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ARTS ISSUES - April 2001

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Tuesday May 1

THE IDEA OF PROTECTION: "The world is caught up in an explosion of ideas and inventions. As a testament to the extent to which they are revered, and their status in the global village, they now warrant their annual celebration. Last Thursday marked the first World Intellectual Property Day." Sydney Morning Herald 05/01/01

Monday April 30

CHANGING FACE OF NONPROFITS: "Nonprofit arts centers across America are facing a multitude of increasingly challenging tasks: audience development; community relations; financial stability; and getting quality 'product' to put on stage. Once the genteel home that readily opened its doors to serve local arts groups and the occasional touring show, arts presenting now has simply become big business." Hartford Courant 04/29/01

Sunday April 29

SELLING SOUTH AFRICA: Much of the tourism in South Africa these days is around Aprtheid-era landmarks. It's a little disconcerting - and misleading. Daily Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 04/29/01

NEA GIVES FOR EDUCATION: The National Endowment for the Arts has given a $500,000 for arts education. "The grant went to Young Audiences Inc., a 49-year-old arts education organization, to create Internet sites for a national program called Arts for Learning." Washington Post 04/28/01

  • THE NEA AFTER IVEY: What does Bill Ivey's resignation as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts mean to the NEA? Probably not much... Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04/29/01

Friday April 27

BILL IVEY'S NEA STYLE: Not many post mortems yet on departing National Endowment for the Arts chairman Bill Ivey's term. Here's an earlier assessment. "To be sure, his willingness to avoid language that strikes some as elitist has helped the NEA's standing both on and off Capitol Hill. But does it really help the agency fulfill its mission to improve the arts in America?" The New Republic 04/26/01

WHY SPORT AND NOT ART? When international athletes come to Australia to compete, their every move is disected in the press. But when a large gathering of artists comes, there's nary a mention. Why is that? Sydney Morning Herald 04/27/01

Thursday April 26

AFRAID TO BE CREATIVE: Is the reason we're creative, the reason we create culture because we're afraid? After "a survey of existing literature from social scientists," a Hungarian sociologist concludes that they have undervalued the role of fear as a motivating force in the creation of culture." Central European Review 04/25/01

BLAME THE CULTURE? The problems in aboriginal communities are often blamed on colonization. But an Australian anthropologist says "immense social problems being experienced in Aboriginal communities do not stem only from a history of colonial conquest, prejudice and racism but may also be maintained by certain indigenous traditions and beliefs." Sydney Morning Herald 04/26/01

Wednesday April 25

NEA CHIEF TO LEAVE JOB: Bill Ivey has resigned as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Ivey, appointed by Bill Clinton had said he'd like to stay on in the job in the Bush administration, but evidently the administration had other plans. "Ivey's quiet manner was credited as setting a harmonious tone with Congress." Washington Post 04/25/01

SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY: Ten years ago newly-elected Michigan governor John Engler announced plans to "eliminate the state arts council and drastically cut public funding to the state's cultural institutions," earning the wrath of the state's arts organizations. In a bizarre turnaround, this week Michigan arts advocacy group ArtServe is awarding Engler a special award for his service to the arts. Detroit Free Press 04/24/01

Tuesday April 24

HEADS ARE ROLLING: Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez has launched a campaign to free Venezuela from what he calls a "rancid oligarchy." And the first victim of this "cultural revolution is Sofía Imber. "Imber, 76, an art critic, founded the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art in 1971 in a garage and made it into one Latin America's most admired arts institutions." The New York Times 04/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SOME HELP FOR THE STATES: "The Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds, a leading supporter of arts and cultural programs, is giving state arts agencies $9.6 million tobroaden interest in the arts. The initiative, which the New York-based foundation plans to announce today, will help the agencies rethink the way they operate." Washington Post 04/24/01

NO, AUSTRALIA LOVES THE ARTS: Last week a report was released that said audiences for the arts in Australia are declining. But a survey of major arts organizations contradicts the report's finding. Indeed, audiences are growing... Sydney Morning Herald 04/23/01

Monday April 23

STILL NO SPACE: San Francisco arts groups have been losing their spaces in the past year as rents - fueled by the dotcom boom - went through the roof. So now that the dotcoms have crashed, has the space crunch eased? Not at all. "Buildings are vacating, true, but the offices they offer are of little use to arts groups and bands needing space outfitted for performance and rehearsal purposes." And even if they were - who could afford the rents? San Francisco Chronicle 04/22/01

THE 3 STOOGES AS ART. NO, REALLY: A California artist makes drawings of The Three Stooges, and sells them on T-shirts and lithographs. Heirs to the Stooges' estates have charged - so far successfully - that they should control the image because it's merchandise. The artist is asking the state's Supreme Court to rule that it's art. Los Angeles Times 04/23/01

Sunday April 22

BOSTON T1 PARTY: Perhaps it's still a sign of its immaturity as an artform that art created in a digital medium is all lumped together as "digital art." After all, digital includes music, computer and video art. The biggest digital art festival opens in Boston, home to one of the largest communities of digital artists. Boston Globe 04/21/01

  • TECHNO-ART NOTHING NEW: The uneasy embrace between art and technology is hardly a recent phenomenon. Almost since the industrial revolution first made machinery a part of everyday life, artists have struggled to incorporate the latest innovations into their work, with varying degrees of success. The New York Times 04/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A TRANSFORMATIVE PROJECT? Dallas, never a city known for its ground-breaking architecture, is in the early planning stages for a massive new Center for the Performing Arts. The project would have as its centerpiece a 2,400-seat opera house, and is expected to cost some $250 million. Many obstacles have yet to be overcome, but expectations are high that the center would transform Dallas's Arts District into a cultural strip rivalling those of cities like Philadelphia and Chicago. Dallas Morning News 04/22/01

NEW ARTS MUSEUM: Britain's Tate Museum plans to open a library for all the arts. The new facility will showcase previously unseen papers and sketches from leading figures from the past century." The Guardian (UK) 04/21/01

BACKPEDALING FURIOUSLY: "School children in South Africa's Gauteng Province - which encompasses Johannesburg - will continue to read [the works of] Shakespeare despite criticism that they are racist or sexist." BBC 04/22/01

Friday April 20

ARTS DECLINE: A new report says Aussies are deserting the arts. "Live theatre was the biggest loser, with only 41 per cent attending compared to 49 per cent previously. Musicals, ballet and contemporary dance, which all recorded increases in 1999, fell in 2000. Only 37 per cent attended musicals, 18 per cent classical music recitals, 11 per cent saw the ballet and 9 per cent a contemporary dance. Even arthouse cinema attendance fell 5 per cent to 27 per cent." The Age (Melbourne) 04/20/01

REBOUNDING RUDY: Every year New York mayor Rudy Giuliani proposes big cuts in funding culture in the city. Every year the city council proposes restoring those cuts. But this year "the council's preliminary budget response also included a novel addition: a proposal to create 'cultural zones' for promoting economic development in each of the city's five boroughs. Backstage 04/19/01

INSTANT MESSAGE/INSTANT ART: "Artists often function as new media's shock troops. They adopt new technology early, and then find uses for it that the technologists never dreamt of. Now, SMS messaging - one of the crudest and most popular forms of new media - is finding its way into the artists' canon. And that's not all: ring tones and even the vibrating alerts are all being picked apart by artists keen to comment on society's latest craze." The Guardian (UK) 04/19/01

Thursday April 19

AFRICAN ART STRUGGLES: For all its triumphs since the end of apartheid, South Africa is still a country in transition, and no aspect of society can be completely independent of the national political vibe. Artists are particularly affected: since most governmental energy is expended trying to keep the country from boiling over, art is a secondary concern, leading to a tightly-knit community of artists determined to create significant works. Boston Globe 04/19/01

Wednesday April 18

OF ART AND POLITICS: In Australia, "once there was a bedrock, bipartisan tradition of support for free expression in the arts - cultural incubation at arm's length. But that notion has been undermined in the culture wars that have swirled around politics for the past decade." Now, those who make decisions about the direction of arts are increasingly beholden to political interests. Sydney Morning Herald 04/18/01

POLITICAL INSULT AS AN ART FORM: To judge from the new edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations, political discourse in the past decade has been just one insult after another. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the British do it with more panache than the Americans, as in a reference to one of Tony Blair's aides: "Peter isn't the Prince of Darkness - though he may be Lady Macbeth." The Guardian 04/16/01

Tuesday April 17

THE PULITZERS: The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded yesterday in journalism and the arts. Winners included John Corigliano (Music, for his Symphony #2), Michael Chabon (Fiction, for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), and David Auburn (Drama, for his play Proof.) Click here for the complete winner's list. Washington Post 04/17/01

SANTA FE STYLE: Santa Fe New Mexico is a small town out in the middle of the desert. But it's always attracted an artistic crowd. The opening of several new arts facilities in recent years has contributed to a thriving cultural life. The New York Times 04/17/01 (one-time registrationrequired for access)

ARTISTS PLEA: Hundreds of Canadian artists, writers, actors and filmmakers have signed a personal appeal to Prime Minister Jean Chretien asking him to defend the rights of political activists at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City next week. CBC 04/17/01

TWO WORDS - DUCT TAPE: It is a problem as old as the hills: what to do about those rude, clueless audience members who decide to ruin the day of everyone around them by talking through a performance? A critic whose blistering reaction to one such miscreant once wound up as a New Yorker story has some suggestions. National Post (from the Philadelphia Inquirer) 04/17/01

Monday April 16

POP GOES THE WEASEL: The US Congress has been pressuring the National Endowment for the Humanities to pursue more study of popular culture. "In the process, it is neglecting its core goal of the past 35 years: to support fundamental research, preserve scholarly materials and the sources that document the American past, and support educators who teach the humanities." Christian Science Monitor 04/16/01

FALLING BEHIND: Arguably, Toronto is Canada's cultural capital. But the city has stagnated in recent years. "Almost every U.S. city of any consequence has been making dramatic and expensive improvements to its cultural amenities even while Toronto has opted for retrenchment and inertness - counting too heavily on a reputation for comparative cultural sophistication that now seems shaky and outdated." Toronto Star 04/15/01

  • CULTURE ENVY: You can't tell the players without a scorecard. Here's what American cities have been investing in culture compared to Toronto. Toronto Star 04/15/01
  • ROADMAP: What Toronto ought to do to pull out of its cultural dive. Toronto Star 04/15/01

BYE BYE DECENCY: Come next winter New York will have a new mayor. Candidates say one of the first things they will drop is current mayor Rudy Giuliani's art "decency panel." "Giuliani has made the city the laughingstock in art capitals around the world," says one candidate. New York Post 04/16/01

Sunday April 15

CAPITAL OF WHAT... Ten years ago Glasgow was named the EU's European Capital of Culture. It worked, and Glasgow was transformed. Now every city vies for the designation. But it's a dotty idea, writes one critic. God help us. The Observer (London) 04/15/01

Tuesday April 10

SMITHSONIAN CUTS DEEP: The head of the Smithsonian Institution has announced that five major divisions of the Washington, D.C.-based institution will be eliminated in the next budget cycle, along with 200 jobs. The cuts are seen as an effort to modernize the Smithsonian, and to work within the cuts Congress has been making in its budget over the last few years. Washington Post 04/10/01

THE MAN WHO MEASURES ARTS: David Throsby has authored several pioneering arts economics studies in Australia since the 1970s. He believes that "to concentrate only on those few artists who work full time at their art misrepresents the arts economy. It's bigger and more complex than that. Almost all artists are part-timers, a situation as true in Europe and America as it is in Australia. On this theoretical basis he set out to map and measure the arts in Australia over the past two or three decades." Sydney Morning Herald 04/10/01

LOSING ARTISTIC CAPITAL: Ottawa is losing its artists at an alarming rate. Canada's capitol city spends far less on the arts than the country's other major cities, and its sparse facilities are often in disrepair. A new report sounds the alarm. Ottawa Citizen 04/10/01

Monday April 9

CONDUCTOR MARISS JANSONS is pessimistic. "I feel that the world is going in the wrong direction. Although the material side of life may be getting better, we are neglecting the spiritual side, including art and music. Political leaders should regard it as an obligation to introduce young people to the arts. Instead, they talk about the subject as a luxury or entertainment - take it or leave it." Financial Times 04/09/01

Sunday April 8

PERFORMANCE PAY: Germany is attempting to improve the quality of teaching in its universities and plans to peg teachers' pay to performance. "This means that in future, professors will receive a bonus in addition to their basic salary only if their research, scholarship and teaching are judged to warrant it." But will the plan have the intended effect? Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/07/01

Friday April 6

WIN THE BATTLE LOSE THE WAR? Things have been rather quiet on the culture wars front. Does that mean, after a decade or more of turmoil the culture wars are over? "While the current calm may be real, it's only a temporary phenomenon. If anything, the cultural battle lines will only grow starker in years to come." The New Republic 04/05/01 

Thursday April 5

INSTITUTIONAL INDECENCY: New York mayor Rudy Giuliani names a 20-member "decency commission to evaluate art the city funds. Giuliani says: "It is certainly appropriate for this advisory group to take a look at what standards, if any, should be applied, (given that) the city of New York currently provides $115 million in annual operating funding to cultural institutions." The New York Times 04/05/01 (one-times registration required)

  • PAGING MAYOR GIULIANI: A painting of the Virgin Mary clad in a floral bikini is sparking outrage in New Mexico. Catholic activists are furious at the work, which is part of an exhibit at Santa Fe's Museum of International Folk Art. BBC 04/05/01
  • DON'T LOOK FOR THEM IN BROOKLYN: America's First and Second Ladies made a much-ballyhooed trip to an art museum last week, and the site appeared to have been carefully chosen to minimize any potential controversy, particularly in light of Mrs. Cheney's lifelong crusade against what she calls "indecent art." Chicago Tribune 04/05/01

ENDOWMENTS ON THE HOT SEAT: It is a peculiarity of the U.S. system of subsidizing the arts that, every so often, the heads of the two major federal endowment funds are called to Capitol Hill to justify their existence. This year, the process is even more delicate than usual: the NEA and NEH have made forward progress since their budgets were slashed to near-nonexistent levels in the early 1990s, but with a Republican in the White House, everyone is treading softly. Washington Post 04/05/01

Wednesday April 4

CANADA'S INFERIORITY COMPLEX: The debate continues over the state of Canadian arts, and whether a huge population is necessary to be a major player on a global scale: "Pick any art form. Opera, for example. There are filthy rich U.S. opera companies producing a new work every year, while Canada summons its national wealth for a decade to do the same thing in one city. And of course there are superb works of art created by Americans. But have you noticed how few they are compared with the storm sewer of costly ca-ca gushing therefrom?" The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/04/01

Tuesday April 3

ADELAIDE MAKEOVER: Peter Sellars says he's going to "reinvent" 2002's Adelaide Festival. "I've explained to the board that this will be the smallest festival that they have ever produced, but the most expensive two years that they will have ever lived through." Sydney Morning Herald 04/03/01

  • BEHIND ANOTHER SELLARBRATION: He's America's oldest enfant terrible. Peter Sellars is directing the next edition of Australia's Adelaide Festival, and has already changed its focus from being the traditional international potpourri to one concentrating on Aussie artists. But before getting too excited about Sellars' plans it might be instructive for Adelaidians to take a look at his track record... The Idler 07/17/00 

Monday April 2

BETWEEN TASTE AND MONEY: Are art and commerce incompatible? Despite claims to the contrary, Hollywood seems to think so. But the art/commerce connection was not always thus... Reason 04/02/01

Sunday April 1

ARTS AND THE US CONGRESS: New chairmen of American Congressional committees responsible for funding the arts may not have much track record on arts issues, but lobbying groups are hopeful. Backstage 03/28/01