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Monday December 31

THINK YOU KNOW ARTS? Think you know what happened in the arts this year? Been following the papers and keeping up with your daily dose of Arts Journal? Well, check out The Guardian's Arts Quiz and see how well you score (AJ's editor took the test and...ahem...only managed 11 right answers out of 20...) The Guardian (UK) 12/31/01

HURTING IN THE CAPITAL: In Washington DC "the fourth quarter of 2001 has been among the saddest, most frustrating and apprehensive for Washington's arts groups. First the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, then the disappearance of the tourists, then the anthrax deaths, then the government's warnings more attacks could be coming, all set against the tumbling economy. People have stayed away in droves." Washington Post 12/30/01

WHERE ARE THE ARTISTS? The tragedy of Sept. 11 has made all of us return to the human project of making sense of the world with new vigor; but four months out from the bruising blow to the nation's sense of security, there is little coherence to the sense being made by our professional 'sense makers,' the nation's musicians, playwrights, poets and visual artists." Washington Post 12/30/01

YOU JUST HATE TO GIVE THSE PEOPLE ANY ATTENTION, BUT... members of a New Mexico church (probably looking for attention) rallied against the Harry Potter books, claiming he was the devil. "JK Rowling's novels were burnt alongside other items considered to be the work of the devil, including horror books by Stephen King, ouija boards and AC/DC records. Eminem CDs and copies of Disney's Snow White film were thrown in a dustbin." BBC 12/31/01

Sunday December 30

THE YEAR IN ARTS: Publications around the world choose the best and worst in arts in 2001. Here's our compilation of "Best of/Worst of" lists.

Friday December 28

ARE PACS ALL THEY'RE CRACKED UP TO BE? "PACs have become the hot new urban fix, following the festival market, the convention center, the baseball stadium, the sports arena, the aquarium, and the museum... Yet it took Lincoln Center 25 years to become a destination instead of merely a venue. That's one of its forgotten lessons. Without the simultaneous development of shops, cafes, housing, and hotels, performing arts centers quickly become marooned by their own lofty intentions." Dallas Morning News 12/28/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LOOKING BACK: The BBC traces the year in arts, month by month - from Matthew Kneale's Whitbread win to Madonna's Turner Prize announcement. BBC 12/27/01

FIGHTING FOR CONTROL: Two San Francisco institutions are duking it out for control of the theatre at the Palace of Fine Arts. "The Exploratorium science museum and the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, which sit side by side in the dreamy, city-owned Palace of Fine Arts complex in the Marina District, are trying to work out new leases with the city," and the Exploratorium wants to take over operation of the theatre. San Francisco Chronicle 12/27/01

COMING TO TERMS WITH ART'S RESPONSIBILITIES: It has become almost cliched to point out the importance of art's survival in a culture so shaken by the trauma of 9/11. But for artists themselves, who are now expected to have something relevant to say on the subject, the journey from horror to productive creation is not an easy one, and the decision of how to address the grieving of a nation without seeming trite or preachy is not an easy one. Christian Science Monitor 12/28/01

Thursday December 27

LANGUAGE VS. TECHNOLOGY? The education ministry of a prosperous Indian state is under fire from self-styled guardians of culture, following a proposal to allow high school students to study Information Technology (IT) as a second language. Opponents fear that, since students are only permitted to pick one language to study, IT will quickly become the course of choice, replacing Marathi, the local language which is in danger of dying out. Wired 12/25/01

POP GOES THE EASEL: As museums around the U.S. struggle with attendance figures and constantly evolving competition from new and exciting pop culture offerings, many are turning to pop art exhibits to draw in the younger set. From the Guggenheim's motorcycles, to SFMOMA's Reeboks, to a widely criticized display of Jackie O's clothing at no less a gallery than New York's Metropolitan Museum, it cannot be denied that museums are dumbing down. But is this a failure of the arts, or a success for marketing? The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) (AP) 12/27/01

Wednesday December 26

ARTS AFTER 9-11: "A massive infusion of irrationality is necessary to stabilize self-belief during a crisis. And that means the arts are going to be hit hard on two levels. The first is that the very nearly illiterate George W. Bush will set the limits on the public conversation about terrorism. The second level, far more devastating, is the retreat of artists from the arena of public issues. Conscious of their need to connect with an audience, why would they write the plays and novels for which the times will pillory them?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/26/01

Monday December 24

NEA KEEPS KEEPIN' ON: President Bush's nominee for chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts was confirmed by the Senate last week. It's been a tumultuous few decades for the NEA, though the political turmoil has calmed a bit in the past few years. But the government is not likely to pay the arts much heed until they get new champions. "The arts are a strange part of American life. Almost everybody loves them on some level, but they haven't been educated to think about it as part of government." New York Times 12/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE START OF... Fifty years ago, Canadian Governor General Vincent Massey produced a report on culture whose "recommendations led eventually to the creation of the Canada Council and the National Library. But the report exerted other influences that were less obvious and less beneficial. What seems clear now is its political bias. It framed support of the arts in essentially political terms, and we have been burdened by those terms ever since." National Post (Canada) 12/24/01

SMART AS A MACHINE: Machines don't have the intelligence "imagined by Stanley Kubrick in 1968, when he released the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. This year, we can now say at the safety of its end, did not bring us a Hal, or anything like it. Computers can play a pretty good game of chess, transliterate speech and recognise handwriting and faces. But their intelligence does not touch our own, and the prevailing scientific wisdom seems to be that it never will." The Economist 12/22/01

PERFORMANCE AFTER 9-11: "I have seen great performances this fall, and I have seen imperfect performances, but I have seen no indifferent performances. Artists' work seemed more focused, more intense during these harrowing weeks. The less gifted among us can learn much from them." San Francisco Chronicle 12/23/01

OLD PROBLEM: "As any regular patron can tell you, the people who turn out for music, dance and theater are more likely to be concerned with Medicare than with student loans. It's a tricky population twist for arts managers to navigate as they try to accommodate their reliable, though aging, subscription base while also pulling in new blood for the future. It's not a particularly new problem - the core audience has always been those who have no babies and some disposable income - but modern demographics and economics have given a new urgency to the issue." Washington Post 12/23/01

A HOME OF THEIR OWN: For a decade, a dozen Chicago arts groups have been working on building a new mid-size theatre, a joint home they can grow into. The delays have been frustrating though, and several of the groups are just barely hanging on as construction is about to begin. Chicago Tribune 12/23/01

WHEN ART IS ISOLATED: Eyes glaze over for most people encountering issues of aesthetics. But maybe it's not their fault. "I would say that western philosophy and western fine art are designed to be irrelevant to the lives of most folks. They are supposed to be incomprehensible to people like most of the students I have taught. We’re working with a conception of art in which most art is isolated in little cultural zones like the museum, the concert hall, the poetry reading, where art is supposed to function by sweeping us from our grubby little world and into the exalted realm of the aesthetic." Aesthetics-online 12/01

WHAT IF ARTS AND SPORTS TRADED PLACES? "There are sports people and arts people, the two alien civilizations whose populations are greater than all others combined. Throughout history, sports people have had little tolerance for the artsy-fartsy types, just as arts people have looked down their noses at the beer-swilling lunkheads." But "how would things be different if the arts were sports, and if sports were the arts?" St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/23/01

Friday December 21

GOOD YEAR FOR AUSSIE ARTS: Despite an economic slowdown and a drop in tourism after September 11, 2001 was a terrific year for Australian arts groups. Ticket sales and subscriptions were up, box office was good, and most of the country's arts institutions are optimistic."The best result of all was achieved by the Melbourne Festival. The largest spring event staged reported record boxoffice returns of $3.5 million last month." The Age (Melbourne) 12/21/01

MELLON DONATES TO NYC ARTS GROUPS: "The Andrew Mellon Foundation announced yesterday the first in a series of grants totaling $50 million to aid cultural institutions directly affected by the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11. The first awards, $2.65 million each, will go to three New York groups that are grant-making organizations themselves: the Alliance of Resident Theaters/New York, the American Music Center and the New York Foundation for the Arts." The New York Times 12/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Thursday December 20

CALIFORNIA LOVES THE ARTS: A survey on interest in the arts in California shows that 78 percent would be willing to tax themselves an extra $5 a year to support the arts (the state currently spends $1 a year on arts). Among the other findings: "83 percent of those surveyed attended a performing or visual arts event at least once in the past year, and 31 percent attended four or more performances a year." Sacramento Bee 12/19/01

Wednesday December 19

NEA RELEASES SOME HELD-UP GRANT MONEY: "After holding back its initial approval, the National Endowment for the Arts has decided to give the Berkeley Repertory Theater a $60,000 grant for a production of Tony Kushner's new play on Afghanistan. The endowment's acting chairman held up two grants last month at the very last step in the approval process, a move that generated discussion about the NEA's procedures and the artists' work... Officials at the NEA have steadfastly refused to discuss the rationale behind the scrutiny since the acting chairman's action became public almost three weeks ago." Washington Post 12/19/01

NYT CHANGING ARTS COVERAGE? New York Times Arts & Leisure editor John Rockwell has announced he's stepping down from the job. Rockwell says Howell Raines, the Times new editor, wants to change the paper's cultural coverage. "I found out Howell Raines wanted to take this section in a new direction – which, I might add, is perfectly within his rights as executive editor. Howell wants to take it more in a populist direction, more popular culture'." New York Observer (second item) 12/19/01

Tuesday December 18

ENRON COLLAPSE A BLOW TO HOUSTON CULTURE: The collapse of Houston-based Enron has some major cultural implications for the city's arts organizations. The company was a big investor in art - both for its walls as well as support for the arts. "Many cultural institutions here, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Ballet, the Alley Theater and the Houston Symphony, will feel the repercussions as well, because the company contributed to all of them." The New York Times 12/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NEWSFLASH - CALIFORNIANS WANT CULTURE: "The California Arts Council will release today the results of a statewide public opinion survey that indicates that California residents endorse government support for the arts and are willing to pay for it. The survey, the first of its kind for the state arts agency, indicates that 78% of Californians are willing to pay $5 more in state taxes if the money goes to the arts." Los Angeles Times 12/18/01

Monday December 17

THE GIRLS' EDGE: A new study has established that "girls have higher reading skills than boys, have more confidence in their ability to learn and, when taught together with other girls, even catch up in math where males still appear to have an advantage. Nevertheless, the political activists and their organizations, which spend most of their time concocting calls for action, are not satisfied with the girls: No matter how well educated they are, girls still tend to choose 'typical female careers or fields of study in disproportionate numbers,' according to the study." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/16/01

WOMEN FOR PEACE: Why have there been so few women Nobel Peace Prize winners? "One group of individuals the Nobel Peace Prize has consistently under-rewarded is women, and, strangely, this has never been a controversial element of the prize. The discrepancy is jarring. During the 100-year history of the Nobel Peace Prize, 109 prizes have been awarded. Ten have been to women. Women - under-represented in the democratic or anti-democratic regimes that choose to wage wars - are also under-represented in the garnering of plaudits for peace." The Guardian (UK) 12/16/01

Sunday December 16

GETTING INVOLVED: "In recent years, the term 'activist' has tentatively resurfaced at art panels. Participants have voiced a mix of renewed interest in addressing social and cultural problems, frustration that so many of those issues remain little changed after decades of awareness, and reluctance to adopt the last generation's model because, in retrospect, it was too absolutist." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12/16/01

Friday December 14

ART OUT OF CHAOS: A novelist - a non-Jew, non-musician - is stymied in trying to write about a musician in the Holocaust. She works her way through after a visit to the concentration camp where many artists were sent. "Theresienstadt had four working orchestras; in addition to symphonies and original operas, hundreds of chamber and lieder concerts were performed, and there were two cabarets. According to one historian, for most of the war Theresienstadt had the freest cultural life in the occupied Europe." Boston Review December 2001

Thursday December 13

CONCERT HALL OR CIVIC REVITALIZATION? Philadelphia's new Kimmel Center was built with the help of nearly $100 million of public money, leading some to ask whether the expense of creating such cultural monuments is balanced by the benefits it returns to the community. "Officials say the Kimmel will create 3,000 jobs and generate $153 million in annual spending on tickets, parking, restaurants, hotels and the like. The building itself isn't expected to be profitable for several years." San Jose Mercury News 12/13/01

KEEPIN' IT REAL IN DC: The nation's capital does not have a stunning track record when it comes to supporting the arts nationally, and the current administration has had a few other things on its mind lately. Nevertheless, "this year's recently concluded Kennedy Center Honors gala... proved to be what it is every year -- the most convivial and least pompous party in Washington, if you can imagine such a thing." Chicago Tribune 12/13/01

Wednesday December 12

DIGITAL DIVIDE: "Artists have been exploring digital art since the 1960s, but only in the past few years has it become widely practical because of better technology and prices." Cell phone symphonies, digital graphics, interactive art..."it's evolved to the point where artists are getting better at taking advantage of the tools and making better art. We've reached the level of seeing more museum-quality work." Chicago Tribune 12/11/01

Tuesday December 11

RUSTY HINGE: England's "Arts Council is no more than the hinge on the door that should lead the public to the arts, and artists to their public. But has there been a creakier, dodgier hinge in the history of metaphorical carpentry? Has there been a single year out of the past 20 when the Arts Council has not been going through some 'upheaval' or 'crisis' — usually entirely of its own making?" Another "reorganization" isn't helping. The Times (UK) 12/11/01

ART IN ECONOMIC TERMS: "No doubt about it, the arts today are a hard sell. This is a problem because, despite all protestations against commercialism and 'selling out,' art has always had a tendency to follow the money. To an extent still far greater than many critics are willing to concede, all of the arts are economically determined, and their failure can be described in simple economic terms. There has been no problem with the supply of art (leaving aside arguments over its quality), what has been lacking is the demand." GoodReports 12/11/01

ISRAELI ARTISTS OBJECT TO FUNDING CRITERIA: The Israeli government tries to come up with a uniform set of funding criteria for cultural organizations - a kind of one-size-fits-all approach to cultural funding. "The question is how the money ought then to be distributed, and if it is at all possible to come up with uniform criteria where art is concerned." But a set of rules drafted to set criteria has been strenuously attacked by the country's arts institutions. Ha'aretz (Israel) 12/10/01

ALL IN ALL - A GOOD YEAR: The Australia Council released figures measuring last year's artistic output in Australia. All, in all, it was a pretty good year - "new Australian works increased by 41 per cent compared with 1999, with new dance and chamber music works accounting for the increase. Audience numbers reached record levels in 2000. Audiences increased 4.5 per cent between 2000 and 1999. The Age (Melbourne) 12/11/01

  • THE PROFITABLE NON-PROFITS: "For the first time in almost a decade, the 21 dance, opera, theatre and chamber music companies made a significant profit. An aggregate profit of $4.6 million was reported last year, although this was reduced to $185,000 when the symphony orchestras were included." Sydney Morning Herald 12/11/01

Thursday December 6

AN OFFICIAL POSITION ON FOLK MUSIC? A British government culture minister has taken a swipe at folk music, and folk fans are demanding an apology. In a debate in parliament on music licenses, Kim Howells observed: "For a simple urban boy such as me, the idea of listening to three Somerset folk singers sounds like hell." BBC 12/06/01

COME BACK PETE: The Adelaide Festival might have forced Peter Sellars to resign as artistic director, but the Festival still wants him to produce his expensive multimedia opera at next year's festival. "Sellars, who resigned last month over programming difficulties, has been persuaded to return to Adelaide to direct the El Nino singers and will be present for the festival, as will its creator, John Adams." The Age (Melbourne) 12/06/01

Wednesday December 5

THE ART OF SCIENCE? Art has long been influenced by science. But science has rarely taken inspiration from art. "When an artist walks into a lab and sees equations written on the board, his usual response is to say, 'I don't understand any of this - it must be brilliant,' But when an engineer wanders into an art gallery and sees stuffed animals, he's very likely to say, 'I don't understand any of this - it must be garbage.'" Wire 12/04/01

Tuesday December 4

NEA CHAIRMAN HOLDS UP GRANTS: The acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts has delayed awarding two grants recommended by Endowment panels and the National Council on the Arts. One grant was for $100,000 to Berkley Repertory Theatre for production of a new Tony Kushner play. The New York Times 12/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE LINCOLN CENTER MESS: "Lincoln Center's constituents are bound together by architecture, and that architecture is in need of repair. They are not bound together artistically and never have been. The redevelopment proposal, now projected at $1.2 billion, seems focused on initiatives that have little direct relation to their artistic mission. Making the public space more attractive and accessible is a worthy goal but not the most important. The project should be a visionary effort, a chance for each organization to address longstanding issues that have affected its artistic growth. The problem is that each organization has its own agenda." The New York Times 12/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Monday December 3

THE IMPOSSIBLE FUNDING GAME: The Ontario government has made $300 million available for arts projects in the province. But $1.2 billion in requests has come in. And, in order to navigate the politics and rules for getting the money, you have to turn yourself in knots. Is this any way to run a lottery? Toronto Star 12/02/01

STEPPING UP: Arts organizations around the country have reported at least slight declines in ticket sales since 9/11. But New York's arts community was decimated by the attacks, as tourism, the backbone of the city's cultural scene, took a hit. Now, the Andrew W. Mellon foundation has set up a special $50 million fund to help those organizations worst hit by the fallout. Andante 12/03/01

KENNEDY CENTER HANDS OUT THE HARDWARE: "President Bush hosted a Hollywood who's-who on Sunday as actors Jack Nicholson and Julie Andrews, composer-producer Quincy Jones, pianist Van Cliburn and tenor Luciano Pavarotti were honored for their contributions to the performing arts at the Kennedy Center Honors." Nando Times (AP) 12/03/01

Sunday December 2

BIG GIFT FOR KENNEDY CENTER: Catherine Reynolds has given the Kennedy Center $10 million to underwrite performances over the next decade. The money, she says, is unrestricted. That's important to say, because she is the donor who was criticized earlier this year when she gave $38 million to the Smithsonian for a "Spirit of America" exhibit and suggested who might be featured in it. Washington Post 11/30/01

THE LINCOLN CENTER PROBLEM: The restoration of New York's Lincoln Centre is an exciting project. So why has it gathered up so little public enthusiasm? "Of the $1.2 billion budget of the redevelopment plan for Lincoln Center that will soon be made public, only 15 percent is devoted to public space. It is, however, a crucial 15 percent. For in one respect the critics are right: the center's public spaces are miserably flawed. To make them perform on the same level as the artists who tread its stages is one of the plan's stated goals." The New York Times 12/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)