERS AND DONKEYS AND ELEPHANTS (OH MY!): The Animals-on-Parade public art project has been adopted (without incident) by dozens of cities around the world. But Washington DC has found itself in court this summer over that city's version of the painted animals. First, the Green Party sued to get its party symbol (a sunflower) included alongside the elephants and donkeys. Then "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals convinced another judge that the city violated their 1st Amendment right to protest the treatment of circus animals when it rejected the group's portrayal of a weeping, shackled elephant." Chicago Tribune 08/29/02

BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE: London's National Gallery is putting a series of Renaissance paintings on display which were painted over top other paintings. "Any painting is a lesson in chemistry and optics: white reflects all colours, black absorbs all colours; some chemicals absorb everything except red or yellow or blue light and so become natural pigments. Humans have a limited visual range, from red to violet, but paintings are still 'visible' at other wavelengths. Owls and foxes can see in the near infra-red. Very weak infrared light shone on a painting can penetrate thin layers of paint, to be stopped by something impenetrable underneath." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/02


ENTRY DENIED: American arts festivals have had a bad time this summer getting international artists into the country to perform. Visas have been denied, and entry refused for numerous artists, leaving arts organizations scrambling to find replacement performers at the last minute for top artists who have been denied entry. "I think it must be the worst summer for festivals in decades, if not the worst ever. There is some irony in shutting down the arts at a time when we should be encouraging international cultural exchanges with the long view of understanding other countries." Denver Post 08/29/02

EMPTY WORDS: Last week the head of the Scottish Arts Council spoke a lot of good words about supporting the arts, increasing funding, and making Scotland a place where the arts flourish. But it was all a smokescreen, writes Keith Bruce. Even a cursory glance at what the Council is doing shows a profound lack of ideas and originality. And then there are those funding cuts... The Herald (Glasgow) 08/30/02

PRECARIOUS PROMOTION: This year's Edinburgh Festival featured a late-night series of top performers, with tickets going for £5. It was a big success at attracting new audiences. But the experiment won't be repeated because of the cost. So how do you get people to try the arts? "In Britain - in Scotland - we live in a society where classical music and the arts in general are not an integral part of our lives. They are an add-on, seen by the bulk of our people and our politicians as an over-expensive luxury, and one that most people don't want. That fact is rooted in our education system. It's not that the government devalues the arts - to say so might suggest the possibility of a presumption on their part of value in the first instance." The Herald (Glasgow) 08/30/02

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Has art and popular culture changed since 9/11? "You think about the atmosphere in the immediate aftermath. It was a chorus of voices declaring, 'Irony is dead,' 'We'll never laugh again,' 'No one is ever going to want to see another violent action movie.' Well, all those forecasts proved to be wrong." Dallas Morning News 08/28/02

THE INTERNET TICKET SCAM: Some internet ticket-buyers for opera, theatre and ballet shows are being scammed by high tech thieves. "The thieves copy official Web sites of premier venues to almost every detail, including theatre layouts and restaurant information, and constantly update shows. The crucial difference is the scam site has its own credit card booking set-up, so your money goes directly into their account." Sydney Morning Herald 08/28/02

RAISED PROFILE: The Kennedy Center has long had a high profile. But it has generally been more of a presenter for local residents than a cultural destination for out-of-towners. That may be changing. When Michael Kaiser became president of the Kennedy Center, with its $125 million annual budget, he set a goal of making "the 31-year-old center a cultural destination for people from all over the world rather than merely a place for local residents, and to accomplish this by staging its own productions rather than presenting someone else's." The New York Times 08/26/02

10. FOR FUN 

NAME AUCTION: An e-author auctions off the names of dogs in her new novel as a way of raising money for rescued greyhounds. "More than 4,000 greyhound lovers unleashed online bids to name canine characters in best-selling author Cyn Mobley's first self-published novel, Greyhound Dancing." The book has already sold enough to cover its production costs. Wired 08/27/02

MAY THE FORCE BE IN YOU: Australia's census-takers are perplexed that on last year's census, "0.37 percent of the nation's population of 19 million, or 70,509 people, had written 'Jedi' or a related response to an optional question about their faith when the head count was taken last August." As Star Wars fans know, "Jedi is a mystical faith followed by some of the central characters in the Star Wars films. The prank began early last year when Star Wars fans circulated an e-mail across Australia saying the government would be forced to recognize Jedi as an official religion if at least 10,000 people named it on the census." 08/28/02