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ARTS ISSUES - April 2002

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Tuesday April 30

JAZZING UP THE LOTTO: The British lottery has financed an astonishing boom of construction projects in the arts in the past few years. But the lotto has seen a £500 million dropoff in sales in the past four years. So the managers are planning to rename the lottery in an attempt to make it more "exciting." BBC 04/29/02

A "KENNEDY CENTER OF THE WEST COAST"? Maybe a bit of an overstatement, but the $60.9 million Mondavi Center performing arts complex due to open in Sacramento this fall will transform that city's cultural life. Sacramento Bee 04/29/02

Sunday April 28

DEFINING EVENT: Los Angeles erupted in riots in April 1992 after the Rodney King verdict. And "a generation of paintings, murals, songs, books and plays was born amid the anxiety and violence of spring 1992, and many were weaned on the philanthropic programs that followed. With the exception of Anna Deavere Smith's one-woman show Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, most of those works have faded from public memory. But behind them stands a group of artists whose creative lives were reshaped, in sometimes startling ways, by the riots." Los Angeles Times 04/27/02

Friday April 26

MASSACHUSETTS TO CUT CULTURE: Massachusetts is facing a budget crisis so the state is making budget cuts. The biggest cut will probably be in culture. The state legislature recommends a 48 percent cut in the Massachusetts Cultural Council budget, from just over $19 million this year to about $10 million next. Boston Globe 04/26/02

AUSTRALIA COUNCIL - MISSING IN ACTION? What's the purpose/vision of the Australia Council? Some see the body as largely irrelevant these days. "In its recent Planning for the Future report, the council suggested it ought to invest more on risky artistic works. A year and two chair appointments later, debate has begun on whether the body itself is too risk averse. Is it any wonder outsiders aren't sure what the council is about any more? Where does it stand, for instance, on copyright, one of the most pressing issues for artists in this digital age? On the digital agenda generally? Global open markets?" Sydney Morning Herald 04/26/02

DECLINE OF WESTERN CIV? You either see culture changing and growing, or you don't. Harper's editor Lewis Lapham sees signs of the decline of Western civilization everywhere. "The people that have (wrecked the culture) - it's the (Rupert) Murdochs of the world. Those are the people who say, 'Whatever the market will bear.' The market doesn't think. The market isn't a cultivated person. It's a ball bearing. It will go immediately to what sells. That's what wrecks the culture'." As for literate magazines: "Most of the magazines that Lapham categorized as similar in nature - the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic, the Nation, the Weekly Standard, and possibly the National Review - all lose money, he said, and depend on foundations and patrons. 'It's like running an 18th century orchestra. Esterhazy bankrolled Haydn, and the Harper's Foundation bankrolls us'." San Francisco Chronicle 04/25/02

FRESH START? After six months of turmoil for the board of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, the institution has picked a new chairman it hopes will turn its fortunes around. Los Angeles Times 04/25/02

  • Previously: TAKING THE FIGHT OUTSIDE: Two prominent members of the Orange County Performing Arts Center board have resigned from the organization. Four other top board members are part of a lawsuit against the pair, charging them with securities fraud in their business. "The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $50 million for the plaintiffs' losses on the stock market." In leaving the board, the pair said that sitting on a board with people who accuse them of fraud "was just something we could not stomach." "The resignation of the Broadcom founders - billionaire philanthropists and leaders in the high-tech-driven 'new economy' - represents a blow to a board that has been assiduously courting the next generation of business leaders and arts patrons." Orange County Register 03/17/02

Tuesday April 23

BOMBS AWAY: It's official - this year's Adelaide Festival was a complete disaster. The controversy-laden festival attracted only 35,000 customers to its events, the lowest number in a decade. The festival received $8 million in grant support, but took in only $1 million - some $625,000 short of projections. The Age (Melbourne) 04/23/02

CULTURE, NOT BOMBS: Think of Belfast and culture isn't the first thing that springs to mind. But the city is campaigning to be named Europe's Capital of Culture for 2008. "We're not trying to say Belfast is an undiscovered joy or anything like that and we're not going to try and disguise that there's been a conflict here for 30 years because everybody knows about it. The drive behind the project is aspirational - it's not a reward for good behavior or what you've done. We want to use culture as a tool to change the society we live in." Lycos News (Reuters) 04/21/02

Friday April 19

ARTS REBOUND IN OZ: After a down year in 2000, Australian arts consumption went up dramatically in 2001. "Cinema remained clearly the most popular arts entertainment with eight out of 10 people continuing to take in at least one movie each year, and patrons increasing the frequency of their cinema outings from 10 to 11 trips a year. Live bands were the second most popular choice with attendance ratings jumping to 51 per cent. Public art galleries attendances rose to 50 per cent of the population and live theatre jumped 7 percentage points to 48 per cent." The Age (Melbourne) 04/19/02

WHAT RIGHT COPYRIGHT? Is the US copyright law overly protective? Some critics not only believe that it is, but that "property talk limits our imagination—it is severely limited when influential figures such as Jack Valenti use the word theft eight or nine times in a given speech, because it is impossible to argue for theft." Valenti replies that "copyright is at the core of this country's creativity. If it diminishes, or is exiled, or is shrunk, everyone who belongs to the creative guilds, or is trying to get into the movie business, or is in television, is putting their future to hazard." Village Voice 04/17/02

Thursday April 18

MEASURING THE HUMANITIES: "How can we articulate in compelling ways the continued importance of the humanities to our national life? A fundamental part of the problem, we quickly discovered, is that it is almost impossible to find reliable and up-to-date data on many aspects of the humanities - in contrast to the sciences, which have long been the subject of, and had access to, a broad collection of quantitative information." So a new project has been created - "the Humanities Indicators, a set of empirical databases about such subjects as the education of students in humanistic disciplines; the growth of traditional departments and new fields; the employment of humanists both within and beyond academe; and the availability of financing for the humanities." Chronicle of Higher Education 04/15/02

PHILLY RPAC LOSES A KEY FIGURE: Sandra Horrocks has resigned from her position as marketing director for Philadelphia's high-profile Regional Performing Arts Center after being informed that her influence in the organization would be trimmed in a coming reorganization. The move was precipitated by the RPAC's new president, who has made a number of house-cleaning moves since taking over 10 weeks ago. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/18/02

Monday April 15

GETTING CLOSE TO GROUND ZERO: Numerous arts companies have expressed interest in becoming part of a cultural center proposed for Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero. "What is clear is that Ground Zero has captured the imagination of many in the arts and culture business." But it is also making it harder for arts groups with other projects in the city to get attention. Andante (Crain's New York Business) 04/14/02

Sunday April 14

CUTLER OUT IN OZ: John Cutler has resigned as chair of Australia's Arts Council, less than a year after assuming the position. Cutler had big plans for the council, but circumstances suggest that the former info-tech specialist may not have known what he was getting into in accepting the job. Sydney Morning Herald 04/13/02

Friday April 12

MYTHS OF THE WIRED EDUCATION: Does technology improve the quality of higher education? That's been the theory. But "recent surveys of the instructional use of information technology in higher education clearly indicate that there have been no significant gains in pedagogical enhancement." The Nation 04/11/02

Tuesday April 9

THIS YEAR'S ARTS PULITZERS: Newsday classical music critic Justin Davidson wins this year's criticism Pulitzer. Henry Brant wins the music Pulitzer, Carl Dennis wins for poetry, and Suzan-Lori Parks wins the drama award for Topdog/Underdog. The New York Times has a good collection of background links on the winners. 04/08/02

FRESH BLOOD: With the European Union making migation between European countries easier, there is some trepidation in the UK. But the last great influx of foreign artists had an enormous, positive impact on the country. "Our most cherished institutions, even the culture that some people believe to be under threat, would not be as robust or as worth preserving if Britain had not opened its borders to foreign artists and arts administrators 60 years ago." London Evening Standard 04/08/02

GLOBAL DOMINATION? WHAT GLOBAL DOMINATION? "We have been hearing a good deal about how American mass culture inspires resentment and sometimes violent reactions, not just in the Middle East but all over the world. They continue to insist that Hollywood, McDonald's, and Disneyland are eradicating regional and local eccentricities - disseminating images and subliminal messages so beguiling as to drown out competing voices in other lands. Yet the discomfort with American cultural dominance is not new. On the contrary, the United States was, and continues to be, as much a consumer of foreign intellectual and artistic influences as it has been a shaper of the world's entertainment and tastes." Chronicle of Higher Education 04/08/02

COPYRIGHT GRAB: Proposed legislation in the US Senate would regulate the ability to copy and distribute anything digitally. The legislation is backed by large media companies like Disney, but opposed by consumer groups and the open source community. "This represents an incremental power grab on the part of these media companies. It threatens to make all free and open-source software efforts criminal." San Francisco Chronicle 04/08/02

Monday April 8

BUYING RESPECTIBILITY (BUT AT WHAT COST?): "A handful of Russians have acquired fortunes of $1 billion and more in the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union. While millions of their countrymen suffered collapsing living standards, declining health and increasing alcoholism, a few made enough money to join the ranks of the world's richest men. Now that these men have money, they seek recognition. They want access to western-dominated international business and international society [such as the boards of major arts institutions such as the Guggenheim] and are ready to pay for the privilege. But at what price and on what terms should western institutions open their doors?" Financial Times 04/08/02

A MATTER OF INTEREST: In the past few months some large foundations have granted relief money to New York arts groups to help them with the economic fallout from September 11. Some of the grants are substantial, and won't be spent right away. So what becomes of the interest earned on the money? Backstage 04/05/02

ART'S COMMUNITY CENTER: Symphony Space - famed for its Wall to Wall music marathons and literary readings by such stars as James Naughton, Leonard Nimoy and Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt - has been redesigned and expanded. With its strong Upper West Side contingent, Symphony Space always has been community-oriented; it was, in fact, a community protest that led indirectly to the launching of Symphony Space in 1978." Newsday 04/07/02

Sunday April 7

COPYRIGHT NEEDS MORE PROTECTION? "A decision last week by the Supreme Court of Canada allowing three Quebec art galleries to make and sell reproductions of an artist's work without his permission points to the need for new copyright protections, an artists' organization says." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/06/02

Friday April 5

THE CORPORATE COPYRIGHT HUSTLE: "Can Congress repeatedly extend copyrights for decades, impoverishing the public domain, to benefit corporations and the distant descendants of individual creators? That question is now before the Supreme Court: In Eldred v. Ashcroft, it agreed to review the constitutionality of the 1998 copyright-extension law. The law has been challenged by a group of nonprofit organizations and businesses that use works in the public domain." American Prospect 04/03/02

LAND OF THE FREE AND HOME OF THE... DUMB? Is it truethat "American culture in general has an affection for dumbness?" Apparently so, and there's even a hierarchy of dumb. At the top, The Simpsons. At the bottom, almost any movie whose title includes "National Lampoon." The reason may be simple. "In this age of political correctness, gross-out humor is the only thing that offends without regard to race or creed. It's practically the only field open to humor anymore. By going into that realm, you're not going to get in trouble for being politically incorrect." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 04/05/02

A MATTER OF VISION: There's been a great deal of talk about how London's South Bank Centre ought to be expanded. But who's providing the compelling vision of what it should be and how it should be done? "Someone, somewhere on the South Bank should be telling us what an astonishing place it could be, and how. They should proclaim it not as normal but as exceptional. The South Bank is special because it is not Covent Garden or Bluewater or Oxford Street, but is a district dedicated to music and art." London Evening Standard 04/05/02

Thursday April 4

REINING IN THE ARTS IN NOVA SCOTIA: "Six years ago, Nova Scotia became the last province in [Canada] to set up an arts council, borrowing the tried-and-true model of an independent Crown agency that would use peer juries to decide who gets grants. Last week, it became the first province to disband its arts council, locking the doors and firing the staff in a coup directed by Culture and Tourism Minister Rodney MacDonald. He is proposing to replace the council with his own, tamer version, setting up a new organization that will share office space and staff with the culture ministry and have two ministry bureaucrats on its 12-member board." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/04/02

HOME IN THE LAND OF PIRATES: China is one of the world's biggest abusers of copyright, with piracy  of intellectual property a commonplace thing. So you'd think the world's leading innovators would stay as far away as possible. Not so - indeed, some of the most protective companies have set up shop in China. Why? "Two things: They're tapping talent and eyeing market opportunities." Far Eastern Economic Review 04/11/02

Tuesday April 2

BREAKING THE CODE: Is computer code free speech? Some critics of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act are proposing that it is. They contend that the act has locked up rights to creative property and stifles innovation. "There is essentially no fair use left once the D.M.C.A. is done with it." A company that wrote and sells a program that disables copy protection for e-books, contends its program code is protected speech. The New York Times 04/02/02

CAPITAL IDEA: For the first time since 1990, Europe's "Capital of Culture" will be awarded to a British city. There are two unlikely frontrunners for the honor - Belfast and Newcastle. The Observer 03/31/02 

ART AS GLOBALIZER: "The old joke about modern art used to be that you couldn't tell which way up it went. The joke about postmodern art is that you can't tell which work is which. Or where it comes from. That's because most of it is pure NY-Lon." What's a 'NY-Lon'? "A 'NY-Lon' is a postmodern art person who shuttles between New York and London, one who can afford never to return telephone calls because everyone assumes he is on the other side of the Atlantic, one whose presence in town astonishes friends so much that they invite him for dinner whenever they catch sight of him." London Evening Standard 04/02/02

Monday April 1

GETTING CENTERED: Performing arts centers are touted as projects to rejuvenate cities. But it doesn't always turn out that way. In Dallas, "downtown's next monument could be the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, which is being touted as both the city's cultural showpiece and the exclamation point for the Arts District. Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas are outstanding architects, and there's an excellent chance that their designs for the opera house and theater will be stunning. But architecture alone won't produce the civic triumph the public is hoping for." Dallas Morning News 03/31/02 

TEMPORARY FUNDING: An Ontario art fund is an unusual new source of money for the arts. "Trillium is controversial not only because its annual $100-million comes from gambling (four government-run casinos were built for that purpose), but because it reflects the ideology of the province's Conservative government. Its grants to arts groups are temporary rather than permanent, and are designed to make the culture business more businesslike. To make sure it doesn't stray from the path, Trillium has been firmly politicized and brought under the control of the Premier's office." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/30/02