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Friday August 30

PRECARIOUS PROMOTION: This year's Edinburgh Festival featured a late-night series of top performers, with tickets going for £5. It was a big success at attracting new audiences. But the experiment won't be repeated because of the cost. So how do you get people to try the arts? "In Britain - in Scotland - we live in a society where classical music and the arts in general are not an integral part of our lives. They are an add-on, seen by the bulk of our people and our politicians as an over-expensive luxury, and one that most people don't want. That fact is rooted in our education system. It's not that the government devalues the arts - to say so might suggest the possibility of a presumption on their part of value in the first instance." The Herald (Glasgow) 08/30/02

EMPTY WORDS: Last week the head of the Scottish Arts Council spoke a lot of good words about supporting the arts, increasing funding, and making Scotland a place where the arts flourish. But it was all a smokescreen, writes Keith Bruce. Even a cursory glance at what the Council is doing shows a profound lack of ideas and originality. And then there are those funding cuts... The Herald (Glasgow) 08/30/02

Thursday August 29

ENTRY DENIED: American arts festivals have had a bad time this summer getting international artists into the country to perform. Visas have been denied, and entry refused for numerous artists, leaving arts organizations scrambling to find replacement performers at the last minute for top artists who have been denied entry. "I think it must be the worst summer for festivals in decades, if not the worst ever. There is some irony in shutting down the arts at a time when we should be encouraging international cultural exchanges with the long view of understanding other countries." Denver Post 08/29/02

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Has art and popular culture changed since 9/11? "You think about the atmosphere in the immediate aftermath. It was a chorus of voices declaring, 'Irony is dead,' 'We'll never laugh again,' 'No one is ever going to want to see another violent action movie.' Well, all those forecasts proved to be wrong." Dallas Morning News 08/28/02

  • FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE? So where are the great works of art capturing the essence of 9/11? "for whatever reason, nothing has appeared in the flood of books, films, songs, and other works about the attacks like Guernica, Picasso's anguished masterpiece painted in response to the ruinous bombing of a village in his native Spain during civil war in the late 1930s." Businessweek 08/28/02

FREEZE-DRIED: How do you save artwork and manuscripts that have been submerged in the Czech and German floods? First you freeze them. "Defunct freezer facilities have been reopened across the country and ice-cream sellers have stoically offered up their vans to allow storage of the hundreds of thousands of items that have fallen foul of the flood, whose stench-ridden waters, heavy with heating oil, sewage, thick mud and more besides, surged into the basements, ground and first floors of many of the city's cultural institutions earlier this month. Nationwide appeals have been made for vacuum chambers, freeze dryers, blotting paper and even boxes. The flood has done more damage to the city than the Nazi and Soviet invasions combined, say old Praguers." The Guardian (UK) 08/29/02

MAY THE FORCE BE IN YOU: Australia's census-takers are perplexed that on last year's census, "0.37 percent of the nation's population of 19 million, or 70,509 people, had written 'Jedi' or a related response to an optional question about their faith when the head count was taken last August." As Star Wars fans know, "Jedi is a mystical faith followed by some of the central characters in the Star Wars films. The prank began early last year when Star Wars fans circulated an e-mail across Australia saying the government would be forced to recognize Jedi as an official religion if at least 10,000 people named it on the census." 08/28/02

Wednesday August 28

THE INTERNET TICKET SCAM: Some internet ticket-buyers for opera, theatre and ballet shows are being scammed by high tech thieves. "The thieves copy official Web sites of premier venues to almost every detail, including theatre layouts and restaurant information, and constantly update shows. The crucial difference is the scam site has its own credit card booking set-up, so your money goes directly into their account." Sydney Morning Herald 08/28/02

Tuesday August 27

MASSACHUSETTS CUTS: The Massachusetts Cultural Council has begun cutting programs and staff after seeing its budget cut from $19.1 million to $7.3 million by the state legislature. The arts agency has "cut 11 staff positions and developed a plan to eliminate several of its 12 granting programs for cultural groups." Boston Herald 08/27/02

THE PROGRAM BOOK PROBLEM: When Performing Arts, publishers of program books for arts groups in the Bay Area, went out of business this summer, it told some clients but didn't tell others (such as San Francisco Opera). "That left arts groups scrambling for programs for fall shows. As a result, the unforeseen cost for arts group to publish programs could go as high as $60,000 for the coming season." San Jose Mercury-News 08/27/02

Monday August 26

RAISED PROFILE: The Kennedy Center has long had a high profile. But it has generally been more of a presenter for local residents than a cultural destination for out-of-towners. That may be changing. When Michael Kaiser became president of the Kennedy Center, with its $125 million annual budget, he set a goal of making "the 31-year-old center a cultural destination for people from all over the world rather than merely a place for local residents, and to accomplish this by staging its own productions rather than presenting someone else's." The New York Times 08/26/02

CLAP TRAP: Does applause mean anything anymore? In some cities, any performance, no matter how mediocre, is greeted with a standing ovation. In other cities, applause is never more than polite. There was a time when making a terrific noise after a well-executed performance was a sign of an audience's engagement. Is it anymore? Toronto Star 08/25/02

Sunday August 25

A DOWNTURN - WORSE THINGS AHEAD? It's been a bad year for SIlicon Valley arts groups. San Jose was at the center of the dotcom boom, and since the the economy went bust, the arts are suffering. The San Jose Symphony went out of business, the fledgling Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley racked up a $2.4 million deficit and almost went under, the San Jose Repertory Theatre pulled a $500,000 shortfall. The San Jose Museum has had to cut back. Most arts groups are in survival mode and cutting back. Some predict it will get worse: "I don't think last year was the problem. I think this coming year is going to be the problem.'' San Jose Mercury News 08/24/02

SLASH AND BURN: Massachusetts' cuts in its state arts funding of 62 percent from $19.1 million to $7.3 million is "one of the deepest cuts in the country, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies." What are the consequences? State arts officials don't know specifics yet, but "Massachusetts will likely feel its cultural and economic muscles atrophy." Boston Globe 08/22/02

LETTING DOWN THE SIDE IN EDINBURGH: Scotland's arts are set up to be orderly, traditional and unchallenging. So what to make of the Edinburgh Fringe? It hardly fits the national character. "Our arts are meant to be unembarrassing, organised and neat - preferably with a beneficial effect on tourism and tweed. They should come only from nice people and should produce a not-unpleasant kind of somnolence. Which means that all these bloody enthusiasts tramping across Edinburgh, subsidising nudity, quality independent films, social comment, intellectual activity and cheap laughs at George Bush's expense are letting the side down completely." The Guardian (UK) 08/24/02

Friday August 23

SHRINKING ENDOWMENTS: The shrinking stock market has reduced the value of foundation endowments. "Nine of the 10 largest private foundations' assets, in the first half of this year, fell by a cumulative $8.3 billion. And that was before the market took a steep dive this summer." That's leading some foundations to consider reducing their grants to the arts. ALSO: many arts groups' endowments have also gone down, reducing the support that can be drawn from them. Backstage 08/22/02

Thursday August 22

ALL OUT WAR: The US government is preparing an assault on digital file traders. "Washington lawmakers have been crafting bills that would give the entertainment industry the go-ahead to identify individual users, disrupt file-trading services and prosecute anyone suspected of digital piracy. The fear and loathing focused at the file-trading community is reminiscent of 1990, just before the Secret Service and the FBI conducted raids in order to smash the loosely affiliated hacker organizations around the country." Wired 08/22/02

Wednesday August 21

THE COMMERCIAL NONPROFIT: Cleveland's Playhouse Square, with 10,000 seats, is America's second-largest performing arts center, after Manhattan's Lincoln Center. "But it's also a rare case of a flourishing nonprofit arts foundation that earns its own keep - taking just a smidgen of government aid and private donations." The secret? The theaters are part of a complex of "nontheater assets, including a hotel and office buildings. The entire package is valued at $124 million, with only $54 million in debt." The commercial properties help to "pay for the arts and help revitalize a grimy section of the city." Yahoo! (Forbes) 08/19/02

BROADENING EDINBURGH: The Edinburgh Festival, in contrast with the Fringe Festival, is predictable - catering to a very specific demographic. What would it take to revitalize what is arguably already a pretty terrific festival? Some fresh new venues would help. "It desperately needs to develop a space, a cave, a warehouse, a Roundhouse, a Glasgow Tramway, a Bouffes du Nord - a place that can compete with Fringe venues such as the Pleasance on an equal footing and programme more variously and spontaneously." The Telegraph (UK) 08/21/02

AFTERBURNERS: It's almost time for the Burning Man, that annual orgy of art interaction in the Nevade desert. But San Francisco Burners, want to continue the festivities for a few days when they return home.Finding a place to do so is proving difficult. "Between increased police scrutiny, more sound-sensitive neighbors and the difficulty of finding a place cavernous enough to exhibit say, a 40-foot Spanish galleon, fire artists, a forest of 12-foot sculptures and a band or two, many Burners are frustrated at not being able to fully express themselves in their hometown." San Francisco Chronicle 08/20/02

SYDNEY'S NEW OPERA HOUSE BOSS: The Sydney Opera House is about ready to announce its new director. "The shortlist is believed to include the founder of World Orchestras, Tim Walker, and the acting chief executive of the Opera House, Judith Isherwood." Sydney Morning Herald 08/21/02

Tuesday August 20

WANTED - CAVE DWELLERS (IT'S FOR ART): Some 150 people have applied to live in a cave for two days as part of an English public art project "which aims to recreate the 18th century fashion, fuelled in part by the poets Alexander Pope and Thomas Gray, for landowners to have a hermit living in some picturesque corner of their estates.
'We want to explore the nature of solitude and whether that has any resonance to anyone in the 21st century. Within what looks like a bit of fun, people will consider ideas that go back to Rousseau and Pope. It's a philosophical critique of the world in which we live'."
The Guardian (UK) 08/20/02

Monday August 19

GET ME A COP: Why make a law to ban cell phones in theatres? Because asking nicely hasn't worked. "The warnings might as well have been in Esperanto, because inevitably, at some point during the first act, a cellphone goes off with its incessant beeps, or worse, with a tinkling rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game or the 1812 Overture. Heads are turned in the general direction of the sound, and the tsk-tsks start to drown out the ringing. Sometimes the culprits sheepishly dig deep into their purses, but often the cannier boobs do nothing and look around at their neighbors, just as annoyed as if they were the offender, a strategy no doubt also used when flatulance is the issue." Hartford Courant 08/18/02

Sunday August 18

A PASSING GENERATION: Ann Landers, Pauline Kael, Mike Royko...a generation of older voices of authority are falling away. "As a group, they personified what one academic calls a media culture of 'companionship' versus the current one of confrontation. Part of the advantage these old-school communicators enjoyed in building longevity was a more stable, paternalistic, homogenous structure of media ownership. Just as the old Hollywood studios created brand identity by locking their biggest stars into exclusive multiyear contracts, so other media established continuity by cultivating what was once a relatively limited pool of recognizable names and voices." Los Angeles Times 08/12/02

SERIAL WINNER: The success of an arts company is not so much dependent on ticket sales as it is on subscription sales. Single ticket buyers do not a successful company make. The father of the subscription package evangelizes: "There is no arts boom, only a subscription boom. Remember, you're not selling Tupperware. We are colourful, we are glamorous, we are the performing arts! Describe your play on the cover, offer discounts, use such enticements that you can already hear somebody crying, `Martha, where's my chequebook?'" Toronto Star 08/17/02

CALL-BLOCKING: A proposed law to prohibit cell phones in New York theatres stands a good chance of passing, with city councilors looking likely to pass the law. But cell phone companies are upset. "Members of the cell-phone industry who oppose the bill out of commercial interests and principle expressed incredulity that the bill has been met with this much fanfare." Wired 08/17/02

Friday August 16

SAVING ART FROM THE WATER: Prague and Dresden are under water and cultural treasures in both cities have been indanger from the water. But it looks like most have been saved. "It looks like we've been lucky. We had a lot of warning that the water was coming, so that stuff was moved to higher ground." BBC 08/16/02

A BAN ON CELL PHONES? A New York councilman has introduced a bill to ban cell phones from public places. "New Yorkers are sick and tired of people on their cell phones in the middle of a play or a movie. It's distracting, it's annoying, and as a public nuisance, it should be against the law." Wired 08/15/02

  • Previously: CELLICIDE: Lawmakers in New York and Toronto are considering a ban of cell phones in public performance spaces such as concert halls. "I think there would be an enormous amount of support for banning cell phones in public performances and galleries." But "how do you enforce the trend among the younger cell phone-savvy generation to share the moment with their loved ones at rock concerts?" Toronto Star 08/15/02

GOING FOR THE ARTS: The Los Angeles School District was going to build a new downtown high school. But, with the encouragement of billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, the district has decided to spend $20 million more and build a school of the arts. "We believe that the arts are a powerful tool for learning. We are proud to play a role in establishing a school of excellence in a community that has endured so many broken promises." Los Angeles Daily News 08/15/02

UNARTABLE? There is a problem with art about 9/11. "Played to audiences who know what you're going to say next - and are unable to react naturally if you say anything different - art about that calendar-stopping catastrophe will always struggle to do the two things that are the justification of creative imagination: to expose and to provoke. If there's a definite problem with art about the event, there may also now be a potential difficulty with art after the event." The Guardian (UK) 08/16/02

Thursday August 15

CONTEXT OF COMPLAINT (AND PRAISE): Being a critic is much more than reciting a list of observations. "Criticism, in our world, ought to have one purpose: to serve as a catalyst for democratic dialogue. It should not be a mere catalog of opinions. It might express dissatisfaction with the general state of intellectual affairs, or it might gather forces behind an idea or aesthetic mood. But it should always evaluate. That makes politics an essential component. In some fashion, every work of art is an expression of a political stand in society." Chronicle of Higher Education 08/09/02

CELLICIDE: Lawmakers in New York and Toronto are considering a ban of cell phones in public performance spaces such as concert halls. "I think there would be an enormous amount of support for banning cell phones in public performances and galleries." But "how do you enforce the trend among the younger cell phone-savvy generation to share the moment with their loved ones at rock concerts?" Toronto Star 08/15/02

PINNING DOWN THE BEAUTY THING: There is beauty in science, certainly. But "is there a science of beauty? Are there equations behind the most beautiful works of art? The consensus has been that this is a hopeless quest... The Age (Melbourne) 08/15/02

Wednesday August 14

CLONING NEW YORK: Over the past several years New York City has been putting together "an immensely detailed, three-dimensional, interactive, constantly updated map of New York City. The digital NYCMap captures the five boroughs down to the square foot, incorporating everything from skyscraper viewing platforms and building floorplans to subway and sewer tubes and ancient faults in the schist below." How much of the city's DNA could be collected? Could you even clone it and rebuild elsewhere if some catastrophe were to occur? Village Voice 08/13/02

THE ZEN OF BEING WRONG: Critical writing is not an absolute, suggests Terry Teachout. And critics ought to have enough confidence to change their minds and admit it. "I don't mean to say that critics should be wishy-washy, but we should also remember that strong emotions sometimes masquerade as their opposite. I also think the world of art would be a better place if we critics made a point of eating crow from time to time." OpinionJournal 08/14/02

REBRANDING POLAND: Poland is trying to spruce up its image. So it's doing what any good corporation does these days - attack it as a marketing challenge. It hired the country's largest ad agency to come up with a new logo. "The year-long effort has produced a playful new emblem, unveiled in Warsaw at the end of July, which its creators hope will vanquish age-old stereotypes and effectively relaunch Poland's image." The Poland account execs reprotedly even consulted a Buddhist monk for help in defining the country's new-look logo. Financial Times 08/13/02

MOB MENTALITY: There's plenty of bad behavior at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But it's coming from the audience, not the performers. "A quick call around my colleagues opened the floodgates of outrage: the man who hummed during the opera; the woman whose mobile phone went off three times in the first half hour, and who then turned it on to vibrate whereupon it beat out a samba rhythm on the floorboards; the parents with the screaming children who didn’t tell them to shut up for an hour. If you are reading, miscreants, hang your heads in shame." The Times (UK) 08/14/02

Tuesday August 13

THE WAR ON CONSUMERS? The giant recording and movie industries seem to believe that one of America's biggest priorities ought to be protecting their hold on their respective industries. So what if protecting the status quo may not be in the public's best interests? "We have the "War on Drugs" and the "War on AIDS" and the "War on Terror" - does this mean we'll see the "War on File Sharing" as the next great American undertaking with the same effect as these other "Wars" over the years?" The Register 08/12/02

GOING BACK TO HARLEM: "If the Apollo Theater once seemed a down-on-its-luck old music hall that already had seen its brightest days, now it's shaping up to be a catalyst for a new cultural and touristic rejuvenation in Harlem. This follows on the development spark lit a few years ago that's already brought new businesses, shopping centers and diverse, more moneyed residents." Washington Post 08/13/02

Monday August 12

HELP FOR NY ARTISTS: A recovery fund to aid New York artists and arts organizations affected by 9/11 has paid out $4.6 million to 352 Artists and 135 Arts Groups. "The fund received 590 applications from individuals and 191 from organizations. The grants were capped at $10,000 for artists and small businesses and at $50,000 for nonprofit arts organizations. The average grant for individuals was $5,500; for organizations $20,000." The New York Times 08/12/02

CRITICAL SANDTRAPS: Ah, it's all so predictable, most arts criticism is. Is it true that most critical writing can be reduced to a couple handfuls of easy formulas? Critic Philip Kennicott offers the top ten most-abused traps for a critic. Washington Post 08/11/02

COME ON, WE'RE REALLY SMART: Are we dumber than ever? "It has been the refrain, for five years and more, of both serious intellectual commentators, normally from the Left, and various uneasy bedfellows from the why-oh-why brigade on the Right, all lined up in a dolorous puddle wringing damp hands at the vacuousness of cultural life in Britain today: the mindless game shows, the action flicks, the moron's music, the obsession with celebrity trivia, the sham and hype and glitter, the inability to name the prime minister before Margaret Thatcher, let alone the six wives of Henry VIII." But "we are no dumber, collectively, than we have ever been. We are, in fact, smarter. We have more access to more information than ever before, and we scream for it, and we are starting to scream, too, for quality." The Observer (UK) 08/11/02

Friday August 9

ART OF BUSINESS: "We like to believe that the best and most interesting artists, even popular artists, make the stories and pictures and music they do because they need to make them, not just because they think they can earn a buck." And yet, art is big business, and it is naive to believe that business doesn't dictate much of what an artist does... Public Arts (WCPN) 08/06/02 

Thursday August 8

THE NEW ART? "The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have brought upon us all a realization that conceptual art, incomprehensible 'l.a.n.g.u.a.g.e p.o.e.t.r.y', avant-garde performance art, plotless fiction, tuneless music, and inhuman postmodern architecture are not going to be able to deal with the real evil of the world. Only in the great artistic traditions of humankind will we find adequate means of expression. The new movement in the arts, as if it anticipated the need for them, has been busy recovering those traditions. Who are the new classicists?" NewKlassical 08/06/02

L.A. HOLDS ON TO THE ARTS: "The Los Angeles County Arts Commission, largely shielded from county government's budget crunch, has earmarked $2.27 million in grants for nonprofit cultural groups in 2002-03, a figure just shy of last year's $2.35 million... The commission's largest grant went to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, which will receive $107,730. The orchestra is one of 44 grant-recipient groups with annual budgets over $800,000." Los Angeles Times 08/08/02

Wednesday August 7

MAKING A SCENE: "People in the arts business are forever talking about 'scenes,' as in fashion scene, jazz scene, or gay scene. But it took a sociologist, York University's Alan Blum, to stop and meditate about what a 'scene' really is. As part of the university's five-year study of urban culture, Culture of Cities, Blum analyzed the idea of a scene in Public magazine last year. It was a revelation for me, once I learned to enjoy the rich, corrugated phrase-making of academic sociology. You know you're far down this road when locutions like 'the libidinal circuits of intoxicated sociality' begin to have the sea-green rhythm of poetry." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/07/02

CENSOR'S SENTENCE: "One of Turkey's most famous film actresses, Lale Mansur, could face a 15-year prison sentence because of her outspoken views on the country's censorship laws. Mansur, who was Istanbul State Opera's longest-serving prima ballerina before taking up acting, has already received a suspended five-year sentence under Turkey's anti-terrorism laws. She now faces new trials, along with several other artists, relating to the publication of books by banned authors." BBC 08/07/02

Tuesday August 6

THAT WAS BEAUTIFUL: "What is beauty in art and how do we receive and comprehend it? How does it register in a culture that has grown increasingly ironic and skeptical about the images and visions it creates? We tend to believe that the things we find beautiful - a piece of music, a mountain landscape at dawn, Tiger Woods' golf swing - have an intrinsic worth, an inner, if unmeasurable, verity. We also reserve a pretty healthy measure of distance, a wary, irony-laced mistrust of things that seem too ravishing on the surface." San Francisco Chronicle 08/06/02

Monday August 5

LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU: "In the future, when anthropologists study the last 100 years, they may refer to it as the Entertainment Era, a time when distraction and diversion reigned supreme. Never before has Homo sapiens consumed such a vast array of cultural products or chased down vicarious experiences with such zealous abandon. The need to escape has never been so inescapable. Is this wired into our brains? Is it a consequence of cultural evolution? Is it a reaction to the demands of modern life?" Toronto Star 08/04/02

Sunday August 4

AND BY 'STABILITY,' WE MEAN 'LOTS OF CASH': Lincoln Center is the world's largest performing arts complex, and with great size comes great financial difficulty. The center has been in nearly continuous upheaval for the better part of a decade, but a new president promise to bring stability. More than that, Reynold Levy, who in May became Lincoln Center's fourth CEO in less than two years, is promising to raise $1 billion in the next decade to help stabilize the complex and fund a massive, and massively controversial, renovation. Andante (AP) 08/04/02

Friday August 2

MASSACHUSETTS CUTS ARTS SPENDING 62 PERCENT: Despite the calls of thousands of arts supporters lobbying their state representatives, the Massachusetts state legislature cut the state's arts budget from $19.1 million to $7.29 million for fiscal 2003, its lowest level since 1994. The 62 percent cut will wipe out whole categories of programming and funding. Boston Globe 08/02/02

ART WITHOUT THE GOVERNMENT? What would happen if government arts funding simply went away? A panel put together by the Australia Council debated the question this week. "Scenarios ranged from the rise of venture capitalists prepared to invest in the future income stream of artists to the 'swallowing'of the arts by big business, undignified corporate tussles over naming rights and aggressive branding of artworks." Sydney Morning Herald 08/02/02

Thursday August 1

THE FUTURE OF FAIR USE: "When Congress brought copyright law into the digital era, in 1998, some in academe were initially heartened by what they saw as compromises that, they hoped, would protect fair use for digital materials. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Recent actions by Congress and the federal courts - and many more all-too-common acts of cowardice by publishers, colleges, developers of search engines, and other concerned parties - have demonstrated that fair use, while not quite dead, is dying. And everyone who reads, writes, sings, does research, or teaches should be up in arms. The real question is why so few people are complaining." Chronicle of Higher Education 07/29/02

STAYING AWAY: A combination of security concerns, semi-organized boycotts, and plain old fear are leaving Israel nearly devoid of visiting musicians, artists, and scholars. "Many artists have canceled appearances because of concerns about Palestinian suicide bombers who have attacked buses, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs... But many Israelis say that although security concerns are almost always the sole reason given for the cancellations, they believe many people are not coming because they oppose Israel's actions in the conflict with Palestinians, but do not want to say so publicly." Washington Post 07/30/02

MEXICO TAKES ON THE US: Mexican culture is flowing into the US. "Over the next two years, and perhaps for a good deal longer, major Mexican art shows will be at American museums almost without interruption. There will also be many smaller shows, along with presentations of Mexican music, theater and dance in modern as well as traditional forms. 'People who appreciate the culture of a country begin to identify with that country. I think it has a beneficial influence on policy'." The New York Times 08/01/02