A portrait of the visual arts

RAND has a new report out on the structure and dynamics of the visual arts -- a sister work to their 2001 exploration of the performing arts and their 2002 treatise on the media arts. All three are available for purchase or free download from the RAND web site. Like the previous works, A Portrait of the Visual Arts takes a sociologist/economist view of the world, gathering and summarizing related studies from the field, and then extrapolating the key trends, future issues, and possible policy implications. Not the most engaging reading, … [Read more...]

The future of philanthropy

There's a world of wonderful things in this new website and its corresponding report on The Future of Philanthropy. Thanks to the good folks at the Monitor Institute and their über-think-tank, the Global Business Network, we've got a full-fledged exploration of the dynamic forces shaping philanthropic efforts over the next decades. Better yet, the extraordinarily deep background on these forces are translated into specific action steps and tools for philanthropists to explore what they do, and how they might do it differently. There's no … [Read more...]

Gifts of the Muse

In February 2005, the Wallace Foundation released its long-awaited report (at least, long-awaited by me), Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts. The 100-plus page study takes a hard look at all the benefits we claim for the arts -- economic, social, educational, therapeutic, etc. -- and works to inform those claims with actual studies, evidence, and causality. In a nutshell, the report finds most of the 'instrumental' arguments for arts in communities (arguments that claim positive, measurable outcome of arts … [Read more...]

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

If you've forgotten what a Philistine is beyond the concert hall, can't distinguish Chaplin from Chopin, if a friend mentions the Apocrypha and you think about the Apocalypse, there may be a book you need on your shelf (or in your web bookmarks). The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (available on-line and in print) is a rather bold attempt to capture the core canon of cultural knowledge required of an advanced American citizen. With section entries from The Bible to mythology to the fine arts, the reference could be the pocket guide for the … [Read more...]

Roller Coaster Tycoon

Computer simulation games have been providing training grounds for military personnel and corporate executives for decades now, with more sophisticated versions coming every year. You may think that such simulation technology is decades away for arts and cultural managers, and horribly out of economic reach. But there's a silly little game that can provide hours of educational fun for the cultural manager's mind: Roller Coaster Tycoon. Price? $9.97. Part of the popular and growing 'Tycoon' series, Roller Coaster Tycoon puts you in charge of a … [Read more...]

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

Steven Johnson has a way with complex subjects, and this subject in particular—complexity itself. Drawing on complex systems theory and emergence (the natural tendency of organic systems like ant colonies or human cities to cluster into patterns of behavior), Johnson makes the seemingly baffling topic quite palatable, with lots of examples from lots of different disciplines. Why does it have anything to do with arts and cultural management? Just think about what we manage: thousands of audience members and patrons making individual decisions … [Read more...]

Big Night

Big Night, released in 1996 and directed by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott, is a fabulous film, but also an outstanding allegory for arts management. Tucci, also the co-author, described it as "about the struggle between art and commerce and the risk of staying true to yourself." Two Italian immigrant brothers—Primo, a creative genius of a chef, and Secundo (Tucci), his more practical younger brother—struggle to keep their authentic Italian restaurant in business in 1950s New Jersey. Primo is an uncompromising artist in the kitchen, … [Read more...]

Sunday in the Park with George

Stephen Sondheim's 1984 musical (with a book by James Lapine) dug deep into the artistic process, and spanned a century between acts. In the first act, a fictionalized version of impressionist Georges Seurat is consumed so much by his artistic vision, that he destroys the connections with those around him. In act two, a completely fictitious great grandson, also an artist but now of laser light installations, is consumed so much by the political and business process of the art world, that he loses connection with his own artistic vision. The … [Read more...]

Art as Experience

John Dewey's lecture series at Harvard in 1932 has become one of the seminal works of aesthetic theory. I know that sounds deadly dull and exceedingly thick, but Art as Experience is well worth the slogging. Seven decades before The Experience Economy, and the moves by arts organizations to focus on the patron experience beyond the performance or exhibit, Dewey's work reminds us that art is experience, not a performance or a painting or a sculpture. It doesn't exist until it is perceived. A few choice quotes for some flavor: "As long as art is … [Read more...]

Is Art Good for Us?

The arts make you a better person. The arts make better communities. The arts make students better learners. The arts save souls. These are persistent myths of American culture that we all accept and embrace in our management, advocacy, and self-definition as arts managers. But it's astounding how quickly this 'instrumental' view of the arts unravels when the right strings are pulled. Joli Jensen pulls all of the rights strings in this fascinating analysis of why we came to think this way, and why we are so wrong. Is Art Good for Us? questions … [Read more...]