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ARTS ISSUES - May 2000

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Wednesday May 31

  • CAN'T WIN EVEN WHEN YOU WIN: Ten years ago during the height of the culture wars, the Contemporary Arts Center and Dennis Barrie, its director, were indicted for exhibiting a show of Robert Mapplethorpe paintings. The CAC (and Barrie) were later acquitted. But "the disheartening implication of the Cincinnati case is that even when you stand up to the bullies, you can't win. Barrie and the CAC made their stand, and the First Amendment saw them through. But this is how the current—and real-life—leader of Cincinnati's Citizens for Community Values evaluates the impact of that trial today: "The community at large learned that not everything is protected by the First Amendment." Village Voice 05/31/00
  • THE TAXMAN COMETH: Australia’s new tax laws have hit artists hard. Artists who don't actually turn a profit on their art now can't claim art-related deductions. Since only a small percentage of artists are able to support themselves working full-time on their art, the vast majority rely on income from other salaried work, and most will feel the squeeze come tax time. The Age (Melbourne) 05/31/00
  • AN IPO FOR ART: Britain’s Year of the Artist - aiming to raise the profile of living artists throughout the UK - kicked off on Tuesday. More than 1,000 artists have been invited to being their art out of the studio and into public venues. BBC 05/30/00

Tuesday May 30

  • ARTISTIC TAKE ON THE NEWS: A newspaper with an artist-in-residence? Why not - it's the UK's "Year of the Artist, a £4 million scheme to place 1,000 artists in residence in 1,000 different places." The Guardian newspaper will sponsor two residencies: supporting a theatre company for homeless people, and it will appoint an artist-in-residence to work in its London offices. The Guardian 05/30/00
  • A TOWN BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE: A few years back the town of North Adams, Massachusetts was so destitute, a developer suggested flooding the place and starting over. But an unlikely art project has revitalized the area. "In the year since it opened last Memorial Day weekend, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, known as Mass MOCA, has been hailed as a wild success, drawing more than 105,000 visitors to its galleries, 25,000 more to performing arts events, and garnering architectural and preservation awards. New York Times 05/29/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET: Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) spent some time in Carson City Nevada developing his writing. And the city wants to advertise the fact in its tourist promotions. Trouble is, Clemens' estate still holds control of the famous name and the Mark Twain Foundation Trust has warned the city to stop or its lawyers will come a' callin'. Washington Post 05/30/00
  • UNDERGROUND ART: Performers line up to audition for permits to play in the New York subway system. The Age (AP) Melbourne) 05/30/00
  • POST-INDUSTRIAL CHIC: After a two-year closure, Glasgow’s revitalized Tramway (a vast old tramshed and site of some of the UK's most ground-breaking multidisciplinary performances of the ‘90s) reopens this week. New York’s Wooster Group will reopen the “post-industrial, dressed-down chic” space with its first UK performances in eight years. The Guardian 05/30/00

Monday May 29

  • A LITTLE SELF-PROMOTION NEVER HURT: The arts are booming in Los Angeles. There are 1,100 arts groups active - new theatres are starting, new buildings being built, and the city is getting a reputation for its new music and visual arts. But next to the monolithic Hollywood entertainment machine, the arts can seem invisible. So many of the artists have gotten together to promote themselves. Los Angeles Times 05/29/00

Sunday May 28

  • THE STOLEN ART PROBLEM: Theft of artwork has become a major international problem. The British government wants to do something about it. But first - just how big a problem is it? No one seems to know for sure. The Telegraph (London) 05/29/00
  • MAORI WANT FUNDING EQUITY: Is the New Zealand government ignoring Maori arts? Critics charge that "compared with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Maori arts were 'under-funded, under-utilised and virtually unrecognised.' " New Zealand Herald 05/29/00
  • HAMMERLOCKS GET RATINGS: Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura meets with students and talks about his veto of a bill awarding Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre money for a new home. "You can talk all you want, but can the Guthrie get the ratings that wrestling gets? Because ratings transfer to money. You can put the Guthrie on TV, and if nobody watches it, no advertisers are going to pay to see it. People watch wrestling.'' St. Paul Pioneer Press 05/28/00

Saturday May 27

  • THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF PERSPECTIVE: What determines the differences between "high" and "low" art? Hard to tell anymore.  "It is so difficult to evaluate arts, compare their virtues and weigh their achievements and the entire debate over what was once called high culture is so politically charged that it is tempting simply to say that different entertainments attract different audiences. No aesthetic distinctions are needed. Mozart and Spears do not have different statures, just different devotees. There is no high, no low, only differing cultural attitudes toward what is high and what is low." New York Times 05/27/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • THE SPOOKS AND MR. ORWELL The CIA went into the cultural propaganda business in a big way in the 1950s. After George Orwell died in 1950, the CIA acquired the rights to produce "Animal Farm." But, "for the CIA to finance and distribute Animal Farm, however, something had to be done about the ending. In Orwell's anti-Stalinist original, the pigs who overthrow the farmer ruling class end up mingling with their former oppressors. As pigs and farmers toast one another in the farm house, 'the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.' The CIA solved this problem of the symbiotic relationship between capitalism and Communism by eliminating the farmers from the final scene." The Nation 06/12/00

Friday May 26

  • FINDING FAULT: Neil MacGregor, director of London’s National Gallery, has criticized the UK government’s recent euphoria over much-publicized museum and gallery openings, including the Tate Modern. Striking at the Government's boast that it had increased access, Mr. MacGregor said: "There may be more access; but it is access to ignorance." The Independent 05/26/00
  • FLAG FIASCO: Charleston's Spoleto Festival is hurting. A boycott protesting South Carolina's flying of the Confederate flag is having its effect. "Overall ticket sales are down 20 percent and group sales down 45 percent from last year. 'The silence of artists is the most painful thing for me,' said Spoleto's general manager and director, Nigel Redden, who has argued to his artists that they should register their opinions through their performances, not their absence." Newark Star-Ledger 05/25/00
  • MUSCLE BEHIND SAG: The AFL-CIO’s national leaders have publicly backed the month-long actors strike being waged in New York and Los Angeles against the commercial production industry. Backstage 05/25/00
  • FENG SHUI CHIC: New Yorkers are frantically jockeying to pay $500 to $1,000 for Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s stone lions to solve their feng shui woes. "It’s difficult to get one of Mr. Cai’s lions. Some museum goers just don’t have enough bad energy. Some keep returning to the Whitney to reapply, even though only 27 of 99 of the Cai (pronounced "sigh") lions remain unreserved. They put on their best co-op board-meeting faces to enter into a process that plays on some basic New York neuroses: the need to succeed, the impulse to throw money at a new trend and the urge to make the apartment a thing of beauty." New York Observer 05/25/00

Thursday May 25

  • PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION: Hispanics make up 11.5 percent of the US population but "rarely occupy more than 2 percent of the available jobs in the film and television industry," according to a study by the Screen Actors Guild. Minorities have tried to make their case to Hollywood as a social cause. "Studio executives will lend half an ear to a social case, but the bottom line is that the corporate suites are running a business, and business is about profits or potential profits. Develop a business case, and you will bring about change." Dallas Morning News (AP) 05/25/00
  • A MATTER OF ATTITUDE? "What has hurt Latino and black efforts to pressure the industry is that these minority organizations have lost credibility. We hear about [television viewer] boycotts, and these boycotts aren't even conducted during [ratings] sweeps week. Or we hear about a press conference where Latinos are going to boycott a show, and the Nielsen ratings don't reflect a drop in viewership." Los Angeles Times 05/25/00
  • DIRTY LAUNDRY: UK Arts Minster Alan Howarth has selected a panel of experts to examine ways to crack down on Britain’s growing black market for smuggled art and antiquities. An estimated £500 million is laundered every year through the sale of looted artifacts from the Middle East and Africa, all of which can then be legally bought and sold in the UK. Ananova 05/24/00
  • DOME DEFENSE: Despite public outcry, shoddy attendance, and the dissenting opinions of 64 MPs, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has defended the UK government's decision to pump £29m into the Millennium Dome. BBC 05/25/00
  • DESIGN FOR LIVING: Israel’s architecture exhibit at the upcoming Venice Biennale attempts to answer the beguiling question: What, exactly, is a city? “In curator Hillel Schocken's view, modern urban planning has been an utter failure; not one successful city was created in the 20th century. He proposes a new definition of the city, one that fulfills the idea of intimate anonymity.” Ha’aretz (Israel) 05/25/00

Wednesday May 24

  • LOSE, LOSE: London’s Millennium Dome has been at the center of controversy since the day it was built. The latest stir: the Dome was given an extra £29 million from the National Lottery this week on condition that its chairman resign. He did, and then MPs protested the government’s earlier promise that no further public funds would be advanced to the Dome. The Telegraph 05/24/00
  • MISSING ART: As Boston contemplates an enormous new waterfront development, artists wonder why there has been so little discussion of how the arts might fit in to it. "We have heard very little about the arts in this process. We have not been able to sustain a dialogue about the arts in this community." Boston Herald 05/24/00
  • NOT RATED FOR VIOLENCE: A new study of movie violence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that a "G" rating doesn't guarantee no violence. "G"-rated movies "averaged 9.5 minutes of violence, with the 1998 King Arthur tale 'Quest for Camelot' topping the list with 24 minutes of violence, or almost 30% of the movie." Los Angeles Times 05/24/00
  • "G"-SPOT: "The amount of cinematic violence--ranging from body blows to swordplay to gunshots--so alarmed researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health that they recommended that the Motion Picture Association of America consider changing its age-based rating system to one that provides specific warnings about a movie's content." Washington Post 05/24/00
  • TO BE OR NOT TO... A former journalist has gone on a crusade to "give philosophy back to the people." He says for too long philosophy as an art has been locked behind the walls of academia. Feed 05/24/00 

Tuesday May 23

  • SPOLETO BOYCOTT FELT: Even though South Carolina will take down the Confederate flag above its statehouse June 1, a boycott of Charleston's Spoleto Festival is being felt. Ticket sales are down and some artists won't be attending.   "The arts generally are another way of addressing social questions, and ultimately a more effective way than politics," said festival general director Nigel Redden. "Not hearing artists is an immense loss, and one I personally feel is extremely painful." Cleveland Plain Dealer (AP) 05/23/00

Monday May 22

  • REDEFINING CULTURE: Two new studies of the arts and culture in New Zealand promise the radical reshaping of the country's creative industries. "There’s a culture of ignorance in the media. You can’t tell me that 88,000 people [the number of New Zealanders employed in the cultural sector] work entirely without effect.” New Zealand Herald 05/22/00
  • TICKETLESS MASTER: Been reading those stories about how buying concert tickets online beats the traditional TicketMaster experience? Read on: "Fans are complaining they are being charged for tickets that never arrive, that they can't track their orders online, and that it is extremely difficult to find a way to communicate their situations with the ticket-selling giant." Wired 05/22/00

Sunday May 21

Friday May 19

  • GREAT BOOKS AND THE MULTICULTURE: In the US, philosophies about learning have polarized;on the one hand there are those who believe in the "Great Books" idea, following Western culture. On the other, there are those who believe in the multicultural approach. From a teacher working in Singapore, the conclusion that: "these two desiderata do not necessarily conflict in practice. One can be a proponent of Great Works and a multiculturalist - even a radical multiculturalist, to the point that the curriculum is determined by the scholarly traditions of all ethnic groups in the classroom." Dissent 05/00
  • ARTS FUNDING AT A PRICE: From a British perspective, the American way of funding the arts is problematic - Americans are dependent on conservative private funders and don't have the benefit of significant government funding the way most European artists have. On the other hand, the Americans don't much like the idea of government interference in their artistic affairs. New Statesman 05/15/00
  • WHY WE LIKE OUR BIG McHOUSES: Everyone, it seems, decries suburban sprawl. From the McHouse architecture to the sterile streetlife, the 'burbs make an easy target. But "for all the scorn that's heaped on the suburbs - and especially on subdivisions of nearly identical houses on the fringe of metropolitan areas - people like living there. And not just middle-class drones either." Weekly Standard 05/22/00
  • LET A HUNDRED FLOWERS BLOOM: If Harold Bloom's new book "How to Read and Why" seems smug and condescending, that's because it is. The book claims to be a practical guide to show us how to read great literature and provide the reason why. "But Professor Bloom's own rhetoric is so poisonously alienating to the general reader - with its mandarin locutions and tireless self-congratulation - that he ends up sounding like a parody of the jargon-spouting Neo-post-whatever-ists he keeps complaining about." New York Magazine 05/15/00
  • SITTING ON CEREMONY: Plans to erect a statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt sitting in a wheel chair stir controversy in Washington DC. Washington Post 05/19/00

Thursday May 18

  • THE HUM IS BACK: When the feature film was invented all those years ago, there was a hum of excitement about its miraculous potential. The hum has returned, as digital technologies and the internet once again hold out a sense of amazing possibility. "The excitement that leaps off the news pages was much like the heat of the Edison-Griffith days: the sense that mankind was making a leap forward in consciousness at such speed and of such importance that no one could yet calculate its size or reach." The New Republic 05/11/00
  • ACTORS 1, ADVERTISERS, 0: Three weeks into their strike, morale among members of the Screen Actors Guild is high - and commercial producers seem to be getting their message. More than 500 interim agreements have already been signed, guaranteeing union members pay-per-play compensation during productions shot during the strike. “We’ve done picket lines all week long...Everybody’s pumped up.” Backstage 05/17/00

Wednesday May 17

  • BODY SLAM FOR THE ARTS: Minnesota arts lover Governor Jesse Ventura vetoed a $3 million allocation passed by the state legislature for the Guthrie Theater's new $75 million home in Minneapolis. An override of the veto seems unlikely. Minneapolis Star Tribune 05/17/00
  • PLAY NICE AND SHARE: As the £134.5 million Tate Modern opened to wild acclaim last week, other London arts venues, including the South Bank Centre and Royal Opera House, have been struggling to meet development goals. Why isn’t the funding boom felt by all arts institutions alike? “The term 'arts community' is a callous misnomer. The performing arts, in Britain and most other places, are shackled by a stifling self-interest that prevents collaboration, communication and common decency.” The Telegraph 05/17/00
  • FIGHTING US MOVIES: South Korean filmmakers call for an international coalition to break the domination of Hollywood internationally. They "urged governments to resist what they say is the United States' attempts to use free trade treaties to expand the reach of American movies," echoing sentiments expressed last week in Cannes by French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. CBC 05/17/00

Tuesday May 16

  • THE ARTS IN NEW ENGLAND: A new study of the economic impact of the arts in New England has been released. "The 'creative industry' makes up 3.5 percent of New England's total job base - more than our software or medical technology industries. It is growing at a remarkable rate of 14 percent each year - nearly twice as fast as the average rate of job growth in New England.'' Boston Globe 05 16/00
    • MANY BENEFITS: "An investment in the arts and culture generates remarkable returns in the form of successful enterprises, a superior work force, high quality of life and New England's competitiveness." Boston Herald 05/16/00
  • GET THEE TO A NOVEL: "It's said that art can heal, whether it's fiction, poetry, music, painting, theatre or some other happy obsession. People for whom art matters tend to agree. However cynical we are, on some level we imagine that a Schubert quartet or a Chekhov story or an afternoon looking at Renaissance painting will improve us. We'll be more serene, and with luck we'll be intellectually broader. And in some way, art will elevate us morally. Art is made, after all, by superior creatures." But is it true? National Post (Canada) 05/16/00
  • RIGHT OF COPY: Copyright laws have been out of date for years. "The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 was supposed to clear up copyright issues in the Internet era. That hasn't exactly happened. Instead, there have been a series of lawsuits between the recording and motion picture industries, private companies and individual users, seeking clarification on how intellectual property is protected as music and video moves to the digital world." Wired 05/16/00

Monday May 15

  • BUT HOW TO PAY THE TAX? Under a new Australian tax system, all small businesses (including artists) must have an Australian Business Number or face having 48.5 per cent withholding tax taken out of every payment they receive. But many aboriginal artists on the edge of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory operate largely outside the formal economy. "Advocates for the Aboriginal arts industry claim it is unrealistic to expect most of the estimated 18,000 Aboriginal artists who derive an income from their creative work to comply with the details of the new tax system." Sydney Morning Herald 05/15/00

Sunday May 14

  • YOU GONNA FUND PORNOGRAPHY? Jane Alexander's new memoir recalls the battles over arts funding while she was chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Washington Post 05/14/00
  • NO LIBEL: A French appeals court has ruled that art historian Hector Feliciano did not commit libel for suggesting in his book about art stolen by the Nazis that the late art dealer Georges Wildenstein may have collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Nandotimes 05/13/00
  • FUNDING DYNAMO: Vivian Duffield - Britain's best and most flamboyant fundraiser for the arts shares some of her secrets (and the news that she will soon be leaving her job). The Telegraph (London) 05/14/00 
  • FUNDING BONUS: In the waning moments of the Connecticut legislature's session, a $9 million boost for the arts materializes from the state budget surplus. Hartford Courant 05/11/00

  • NEW CITY ARTS ENDOWMENT: At the end of a nine-day arts festival, city leaders in Charleston announce that the city will create a $5 million arts endowment. Charleston Post and Courier 05/14/00

  • INVENTING A PHENOMENON: It's "Sound of Music" meets "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and it's the hottest new thing in high camp at the movies in London. Audiences are massing to sing along with the Von Trapps and dress up for the parts. Meet the man who invented a phenomenon. Los Angeles Times 05/14/00

Friday May 12

  • CHINA'S NEW PRESIDENT-ELECT vows to make Taiwan a cultural power. Chen Shui-bian said Taiwan has managed to create an economic miracle over the past five decades. But "we must make continued efforts to boost Taiwan's cultural development." Noting that cultural development won't be accomplished with a "miracle"  he said that "devotion and perseverance are needed to refine local cultural essence to win it worldwide recognition. "China Times 05/11/00
  • A REAL CIRCUS: Australia's federal government gave in to the State of Victoria's demands and announced a $2.6 million package to establish the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne. In return the Victorian Government went along with bigger funding for the arts nationally.  Victoria had refused to support the Feds' funding plan because "it offered greater financial support to the Sydney Theatre Company than the Melbourne Theatre Company." Sydney Morning Herald 05/11/00
  • HOLY ****: The chairperson of India's film censor board is under fire for some recent cuts of "American Beauty." "I was adamant about all the expletives being deleted. I won't allow filthy language in any film." The Times of India 05/11/00
  • BAD (BU HAO) BOOK:Zhou Weihui's book "Shanghai Baby" has sold perhaps 100,000 copies in China, making it something of a hit. But Zhou's publisher has now had the page proofs and all of the books in stock destroyed, saying that the novel is "in poor taste and that Ms. Zhou, 27, was too outlandish." State media are denouncing Zhou as "decadent, debauched and a slave of foreign culture" and thousands of copies of the book are being destroyed even while the book seems to have found an audience. New York Times 05/11/00(one-time registration required for entry) 
  • ANTI ART ATTACK: The St. Petersburg government tries to close down a festival of contemporary art, music and theater, but the Russian Ministry of Culture intervenes to keep the show on schedule.The Art Newspaper 05/11/00

Thursday May 11

  • HANOVER BAILS: NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani's wife, actress Donna Hanover, who was supposed to perform in the sexually suggestive "The Vagina Monologues" Off-Broadway has postponed her appearance in the show, citing family circumstances. Chicago Sun-Times (AP) 05/10/00
  • DEPICTIONS OF THE PAST: For decades, a statue of explorer Samuel de Champlain stood on a cliff in Ottawa, with a much smaller sculpture of a native scout kneeling beneath him. Last year, Native Canadians complained, saying the scout was depicted in a subservient position to Champlain, so the statue was moved. Now an artist complains that "discussion about how public landmarks depict the place of aboriginal people in Canadian society has stopped. Are we adjusting history to be politically correct? Now we don't have that dialogue going on." CBC 05/10/00
  • DREAM MAYOR? London mayor-elect Ken Livingstone’s recent promises have already thrilled the city's art world. He plans to support the film industry, strengthen independent cinemas, and help make London a user-friendly environment for filming. He also “intends to maintain free entry to museums, and to introduce a "capital arts card" in partnership with business to give students, senior citizens and the unemployed the chance to attend theatres, cinemas and concerts for £3. And he wants to support cultural diversity in the arts.” London Times 05/10/00
  • STATISTICS TO GIVE PAUSE: While Black actors are now more numerous in film, it's an open question as to how well they're being represented. In the top movies of 1996:
    • Black female movie characters shown using vulgar profanity: 89%.
    • White female movie characters shown using vulgar profanity: 17%.
    • Black female movie characters shown being physically violent: 56%.
    • White female movie characters shown being physically violent: 11%.
    • Black female movie characters shown being restrained: 55%.
    White female movie characters shown being restrained: 6%. University of Chicago Press 05/00
  • NEW TAXES FOR ARTS: A Cleveland area task force recommends creating a public entity to raise between $25 million and $35 million for the arts annually through a combination of new taxes and redirected spending of existing tax revenue. "The idea of taxes for the arts is viewed with both enthusiasm and skepticism by local leaders. Public funding is 'more than just a stamp of approval. It shows that the community supports this as an integral part of the important activities of the community. It's what makes life good and worth living.' " Cleveland Plain Dealer 05/10/00

Tuesday May 9

  • PRETTY GOOD, EH? Canadian artists are invading Berlin and giving premieres and winning awards. "Why this sudden cultural blossoming from a nation generally assumed to be locked in snow, overridden with grizzly bears and obsessed with hockey? The Canadian government announced in February that the budget of Berlin's cultural section will increase fivefold in the upcoming year. From a pittance of less than forty thousand Canadian dollars last year, Canadian culture in Germany will now be supported at a "top priority" level. With the German capital's move to Berlin, Canada now has the opportunity to perform on stages that are at the center of much of the world's attention. An opportunity it is taking." Die Welt 05/08/00
  • LIP SERVICE TO THE ARTS: Two weeks ago Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced a new set of arts initiatives aimed at boosting the city's support for the arts. But: "The mayor picked off the things that were immediately doable, that we could get the biggest splash for'' and disregarded much of the substantive recommendations (such as a percent for art program) of a 13-member task force appointed to study arts support. Boston Herald 05/08/00

Due to technical difficulties, Issues archives from the first week of May are unavailable.