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ARTS ISSUES - June 2002

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Friday June 28

WRONG NUMBER: Few things get audiences (or performers) more ticked off than cell phones ringing during performances. Now Japanese scientists have come up with a possible solution. "They have developed a wood that is filled with magnetic particles which can block phone signals and could be used to make theatre doors and walls. The magnetic wood effectively blocks the microwave signals, rendering the phones useless and stopping almost any chance of ringtones ruining the performance." London Evening Standard 06/25/02

I JUST CALLED... On the other hand, young pop music fans consider cell phones standard equipment at concerts. "Mobile phones have quickly become a popular concert accessory. Fans call friends to brag about the show and hold up their phones so others can hear a favorite song." Nando Times (AP) 06/28/02

Thursday June 27

NO MONEY WHERE THE MOUTH IS: When the San Jose Symphony went bankrupt this spring, city officials were quick to verbally reaffirm San Jose's commitment to the arts. But this week, the city council slashed the city's already meager arts funding by nearly 20%. San Jose Mercury News 06/27/02

Wednesday June 26

BETTER THAN NOTHING: Even as other cities slashed and burned funding in the 1990s, New York held firm with a serious financial commitment to the arts. But post-9/11, with a budget crisis looming, new mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a devastating 15% cut in such funding, prompting much protest from the groups to be affected. Six months later, the cuts have been much reduced, and the result is one with which New York arts groups seem prepared to live. The New York Times 06/26/02

Tuesday June 25

A BETTER WAY TO SUPPORT THE ARTS? "When I contemplate the Canada Council, which isn't often, I wonder: What if it didn't exist? What would life in Canada be like? Would people not write poems and novels? Would painters not paint, would dancers not dance? For their part, would Canadians not take an interest in other Canadians? Would CanCult itself not exist? Just for fun, contemplate for a moment what might happen if we switched from an arts grant system to an arts credit system: a situation in which public support went, not to the producer, but to the consumer of Canadian arts." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/25/02

LONG OVERDUE INVESTMENTS: Finally Toronto is going to see some major investment in its cultural infrastructure. It's about time. "While American cities were investing in infrastructure throughout the boom years of the 1980s and late 1990s, Toronto remained devoid of any notable major projects. The saga of the opera house kept stalling, and arts funding was sent to the guillotine during Mike Harris's Common Sense Revolution." National Post (Canada) 06/23/02

HELPING OUT DOWNTOWN: A new report proposes a series of measures to assist artists and cultural groups in Lower Manhattan. "In addition to tax and real estate allowances, the report also proposes designating downtown Manhattan as a cultural zone, which would include the commissioning of public art and the sponsorship of public performances." New York Daily News 06/24/02

Monday June 24

THE FUTURE OF INNOVATION: Should people have the right to control intellectual property? Should corporations? Is it good for society? For innovation? Author Lawrence Lessig proposes that for innovation to continue, a "creative commons" ought to allow for the free flow of ideas. Reason 06/02

Sunday June 23

GOTTA LOVE THOSE GAYS AND BOHEMIANS: A new study sure to make Jerry Falwell cringe suggests that cities with high populations of "gays and bohemians (artistically creative people)" are more likely to thrive economically than those populated by, presumably, straights and dullards. The study focused on the economic impact of the "creative class" on large American metropolises. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 06/23/02

Friday June 21

FIXING COVENT GARDEN: Covent Garden chief Tony Hall on addressing the Opera House's biggest problems - high ticket prices and limited audiences: "I've tried to address price through the 50 per cent rule, that is, half the tickets in the house now cost £50 or less, every night. As for capacity, the house only holds 2200 people. One way to bring the ballet and opera from inside to out - and thus to much wider audiences - lies in the power of the screen, both big and small. We relayed Romeo and Juliet to the piazza in Covent Garden, to about 3000 people there, but - here is the new bit - last month we took it by satellite to Victoria Park [in East London]. It's a poor area, needs revitalising." Sydney Morning Herald 06/21/02

INVERNESS PLANNING CULTURAL QUARTER: The Scottish city of Inverness is trying to be named Cultural Capital of Europe for 2008. In an attempt to woo the title, the city has announced a £20 million plan for a new cultural quarter. "The cultural quarter is a place that could inspire creativity and inspiration that would lead to the regeneration of the riverside of Inverness and ultimately contribute to the growth and status of Inverness and the Highlands as a whole." The Scotsman 06/21/02

SO FUNNY, EVEN MY CATS LAUGHED (REALLY): So you think TV and movie critics sit around trying to think up clever little quotes so they can see themselves blurbed in big letters in ads? Hmnnn... "In writing columns and reviews, getting quoted is never my agenda. Nope, not on my radar screen. No ego here. I have too much integrity for that. My validation comes from within." Los Angeles Times 06/21/02

Thursday June 20

MAKING A SHOW OF CUTS: With states across America facing budget deficits, many have proposed cutting public arts funding. Arts budgets are small compared to overall state budgets, but they're highly visible (read: they make good poster-children as candidates for fiscal austerity). Backstage 06/19/02

THE ST. PETERSBURG REVIVAL: "This year the annual Stars of the White Nights festival in St Petersburg offers an exclusively Russian extravaganza of opera, ballet and concerts, sending a message of revival of national pride and optimism after the gloom of the 1990s. But while conditions in the 'Venice of the north' are getting better, they are still a long way from its imperial heyday. There is not much you can do at 11pm, other than trudge back home through beautiful but eerily empty streets." Financial Times 06/18/02

Wednesday June 19

ART VS. BASKETBALL: Community activists in Los Angeles are clashing over how best to use a 3-1/2 acre vacant lot in the city's Little Tokyo neighborhood. Residents want a gym to house their basketball league, but an art museum whose property backs up on the lot wants to turn it into an "art park" connecting the multiple cultural institutions in the neighborhood. Sports usually win out over art in these disputes, but which proposal is better urban planning? Los Angeles Times 06/19/02

Tuesday June 18

LINCOLN CENTER'S NEW LEADER: Bruce Crawford, former general manager of the Metropolitan Opera has been chosen as the new chairman of Lincoln Center, succeeding Beverly Sills. "In addition to presiding over Lincoln Center, the country's largest and most important cultural institution, with constituents like the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet, Mr. Crawford will oversee the center's often contentious $1.2 billion redevelopment plan." The New York Times 06/18/02

PATENTLY WRONG: The number of patents granted has exploded in recent decades. A sign of increasing innovation and progress? Perhaps. But tying up new ideas in patents are "just as bad for society as too few. The undisciplined proliferation of patent grants puts vast sectors of the economy off-limits to competition, without any corresponding benefit to the public. The tension between the patent as a way to stimulate invention and the patent as a weapon against legitimate competition is inherent in the system." Forbes 06/17/02

THE LOTTERY CRUNCH: Britain's lottery helped spur a wave of cultural building in the past few years that has transformed the country's cultural infrastructure. But lottery revenue is shrinking, and estimates for maintaining he UK's "heritage" over the next 10 years will be "nearly £4 billion, of which £800 million is needed for museums and galleries." The Art Newspaper 06/14/02

Sunday June 16

COLORADO GOVERNOR CUTS ARTS FUNDING: Colorado Governor Bill Owens used his line-item veto to cut $766,030, or 40 percent of the Colorado Arts Council budget. Owens explained that "grants to these arts programs go to the metro Denver area that already has a dedicated sales tax for these purposes. Because there is a large alternate source of revenue, and given the discretionary, one-time nature of the funds, I am vetoing this line." Denver Post 06/05/02

Friday June 14

WHERE ARE THE CRITICS? "Unfortunately, critics, and criticism, are becoming more and more irrelevant. Their authority has been undermined by chat rooms, bulletin boards and online reviews from your fellow customer." And the contrarian critics? They're almost worst of all - b-o-r-i-n-g. They've all got an agenda, and most are compromised in one way or another. LAWeekly 06/13/02

  • NEW LETTERS responding to Chris Lavin's critique of arts journalism. "Art is about depth, breadth and substance - stuff that a smart quippy writing style insults, a press release kills, and an academic analysis buries. There's a place in between all these journalistic tones that will allow art and artists to be better revealed. Yes, I believe this, but I'm afraid that our culture as a whole is too embedded in its quick-fix mentality." 06/14/02

BOUNCING BACK DOWN UNDER: Australian arts groups were affected by 9/11, just like American companies. But the effect was mostly mild - the Sydney Symphony, dependent on single-ticket sales, saw declines, but the Sydney Theatre Company actually posted increases. Sydney Morning Herald 06/14/02

MENTORING WITH SWISS PRECISION: "On the theory that any artist, regardless of age or experience, can benefit from guidance, Rolex S.A., the Swiss watchmaker, has created a novel mentoring program that will link up five up-and-coming artists with five world-class masters in their fields. The five mentors — the conductor Sir Colin Davis, the choreographer William Forsythe, the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza and the theater artist Robert Wilson — and their protégés gather tonight for a reception at the Frick Collection, where they will begin their yearlong partnership." The New York Times 06/13/02

Thursday June 13

LOOKING FOR THE SNOB-FREE ZONE: We are a world of snobs - each of us trying to define ourselves as superior in some way to those around us. And yet, writes Joseph Epstein, "one would like to think that Is there a snob-free zone, a place where one is outside all snobbish concerns, neither wanting to get in anywhere one isn't, nor needing to keep anyone else out for fear that one's own position will somehow seem eroded or otherwise devalued? A very small island of the favored of the gods, clearly, this snob-free zone, but how does one get there?" Washington Monthly 06/02

Wednesday June 12

CULTURAL MAKEOVER: Nothing new about cities investing in art. But the middle-class suburban town of Cerritos, California is making an unusually big commitment "investing heavily in art and culture - even commissioning music - and doing it all in the birthplace of auto malls and freeway buffer walls. 'We want our city to be the best possible for our residents, so we're making it sparkle more, in carefully considered ways. We've already invested heavily in education. Art and culture seems the next logical phase." Los Angeles Times 06/12/02

MICHIGAN JOINS ARTS-CUT MOVEMENT: Like many governments across America, Michigan is facing tough budget times. And like many other governments, state legislators are proposing major cuts in its arts budget - a "50 percent cut in arts grants, from $23.5 million to $11.9 million. It's too early to predict whether the cuts will be adopted, but the fact that a joint committee of the state Senate and House will meet over the next week to discuss the cut has arts advocates on the defensive and preparing for a political fight." Detroit Free Press 06/12/02

Tuesday June 11

MAJOR INDUSTRY: A new study reports that nonprofit American arts groups generate $134 billion in economic activity each year. "The new survey covered 3,000 local arts organizations in 91 cities, as well as 40,000 of their patrons, and drew a statistical picture of a booming business. These groups account for 4.85 million full-time-equivalent jobs, a larger percentage of the workforce than lawyers or computer programmers." Washington Post 06/11/02

BIRMINGHAM PRINTS AD: The Birmingham News ran an ad for a production of The Vagina Monologues Sunday "after haggling between the play’s staff and The News." But the paper would not allow the name of the play to be used in the ad. "It was all in one font type, no headline, graphics or photographs, and it didn’t contain the title of the show. Instead, an asterisk directed interested folks to call a phone number for the name." The paper says about the originally rejected ad: "There is the name itself, ‘Vagina Monologues.’ But that was not the real issue; it was the way the layout was done.' The ad featured a microphone stand (The Vagina Monologues is performed with a bare stage, no props or sets), and double-entendre tag lines such as 'spread the word.' 'We told them, "If you’ll calm this down, we’ll run it in a heartbeat. Our responsibility is to our readers, to be sure no one is offended." Tuscaloosa News 06/10/02

Monday June 10

LACK OF DISCIPLINE: American academic culture has changed dramatically in recent years. "The dissociation of academic work from traditional departments has become so expected in the humanities that it is a common topic of both conferences and jokes. More and more colleges are offering more and more interdisciplinary classes, and even interdisciplinary majors, but increased interdisciplinarity is not what is new, and it is not the cause of today's confusion. What the academy is now experiencing is postdisciplinarity - not a joining of disciplines, but an escape from disciplines." Wilson Quarterly 06/02

IRAN OPENS UP TO CULTURE? Iran's president Mohammed Khatami is encouraging a new openness in the arts, even inviting international academics and artists to the country to talk about art. “Artists and artistic activities have been given great encouragement since Khatami came to power in 1997. We are being advised to be active in the cultural scene, to end Iran’s political isolation. The doors were closed for two decades after the Revolution [1979], but now we are opening up and we are facing a generation that longs to know more about recent art movements.” The Art Newspaper 06/07/02

CREATIVITY = ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Richard Florida's new book suggests that "instead of underwriting big-box retailers, subsidizing downtown malls, recruiting call centers, and squandering precious taxpayer dollars on extravagant stadium complexes, the leadership should instead develop an environment attractive to the creative class by cultivating the arts, music, night life and quaint historic districts - in short, develop places that are fun and interesting rather than corporate and mall-like. It's advice that city and regional leaders can take or leave, but Florida contends that his focus groups and indices - reporting the important factors needed for economic growth in the creative age, from concentrations of bohemians to patents to a lively gay community - are more accurately predicting the success and failure of metropolitan areas." Salon 06/07/02

Sunday June 9

UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE "V" WORD: The Birmingham News in Alabama, has refused to carry ads for a production of The Vagina Monologues. The paper also won't write about the show, saying that "our first responsibility is to our paid readers. We do not want to take the chance of offending anyone." The paper evidently objects to the name of the show, and is the only newspaper in North America so far to refuse ads for it. Says one of the show's promoters: "They told us we could not use the name of the show in our ad. It's hard to imagine why we'd pay thousands of dollars for a highly censored ad that doesn't even mention the name of the show." Black & White City Paper (Birmingham) 06/06/02

9/11 ON THE FRINGE: This year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival will have a strong current of 9/11 art running through it. "The attack resonates throughout the programme. We have been receiving applications since April and it was obvious this was going to be a big thing. It is fascinating, it has really shaken the imagination. The thread seems to be dealing with the emotional response to the events. This year's fringe is the biggest yet with almost 1,500 shows from 11,700 artists. A quarter of the shows are world premieres and 24% are performed by overseas groups, half of them from the US." The Guardian (UK) 06/07/02

Friday June 7

HOLLYWOOD TO SECEDE? Los Angeles voters will vote this fall on whether to carve ut Hollywood as its own city, distinct from LA. "Hollywood secessionists have argued that a smaller city, of 160,000 people, would be better able to attack crime, spruce up the area's famous boulevards and restore Hollywood to its former glory." Los Angeles Times 06/06/02

LINCOLN CENTER'S TAX PROBLEM: For years Lincoln Center believed it was exempt from city service taxes. Turns out it believed wrong. "After extensive negotiations, Lincoln Center sent a $450,000 check to the city in December. Talks are continuing on another $550,000 in contested charges." New York Post 06/06/02

IRANIAN PERFORMERS DENIED VISAS: Ten Iranian performers, part of a troupe of 28, have denied visas to perform in this summer's Lincoln Center Festival "because they were deemed at risk of becoming economic refugees. The other actors in the troupe were given initial clearance, having proved that they are not likely to stay on past the expiration of their visas, but they are now awaiting a security check." Lincoln Center has reduced the number of performances the company will give. The New York Times 06/07/02

Thursday June 6

ENTERTAINMENT BOOM: The worldwide entertainment industry faced some big challenges last year - the dotcom bust, an economic slowdown, September 11. But despite all that, "the worldwide entertainment and media sector saw spending rise 1.5 per cent in 2001, surpassing the $1-trillion (U.S.) mark for the first time ever. A new survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers says this is just the start of a rally that will see spending of $1.4-trillion by 2006." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/06/02

MASSACHUSETTS - SMALLER ARTS CUTS? Massachusetts was one of the first states this spring to propose wholesale cuts in the state's arts budget - the state House of Representatives recommended a 48 percent cut in the state's public arts spending as a way of helping to close a budget deficit. But intense lobbying by arts groups narrowed the state house cut to 24 percent. And this week the state senate's budget committee recommended keeping funding at this year's level - $19 million. Boston Globe 06/06/02

  • TAX LAW WORKS AGAINST NON-PROFITS: Boston Museum of Fine Arts director Malcolm Rogers is campaigning against a measure approved by the state's House of Representatives to eliminate tax deductions for charitable contributions. ''Statistical studies show that for every dollar they save in taxes, people give about a dollar and 20 cents more to charity. Legislators who estimate that the change in tax law would funnel between $180 million and $200 million per year from taxpayers' pockets to state coffers say they have no choice'' as they attempt to close a big budget deficit. Boston Globe 06/06/02

Wednesday June 5

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CULTURAL FLOWERING? Fifty years ago, when Elizabeth took to England's throne, many predicted a flowering of English culture, a second Elizabethan era. There have been successes. But "alongside its cultural ascendance, England has cultivated the highest illiteracy rates in western Europe, as well as the ugliest cities. Children leave our schools never having heard of Bach or Leonardo, their fertile minds stuffed with three-bar tunes and electronic games. Many will reach the end of their lives never having set foot in the National Gallery or Royal National Theatre, never having glimpsed the opportunity to transcend the ordinary." London Evening Standard 06/05/02

Tuesday June 4

THE QUEEN'S PARTY: Britain's Queen Elizabeth threw a big party to celebrate her 50 years on the throne. How big? More than a million people attended the pop/rock concert at Buckingham Palace, far surpassing expectations. The concert "was followed by a display of fireworks and water fountains in a dazzling 15-minute son et lumiere that enveloped the Buckingham Palace in a brilliant kaleidoscope of colour." And the Queen? "The Queen, wearing ear plugs, and Prince Philip - neither of them natural lovers of rock and pop - planned to attend only the last half hour, arriving to huge cheers at 9.55 pm." The Telegraph (UK) 06/04/02

WHY THE WORLD DOESN'T TAKE ARTS JOURNALISM SERIOUSLY? Why is arts journalism marginalized in so many publications? Literary critic Carlin Romano believes that "until arts journalists and their supporters examine the intellectual issues of their trade as seriously as investigative reporters probe their own dilemmas over protecting sources or going undercover - marching onto op-ed pages as controversies break, demanding the same attention as American media dopily devote to sports - they'll continue to be enablers of their own marginalization." Chronicle of Higher Education 06/03/02

CAMPAIGN TO REOPEN ITALIAN THEATRES: There's a campaign in Italy to reopen some 361 unused theatres and opera houses. "Italy has still many unused halls, a result of the country's long history of political polycentrism, which since the early 18th century has encouraged theater and opera to percolate through society in a manner unparalleled elsewhere. In countless small cities, a religious festival or a change of governor could be enough to bring into being a short operatic season, even if this was limited to a few performances of a single work. As one writer has remarked, in the 19th century, opera houses 'were as numerous as cinemas [are] today'." For one reason or another many theatres were closed even though they're fit to be used. Andante 06/04/02

QUEENS OF CULTURE: Is the Museum of Modern Art finally "bringing" culture to Queens, its new temporary home? Not at all - the borough is more than Archie Bunker. "In Manhattan, culture is called to your attention, boxed up, neatly placed along landmarks like Museum Mile. It's roped off, so tourists know where to find it: Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Broadway, the Met. But in decentralized Queens, culture is more complicated, a mix of clashing international and neighborhood values embodied by old- and new- wave immigrants, as well as native-born locals such as hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, folksy world music man Paul Simon or the late punk rock legend Joey Ramone." Newsday 06/04/02

LA'S CULTURE BILL: Add up all the cultural projects looking for money in Los Angeles right now and the bill tops $1 billion. That's enough to build another Getty Center. "The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles in Exposition Park are the largest players, each preparing to seek $200 million to $300 million." Also in the hunt is the Orange County Performing Arts Center, which is raising money for a new $200 million concert hall. Los Angeles Times 06/02/02

A WHO'S WHO OF PITTSBURGH CULTURE: Every year the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette arts staff puts together a list of the "top 50 cultural forces" in the city. This year, the staff decided to make it "easier on themselves by grouping its winners into categories. "We created 10 categories in which to place our 50 names: categories for the arts leaders who break with tradition; the opinionated leaders who challenge the city's notions about culture; the behind-the-scenes leaders who nurture the development of artists; the leaders of small arts groups who foster quality work; and others." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/03/02

Monday June 3

ANOTHER FIRE AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE: "Thousands of people, including some of Britain's most famous musicians, were evacuated from Buckingham Palace last night as a fire broke out, disrupting preparations for tonight's pop concert. The fire started between the ballroom and the state rooms which form the heart of the working palace and are used regularly by the Queen and members of the royal family." The Guardian (UK) 06/03/02

SUPERFUND: After much political wrangling, various levels of government finally got their acts together in Toronto Friday and announced long-awaited funding of $232 million for cultural projects in Ontario. "Some people appear to have swapped scripts. Now the rhetoric arts lobbyists have used for years has been co-opted by the politicians. They confidently promise that museum expansions and concert halls will create an economic boom, lure millions of tourists and improve everyone's quality of life. They've become converts to the faith, based on the notion that an arts boom is the vehicle to transport all of us to a future of prosperity." Toronto Star 06/02/02

JAPAN - THE NEW CULTURE SUPERPOWER? "Critics often reduce the globalization of culture to either the McDonald's phenomenon or the 'world music' phenomenon. For the McDonald's camp, globalization is the process of large American multinationals overwhelming foreign markets and getting local consumers addicted to special sauce. In this case, culture flows from American power, and American supply creates demand. For the world music camp, globalization means that fresh, marginal culture reaches consumers in the United States through increased contact with the rest of the world. Here, too, culture flows from American power, with demand from rich Americans expanding distribution for Latin pop or Irish folk songs. But Japanese culture has transcended US demand or approval." The Guardian (UK) 06/03/02

ABOUT NAMES OR ABOUT ART? When Avery Fisher gave $10.5 million in 1973 to Lincoln Center to rebuild Philharmonic Hall, the deal stipulated that the building would forever carry his name. Now the hall needs another massive overhaul and Lincoln Center wants to maybe resell naming rights. "Fisher's heirs are prepared to go to court to protect the name, although the two sides say they will meet this week to try to work out an understanding. The outcome, analysts say, could set a precedent for how philanthropists and cultural organizations negotiate naming rights." Nando Times (AP) 06/02/02

Sunday June 2

ADRIFT IN A SEA OF AESTHETIC (ANASTHETIC?): "In these years post-turn-of-the-century, we're awash in so much choice in entertainment, so much competition for our attention, that we risk losing a sense of our basic selves. Art exists, partly, to articulate identity. Greek drama reinforced that society's basic myths. Medieval Gothic architecture expressed, in towering grandeur, the superstitions and heavenly dreams of that world. Through much of the 20th Century, painters, dramatists, novelists and filmmakers borrowed from and mirrored one another, and an eager consumer could take solace in sampling a little bit of all of them." Chicago Tribune 06/02/02

THAT GIANT SUCKING SOUND? Dallas is raising $250 million to build a new performing arts center. "But not everyone on the local performing arts scene considers it a friendly giant. For some, it's a voracious juggernaut set to gobble up most of the city's limited cultural money and attention. And its leftovers are unlikely to be enough to go around. Supporters of the center, and representatives of some of the smaller arts groups, argue that the attention focused on the performing arts center is a boon to the cultural scene as a whole." Dallas Morning News 06/02/02