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ARTS ISSUES - June 2001

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Friday June 29

INVESTING IN CREATIVITY: A new New England report urges major new investment in the region's arts. "Among the suggestions: setting up a Creative Economy Council to spur economic development and promote partnerships between arts groups, educational institutions, government, and business." Boston Globe 06/28/01

LEAVING JAPAN INC: "Thousands of Japanís most talented and creative individuals are joining the flight into exile. In the past 10 years the number of Japanese who are permanent residents abroad has risen 23 percent to a record level of nearly 900,000. They are out of patience with Japanís leaden conformity, its stultifying bureaucracy and its moribund economyóand they have the skills, resources and adaptability they need to leave." Newsweek 07/03/01

Thursday June 28

WHOSE COMMUNITY STANDARDS? Last summer a community radio station in Oregon played the hip-hop song Your Revolution, only to be slapped with a citation and a $7,000 fine from the FCC, which said the song contained "unmistakable patently offensive sexual references." Wonders the station manager: "Why the move to determine whether artistic content is obscene or indecent? These are things that have a whole host of problems attached to (them)." FreedomForum 06/27/01

THIS JUST IN: MEN AND WOMEN ARE NOT ALIKE: The differences between men and women carry over from real life to the Internet. Studies of e-mail and message boards show "women tend to use the electronic medium as an extension of the way they talk - lavishly and intimately, to connect with people and build rapport. Men incline toward a briefer, more utilitarian style, the researchers say - a style they variously term instrumental, functional or transactional." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 06/28/01

RIGHT WRITE? What does it say about english education when tests to measure grasp of the language don't ask a student to write even a single word? Can one really learn to use the language well when the tests are multiple choice? Sydney Morning Herald 06/28/01

Wednesday June 27

THE RED BARONESS: England's new culture secretary is a true arts expert, having spent 10 years on the board of the hapless Royal Opera House. Tessa Blackstone "is more Old Labour than New, all high culture and no Cool Britannia. Don't ask her what's in the charts or on the catwalks." The Telegraph (UK) 06/27/01

POETS, INTERRUPTED: Describing someone as having "an artistic temperament" used to be one measure of decorum removed from calling them "completely nuts." After all, quite a lot of famous writers and poets seem to have had, shall we say, personal issues, and a rather large number of these artists spent some down time at one particular hospital in Massachusetts, the same facility that was the setting for Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted. The Atlantic 07/01

Tuesday June 26

RECALIBRATING IN BOSTON: "Boston's largest cultural institutions are seeking more than $1 billion in philanthropic donations to renovate and expand facilities. But plans were developed during one of the greatest periods of prosperity in U.S. history. Now they're slated to be carried out amid an economic downturn that leaves many wondering which projects actually will get done." Boston Herald 06/26/01

GETTING ATTENTION: "Since January, and ending sometime this summer, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) will spend $1 million advertising its existence by displaying outsize "wall labels" on hundreds of billboards around the city. . . The whole snapshot concept raises all sorts of possibilities for pop zeitgeist observation, if only it spread to cities around the nation." Washington Post 06/26/01

Monday June 25

STATE OF THE ARTS: The state of Connecticut has a budget surplus, and legislators are considering making a big new investment in the arts. The boost would be large enough to make Connecticut the largest per capita state spender on the arts. Hartford Courant 06/24/01

MIDDLE-VALUE: The American midwest is reinventing. "The cultural makeovers currently under-way in towns like Milwaukee, Cleveland, Des Moines, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis were hardly elective. Crisis and pain spurred their innovation. Today, despite lousy weather half the year, there's a newfound lightness to these places, a flexibility mirroring that of the new arrivals who work for the new capital-unintensive companies that don't manufacture anything." New Art Examiner 06/01

Thursday June 21

INVESTING IN CANADA: The Canadian government is investing a half-billion dollars in a new initiative for the arts. This week the government announced $100 million of that will be spent on new media. CBC 06/21/01

Wednesday June 20

THE ARTS IN DC: Washington DC-area arts groups spent $1.24 billion last year and employed just under 27,000 workers. The numbers don't put the District in the same league with New York and Chicago or Los Angeles, but DC's arts activity outspent that in San Francisco, Boston, Pittsburgh and New Orleans, according to the Americans for the Arts research. Washington Post 06/20/01

CULTURAL DOMINATION WORKS BOTH WAYS: It might seem that American culture is taking over the world, aided by digital technology. Then again... "The lower production costs and smaller shelf-space requirements of CDs have dramatically expanded the diversity of today's music store... contemporary college students now sample the once-exotic sounds of African pennywhistle, Tuvian throat singing or Scandinavian mandolin as casually as they choose between tacos, pizza and sushi." Technology Review July/August/01

SPEAK OUT: Among the world's 6,800 tongues, half to 90 percent could become extinct by the end of the century, linguists predict. One reason is because half of all languages are spoken by fewer than 2,500 people each. Wired (AP) 06/19/01

Tuesday June 19

COLLEGE YES, BUT WHICH? Sure everyone should be able to go to college. But there are so many models of what college can be. "This variety, it is said, gives everybody a chance to find the place that suits his or her talents and tastes. That is pious nonsense. The young have no idea what they are getting into, and they often have no choice. Selection is determined by geography, cost, and the luck of admission or rejection." Chronicle of Higher Education 06/18/01

  • FALLING ATTENDANCE: "Canada is the only industrialized country where enrollment in universities, colleges and technical schools is decreasing despite a growing international demand for post-secondary education, according to a report." National Post (Canada) 06/19/01

GRAND PLANS: "The Grand Canyon will serve as the panoramic backdrop for a single performance combining music, dance and theater in one of six huge-scale projects announced Monday by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts." Nando Times (AP) 06/19/01

ARTS UNDER FIRE IN MPLS: In 1999, the city of Minneapolis created an Office of Cultural Affairs to oversee arts projects that the whole city could participate in. But two years later, the office has yet to produce anything but failed projects and bold initiatives that shrivel for lack of money. Several city officials are demanding some sort of accountability. Minneapolis Star Tribune 06/18/01

PULLING STRINGS: In the age of super-realistic special effects and increasingly flashy stage shows, the world of puppetry has largely fallen into obscurity (Being John Malkovich notwithstanding.) So it may seem a bit, well, quaint for one of America's largest and most cosmopolitan cities to be sponsoring a two-week festival of puppet shows. But Puppetropolis has more to offer than mere Punch-and-Judy shows. Chicago Tribune 06/19/01

Monday June 18

JAPANESE CHANGE: A London celebration of Japanese culture shows a different side than a previous festival ten years ago. "Few nations suffer more from the contrived and contradictory cliche than Japan. Refined yet cruel, aesthetically controlled but capable of inchoate passion, formal and public, yet bent on preserving private space, the Japanese contrasts - both imposed and self-attributed - beguile and baffle the western observer. This sense of cultural distance is essential to Japan 2001. At a time when our culture elevates the banal, the easily understood and the collusively downgraded, Japan offers something bracing." New Statesman 06/18/01

Sunday June 17

BREAK THE RULES: The kinds of toys you play with as a kid help determine how creative you become. "Toys as important tools for nurturing and developing a child's creative impulse: The worst toys are all rules and instructions, while best toys encourage that the rules be broken." Wired 06/17/01

Friday June 15

GETTING THE PUBLIC INVOLVED IN ARTS: Arts institutions all want public participation in their programs. A new study from the RAND corporation "looks at the process by which individuals become involved in the arts and attempts to identify ways in which arts institutions can most effectively influence this process." [.pdf document; requires free reader from Adobe Systems] RAND Corporation 06/01

WATERLOGGED: This week's floods in Houston have severely affected the city's arts groups. "With Jones Hall and the Alley Theatre closed due to flood damage, the downtown theater district is scrambling to secure new venues." Houston Chronicle 06/14/01

DID TOM STOPPARD ATTACK ART? Playwright Tom Stoppard recently gave a speech, and it was widely reported in the British press that he had denounced modern art, attacking Tracey Emin. But did he? "I had used my speech to suggest that a fault line in the history of art had been crossed when it had become unnecessary for an artist to make anything, when the thought, the inspiration itself, had come to constitute the achievement, and I would have been pleased to see this phenomenon get an airing in the column inches that were devoted instead to parading the death of shorthand." The Telegraph (UK) 06/15/01

Thursday June 14

BOLSHOI'S TOP MAN RESIGNS: "The Bolshoi theatre's artistic director has handed in his resignation - only nine months after being brought in to restore the institution's flagging fortunes. Gennady Rozhdestvensky announced he was leaving after critics mauled the Bolshoi's production of Sergei Prokoviev's opera The Player." BBC 06/14/01

SMITH OUT AS CULTURE MINISTER: Energetic British culture minister Chris Smith is replaced in a post-election Tony Blair cabinet shakeup. Smith's transgression? "The main reason that Smith had to go was that he had done his job too fast, and too well. So much so that the rumour mills went into overgrind, predicting that his department was to be abolished." The Telegraph (UK) 06/14/01

BLAME THE OLD WHITE MALES: The chair of the Australia Council lets the establishment have it on her way out of the job. In a farewell speech at the National Press Club, Margaret Seares warned that "as long as the leaders of Australia were predominantly older white Anglo-Celtic men, vital decisions on the arts would probably never be implemented." Canberra Times 06/14/01

THE ARTISTS TAKE SIDES: Workers at Canada's National Gallery have been on strike for more than a month, with no end in sight. With negotiations stalled and the two sides at an apparent impasse, several prominent Canadian artists with connections to the gallery are placing themselves squarely in the workers' corner, designing and creating picket signs for the strikers. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/14/01

IRELAND ARTS AT CROSSROADS: The arts are flourishing in Ireland, and at least some of their high-profile success is due to the Arts Council, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. "And yet, even as it celebrates its own survival and the phenomenal growth of both its budget and its number of clients, the Arts Council finds itself at a moment of deep uncertainty." Irish Times 06/12/01

GETTING MORE THAN YOU PAY FOR: Everyone hates high ticket prices, and many performing organizations are trying to hold down the amount they charge for admission. But audiences seem to be holding on to some innate fear that if they attend an exhibit, performance, or concert that doesn't empty their pocketbook, they will somehow be getting an inferior product. A quick glance around any major city's arts scene proves that it isn't so. The New York Times 06/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Wednesday June 13

SQUABBLING ARTISTS: "Few private clubs in Manhattan have aired their battles as publicly as has the National Arts Club. The latest uproar turns on allegations of financial impropriety raised by club dissidents and staunchly denied by the club's president." The New York Times 06/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

FOR A MORE DIVERSE UK: The Arts Council of England awards £90 million in arts grants. Concerned about the diversity of arts in the UK, the grants include £29 million for black, Asian and Chinese projects. BBC 06/13/01

FOR A MORE CREATIVE CANADA: "Was I hallucinating, or did I read last week about a proposed commission to study creativity? I hope I was hallucinating. What's next -- a commission to count the grains of sand on Long Beach? To seek the Canadian identity in the entrails of native animals?" The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/13/01

Tuesday June 12

HOUSTON ARTS GROUPS HARD-HIT BY FLOODS: The Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Grand Opera, the Alley Theater, the Houston Ballet, and other organizations in the downtown arts district have suffered extensive losses from week-end flooding. Apparently hardest-hit was the Houston Symphony, where "thousands of musical scores and several irreplaceable instruments were among the casualties in Jones Hall. Three Steinway concert grand pianos with an estimated replacement value of $250,000 were ruined." Dallas Morning News & Houston Chronicle 06/12/01

GERMAN ART INITIATIVE: Germany's culture minister proposes a new national culture foundation with the aim of promoting contemporary art. "He has repeatedly warned against the threat of 'a discrepancy between repertoire and innovation' in Germany, and condemned the increasing ossification of cultural politics, with its emphasis on supporting institutions rather than periodically promoting specific projects in the short-term." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/12/01

READING BUSH'S POSITION ON ARTS FUNDING - A BIT OF A STRETCH? American President George Bush went to a performance at Ford's Theatre in Washington and made a statement some are interpreting as support for government funding for the arts. "This theater also reminds us that history lives on to be enjoyed by the people of each generation," he said. "When audiences come to Ford's Theatre, they experience America's history and culture. And it is right for our government to support such causes." Nando Times (AP) 06/11/01

Monday June 11

PROTECTING NATIONAL CULTURES: Canada lays out a new plan to protect national cultures. "The centrepiece of the plan is the International Network on Cultural Policy, a working group of culture ministers from 46 countries who will meet in September in Switzerland with the intention of creating an international 'instrument' to govern trade in cultural products. It will remove cultural industries, including television and film, from the purview of the World Trade Organization." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/11/01

SAN FRANCISCO DOT-BUST: For much of the past couple of years artists in San Francisco have been getting evicted as rents for their spaces soared or their buildings were torn down in anticipation of big dot-com bucks. But with the dot-com bust, many of those former artist spaces are sitting vacant. Now the city ponders the cost to its decimated arts community. San Francisco Bay Guardian 06/30/01

LOOKING A GIFT HORSE... Two years ago a "textbook-printing magnate announced that he would provide funding - eventually totaling $100 million - for the construction of an arts complex on a mostly city-owned block downtown." A great and generous deal. But one that has its detractors, suspicious of a private project with no public oversight. Metropolis 06/01

EDINBURGH'S DEVILISH FRINGE: This year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival is set. "A total of 666 companies will make their way to the capital in August, presenting almost 1,500 shows from 50 countries." The Scotsman 06/10/01

Friday June 8

SANTA FE THEATRE: "Santa Fe's newest performance space is also one of its oldest. The 70-year-old Lensic Theater - a film and vaudeville palace that became a mainstay for generations of local movie-goers - has been reborn" as a performing arts venue. Backstage 06/07/01

Thursday June 7

THE FUNDING BOOM: Even as the techno-world continues to collapse around the ears of its investors, the scores of Clinton-era nouveau riche dot-commers are turning a philanthropic eye to the arts. "The arts, which had often lagged behind other giving targets, now keeps pace. The latest numbers, released this week by Giving U.S.A., show that $11.5 billion was given to arts, culture and humanities [last year.]" Chicago Tribune (from the Washington Post) 06/07/01

Wednesday June 6

BETTER LIVING THROUGH ART: Its economy in shambles, its system controled by crimminals, some are proclaiming that Russia is finished as a force in the world. Russian art, on the other hand, after a difficult decade, seems to be doing better and better. Can Russia-the-country learn some lessons from Russia-the-art? 06/06/01

Tuesday June 5

AN ARTS HALL OF FAME? The new head of the Scottish Arts Council proposes setting up a new hall that would celebrate Scottish arts stars. It "would set artists of the past, such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott, alongside contemporary artists such as J K Rowling, James MacMillan and Jack Vettriano." Sunday Times (UK) 06/03/01

Monday June 4

A MATTER OF RESPECT? In March, a federal judge in San Antonio ruled that the city had illegally eliminated funding of an arts group because city officials didn't like the views the group expressed. Was the decision a "victory for freedom of expression" or is it "judicial over-reaching," interfering with the right of the city to determine who gets support? "This ruling helps educate us all to see just what is the role of art in speaking for those who are different or express unpopular views." Dallas Morning News 06/04/01

OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVES: The Irish Arts Council and a partnership including the Irish Times and the national airline are bring critics from outside Ireland to observe and comment on Irish culture. Irish Times 06/03/01

A LITTLE CULTURAL DEBATE: As the British election gets closer, the Conservatives and Labour parties are duking it out over arts policy. Labour says the Conservatives' "under-investment, misplaced priorities, and lack of organisation held back access and excellence" during the Thatcher years. Conservatives say arts policy under Labour has become too bureaucratic and controlling. The Art Newspaper 06/01/01

Sunday June 3

AIDS AND THE ARTS: AIDS has had an enormous impact on artists. "But the epidemic's toll on the arts can't be measured only by the sum of lost artists, their unfinished projects and unmet potential. A climate marked by caution, accommodation and a sometimes gutless superficiality is also part of the disease's legacy." San Francisco Chronicle 06/03/01

Friday June 1

BUSH REPLACES NEH CHIEF: President George Bush has decided to replace National Endowment for the Humanities chairman William Ferris, and will nominate Bruce Cole, a "professor of fine arts and comparative literature at the Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University, to a four-year term." The New York Times 06/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)

DEFENDING THE GIFTS: Embattled Smithsonian chief Lawrence Small defends his position on accepting large donations with strings attached: "As a nation, our lives are enriched by the generosity of others. It is difficult to imagine a United States of America without the great private gifts that have helped create distinguished universities, museums and libraries. We live in an era, however, in which some regard these donations with a curious mixture of indifference and skepticism..." Washington Post 05/31/01

ENVISIONING THE E-LIBRARY: Representatives from countless U.S. public libraries met in Chicago this week to discuss everything from funding to PR. But the hottest topic was technology, and the expected rise of the e-book. "Few conclusions were reached, but that wasn't the point. Tuesday's meeting was much more than an example of how libraries, particularly public libraries, are willing to go to the mat to bring the newest of digital technologies to the widest of audiences." Chicago Tribune 06/01/01

IT'S ALL ABOUT PRIORITIES: The spotlight-loving director of Canada's National Gallery was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada recently, and his employees are pretty steamed about it. Why? They've all been on strike for three weeks. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/01/01