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ARTS ISSUES - February 2001

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  • Wednesday February 28

    • THE COSTS OF STATE FUNDING: "Arts sponsorship, as a rule, is a model of enlightened laissez-faire. The danger to artistic freedom comes not from business sponsors and private donors but from the subsidising state, which is becoming more strident in its demands for political payback." The Telegraph (London) 02/28/01
    • MAKING HIS OWN STATEMENT: When Gao Xingjian was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature last fall, it was widely viewed by the English-speaking press as a political slap in the face of Beijing's repressive rulers, who had banned Gao's work. But this is one author who does not believe in using the power of his pen to effect change in the physical world. Instead, he calls for a "cold literature" to rise above all. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/28/01


    Tuesday February 27

    • ART IN ECONOMIC TERMS: "There's no doubt that culture is good business. Museums, nonprofit art galleries, and theaters together have been one of the fastest growing job categories in New York. Studies by the N.Y./N.J. Port Authority and others describe some $10 billion in annual revenues that such institutions generate when you include hotels, restaurants, and transportation services." Businessweek Online 02/26/01
    • WHY NOT BUY BRITISH? British taxpayers spend £50 million subsidizing its opera and ballet companies. So why do Brit audiences pay to see second-rate foreign companies that "charge slightly less for tickets than native subsidised companies such as Welsh National Opera or English National Ballet. The informed consensus is that their performances are generally of a very low standard, with wretchedly tatty productions and performers too bored or tired to give of their best." The Telegraph (London) 02/27/01
    • ACTING OUT ON CULTURE: The Austrian under-secretary for art and culture is a former actor. And not much more convincing than he was onstage either. What to make of his cultural policies? Franz Morak is cutting back on spending on cluture "because he has to, but he is doing it where he wants to. As little as those who are affected want to accept it, that, too, is a form of cultural policy." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 02/27/01

    Monday February 26

    • ON REPEALING THE DEATH TAX: In the US, the Bush administration is serious about repealing estate taxes. But many are concerned repeal will seriously diminish charitable giving as part of estate planning. And now, some of America's wealthiest are arguing that the tax should not be lifted. The Art Newspaper 02/26/01
    • CUTTING BACK THE CULTURAL AMBASSADORS: Fifty years ago Germany started the Goethe Institut, designed to be its cultural ambassador to the world. There were 130 outposts around the world, and they were staffed with German intellectuals and presented the best in German culture. Now, as Germany faces budget hardships, the Goethes are being cut back or closed. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/26/01
    • AFRICA'S AIDS BLIGHT AND EDUCATION: In Kenya, as many as 20-30 percent of the university population has AIDS. "The deaths caused by AIDS are leaving gaping holes in university faculties. When a senior faculty member dies, the death represents the loss of 30 years' investment. These people are very hard to replace." Chronicle of Higher Education 03/02/01
    • UNIONIZING AT THE MET: For 8 months, restaurant workers at the Metropolitan Opera have been trying to unionize. The workers - who make $8 an hour - accuse the Met of not supporting their efforts with the contractor who hires them. The Met has maintained in the past that the dispute is between the contractor and its workers. New York Times 02/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    Friday February 23

    • AUSTRIAN OUTRAGE: Austria's right-wing coalition government has imposed a new tax system on the country's artists. The complicated set of regulations, which is being decried across Europe as a thinly veiled attempt to stifle artistic freedom, would tax artists at a unique rate of up to 70% of their income, and includes several rules that contradict each other. Frankfurter Allgemaine Zeitung 02/23/01
    • SURPLUS LIVING: Just a few years after the dismantling of East German industry, it is now the turn of the mass-produced housing built to accommodate workers. With the collapse of East Germany's industrial base, an estimated 1 million apartments are unoccupied in eastern Germany. What to do? Tear them down, of course... Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 02/23/01
    • WHY THE FIGHT OVER NAPSTER MATTERS: "Suggested revenue models for making money on the Net trickle up from the software industry: you give away the intellectual property, then make your money in services and customization. These models simply don't make sense when talking about a great riff, an evocative piece of photojournalism or a work of fiction good enough to anthologize in the world of dead trees. Art is not information. Art is precisely that which can last and last — whereas nothing dates faster than a revision to a piece of software." The New York Times 02/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    Thursday February 22

    • IS IT THE WAR OR THE BATTLE WE WON? (OR LOST): It's been ten years since the Culture Wars were in full flame. Were the battles won? Lost? And who did the winning and losing? It's far too complicated to be able to declare a straight-ahead winner. Village Voice 02/21/01

    Wednesday February 21

    APOLOGY OF THE DAY: Last month the Sydney Morning Herald published a review of pianist Michael Brimer's performance of five Beethoven sonatas. The review criticized Brimer for "memory lapses" and said that he "took time to recover from occasional errors". Brimer protested and after sending a tape of the concert to an independent expert, the Herald "withdraws the criticisms" and apologises to the pianist in a note to readers... Sydney Morning Herald 02/21/01

    Tuesday February 20


    • The New York Times:"The Internet is a revolutionary medium whose long-term benefits we are only beginning to fathom. But that is no reason to allow it to become a duty- free zone where people can plunder the intellectual property of others without paying for it." 02/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)
    • Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "The prevailing view of Napster, reinforced by last week's court ruling, paints it as a digital burglary tool that scofflaw youngsters can use to grab free music and beat musicians out of royalties. This is a convenient oversimplification by the recording industry, whose archaic business model is as big a reason as any for the success of the Internet music-swapping services it is trying to shut down." 02/19/01
    • Toronto Globe & Mail: "We've used Napster to explore, educate ourselves and chase down obscurities -- areas either badly served by the companies, or not served at all. Napster gives you access to music at the speed of intellect. I can recall more than once a quick download settling a musical argument." 02/20/01

    Monday February 19

    • WHY ARE WE SO FASCINATED WITH NAPSTER? It raises fundamental questions about art and the ownership of creative work. "What is the appropriate relationship between the artist and fan base? Is the capitalist model the right model for creating art? What is copyright for? And what is art for in a consumer society?" The New York Times 02/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)
    • ART FROM AFAR: Artists collaborating on a performance from different locales is nothing new. What is new is the internet 2, developed by a consortium of 180 universities. Thousands of times faster than the current internet, it allows almost instantaneous communication. Artists, of course, are experimenting... The New York Times 02/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    Friday February 16

    • RELATIVE VALUES: A Scottish firm this weekend will auction a rare copy of "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom," the T.E. Lawrence book which inspired "Lawrence of Arabia." Also on the block, at Christie's, is the bikini worn by Ursula Andress in "Dr. No." The bikini is expected to sell for three times as much as the book. CBC 02/16/01

    Thursday February 15

    • LOBBYING FOR THE NEH: A group of influential US senators has lobbied new president George W. Bush to keep William Ferris as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities. "Keeping a Clinton appointee in the post would be unusual. But Ferris, who was named NEH chairman in November 1997, has won favor with Democrats and Republicans in Congress and has helped the agency get a substantial increase in funding." Washington Post 02/09/01
    • HOW TO RUIN A SYMPHONY:  Nothing can spoil a climactic moment in a performance like a beeping watch or a chirruping cell phone, and increasingly, concertgoers are disregarding warnings to shut them off. But in an industry desperate to attract the public, most managements are loath to take any harsh measures to enforce the ban. Boston Herald 02/15/01
    • A NEIGHBORHOOD IN FLUX: Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood is undergoing a rebirth as a community of artists, or at least that's what King County officials and arts fans hope. But the project is not without controversy, as housing and work space for artists forces out current tenants, many of whom are low-income earners with little chance of finding housing elsewhere. The Stranger (Seattle) 02/15/01

    Wednesday February 14

    • NOT ALL (COPY)RIGHT: A European initiative on copyright law has roused a chorus of protest. Actors and writers hate its reduction of royalty payments. Others protest the provision that "would also require film-makers to seek permission from architects and designers of public buildings or objects before picturing them. Another clause would give artists a mandatory share of profits in the sales and distribution of broadcast material." The Guardian (London) 02/13/01
    • INSPIRING INTELLECT: Once it was sickness and wasting that "suggested an artistic sensibility and a poetic soul. Now it is exile that evokes the sensitive intellectual, the critical spirit operating alone on the margins of society, a traveler, rootless and yet at home in every metropolis, a tireless wanderer from academic conference to academic conference, a thinker in several languages, an eloquent advocate for ethnic and sexual minorities - in short, a romantic outsider living on the edge of the bourgeois world." The New Republic 02/12/01

    Tuesday February 13

    • BOBBING FOR BOBBIES: Nominations for Australia's first Helpmann Awards are announced. "The awards, named after Sir Robert Helpmann by the organisers the Australian Entertainment Industry Association (AEIA), are the Aussie answer to New York's Tonys and London's Oliviers. But our 'Bobbies' - as they might become known - not only cover theatre, but also dance, opera and a 'special events' category. The Age (Melbourne) 02/13/01
    • AUSTRIA DECAMPS FROM PARIS: Austria has announced it is closing the Austrian Cultural Institute in Paris and Parisian intellectuals are protesting. "The decision to shut down the institute, which has been in existence since the early years after World War II, and to sell the elegant mansion near the Invalides in which it is housed, was announced by Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner. But she also promised that Austria's cultural activities in Paris would continue. She rejected speculations that the plans were meant as a retaliation for France's leading role in last year's boycott against Austria." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 02/13/01

    Monday February 12

    • THE LANGUAGE OF PRESERVATION: People in the province of Quebec have long been concerned with preserving their French language against the dominant Canadian English. But a recent poll says they're now more concerned about the quality of English education. "As a society with a small population within North America, French was definitely in danger. But now the goal has been met." Christian Science Monitor 02/12/01

    Sunday February 11

    • ARTS EDUCATION FOR ALL: The British government announces a £35 million government plan to help provide arts education for students of working class families. "The theme of the plan will be an equal chance for every child through to university and beyond. For the first time it will focus not only on improving disadvantaged children's exam scores and basic skills, but on their wider lives through the pupil learning credit scheme for cultural extras." The Observer (London) 02/11/01
    • FUNDING CREATIVITY: A new British funding program debuts - National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. "Instead of targeting whole institutions, Nesta is awarding its money only to individuals or very small teams; and it doesn't separate arts and sciences. But neither will Nesta simply hand over the money and hope for the best. It pays 'mentors' to look after each project, and where the individual is being helped to produce a technical or creative innovation with a prospect of commercial profit, Nesta negotiates a royalty for itself." The Sunday Times (London) 02/11/01
    • CRITICAL PATH: So who needs critics anyway? "The opinion-rich chat rooms and online forums and instant polls of the cyber world would seem to suggest that regular people have had it with the self-declared and self-impressed professionals. Where do they get off, anyway?" And yet... Hartford Courant 02/11/01

    Friday February 9

    • THE MODERN RENAISSANCE: "There are seven striking similarities between the last Golden Age and the modern world - seven fundamental signs that marked all renaissances, including the one unfolding today. New forms of art, new religions, a booming global economy, a self-help movement, a communications revolution and accelerating change - these six forces shaped the last Renaissance and today these same forces are again shaping our world. But with progress also comes pain... *spark-online 02/01

    Thursday February 8

    • ART BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: Files from the East German secret service give an interesting look at how the communist government dealt in arts policy. But a lot of the information contained in the files just doesn't add up. "This is the kind of nonsense that emerges when Stasi files are used as the sole source of information and hands-on research is neglected." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 02/08/01
    • TROUBLE SPEAKING ENGLISH: Columbia University's English department has an illustrious history. "Yet it has been suffering from a host of maladies, not the least of which are understaffing and high turnover. The result has been a department so unnerved, it has a difficult time holding faculty meetings, let alone making such crucial decisions as who to name as its department chair." New York Observer 02/07/01
    • THE BARD OR THE WEB? The British Government is considering a proposal to end its requirement that all secondary-school students study Shakespeare. In his place would be coursework in media studies, including film, "the moving image," the Web, and e-mail. Needless to say, dissent is rampant. "It would be monstrous for the next generation not to be encouraged to study what is probably the world's greatest literature. Any other country that spoke the language of Shakespeare would insist on the study of at least two of his plays." The Telegraph (London) 2/08/01
    • INCITING DIALOGUE: Richard Grayson, the new artistic director of the Sydney Biennale, is the first practicing artist to head the Biennale. His far-flung interests are sure to enliven cultural dialogue - his one stated goal - by getting artists from all over the world involved. "They will all have roles in the projects as speakers, writers, artists…[and] to commence a long after-dinner, slightly boozy conversation electronically which will keep going for the next year and a half." Sydney Morning Herald 2/08/01
    • ARTS DAY? The US President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities is meeting in Dallas this week. On the agenda - consideration of creating a national Arts and Humanities Day. Dallas Morning News 02/08/01

    Wednesday February 7

    • STIFLING DISSENT: How have the arts in Austria fared since Jorg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party took power a year ago? Artists, journalists, and academics have been slapped with more than 100 official libel suits; state subsidies of the arts have all but dried up; and "many of the victims of the funding cuts — from community radio stations to independent theater groups — had one thing in common: their opposition to the government." San Francisco Bay Guardian 2/05/01
    • HOW WE TRANSMIT THE MEANING OF ART: "So icons, signs, words, and symbols are the 0's created by a real world full of 1's.  As we turn these icons into art and transmit them via media, these icons become objects in and of themselves.  An image on my web site is no longer an impression on my mind; it is now an object that can leave an impression on someone else's mind." *spark-online 02/01
    • PROUD TO BE FAKE: Almost by definition, theme parks are trying to recreate some alternate reality. But for Disney's major new Anaheim makeover, recently opened, instead of blithe assurances that the theme park somehow imitates the real world, there's a wink and a nudge. "Disney's answer is to expose the theme park's artificiality, like a magician suddenly showing his hand, before whisking you away on the next ride." Los Angeles Times 02/07/01

    Tuesday February 6

    • BROUGHT TO YOU BY... In the last decade of economic boom, arts organizations turned more than ever to corporate largesse to help them stay afloat year to year. Now, with the economy slowing and corporate layoffs beginning in earnest, large donations to non-profit arts groups may be one of the early casualties. Detroit News 02/06/01

    Monday February 5

    • DID MONEY BUY VISA? When Ry Cooder went to Cuba without a visa, he was later fined by the US government. His next trip is legal - and some are questioning whether a recent $10,000 donation to Hillary Clinton's senate campaign influenced Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Samuel Berger, President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, to weigh in on the musician's behalf in the last days of the administration. Baltimore Sun 02/02/01

    Sunday February 4

    • THE NEW PHILANTHROPY: "Rather than sitting back and writing out cheques, the new philanthropists are far more likely to be personally involved with the causes they support. And they are more interested in using their money to actually change society, which is what concerns their critics. The difference between this wave of wealth and the one earlier in the century is that there is oblige without the noblesse." National Post (Canada) 02/03/01

    Friday February 2

    • VENTURE PHILANTHROPY: As the National Endowment for the Arts continues to play a much-diminished role in funding individual artists, many are turning to corporate America for the cash to bring their work to fruition. But successfully pitching Fortune 500-types on a project takes more than an artistic vision. It takes, among other things, a working knowledge of how the corporate world makes decisions. Wired 02/02/01
    • APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY: A Kennedy Center board member was apparently rewarded for his financial support of Bill and Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates with an extended term. As the president prepared to leave office, Ronald Dozoretz resigned from the board of Washington's most prestigious arts complex, and was promptly reappointed to a fresh four-year term. Washington Post 02/02/01
    • PROFIT FROM IT: Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts is the most visible example of the historic city's rebirth, and the new $255 million Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is the jewel in the Avenue's crown, set to become the new home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as several theater groups. Furthermore, the Kimmel is expected to bring more seats, higher property values, and a larger audience to the Avenue, which has even the Center's competitors singing its praises. Philadelphia Daily News 02/02/01