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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Everything's Changed. Oh, Wait. No, It Hasn't. As 2002 began, art was supposed to be forevermore infused with the post-9/11 sensibility. Materialism and schlocky marketing were out, serious contemplation of the human condition was in. Riiiiight. So why does Frida Kahlo now have her own posthumous perfume, and why is the star of the year a shoplifting actress who hasn't made a good film since (arguably) Girl, Interrupted? "In a year where the world was too much with us, art could at least be bewildering." Toronto Star 12/31/02

A Bare-Bones Art Repatriation "The Canadian Museum of Civilization is preparing to return dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of bones taken from native burial grounds to the Algonquin people whose ancestors inhabited the Ottawa area before white settlers arrived in the 19th century and began unearthing Indian graves. The proposed 'repatriation' of human remains... follows a series of [Ottawa] Citizen stories earlier this year revealing that a communal cemetery holding about 20 aboriginal skeletons was dug up 160 years ago on a point of land in Gatineau now occupied by the museum itself." Ottawa Citizen 12/31/02

Toronto's Unfinished Business The local and provincial governments serving Toronto have finally agreed to allocate a significant bit of cash for a grandiose set of architectural and cultural plans which aim to revitalize Canada's largest city. But even as art lovers rejoice over the influx of public money, observers are quietly noting that the government's CAN$232 million is a drop in the bucket compared with what's needed to stabilize the city's major cultural players. From the National Ballet to the Canadian Opera Company, Toronto's arts groups are still in need of nearly half a billion dollars of additional investment. National Post (Canada) 12/31/02

  • Previously: Toronto's New Star Potential Toronto is on the verge of a building boom - and billions of dollars are being spent. "After more than a decade of devastation, Toronto's cultural institutions have regrouped into a position of civic leadership. By the time the cranes are down, Toronto will have works by some of the world's leading architects, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind and Will Alsop among them. Already, controversy is swirling." Toronto Star 12/28/02
Sunday, December 29, 2002

Lumped Together - How Do You Reduce A Culture to "Latino"? "Latino" art and artists are hot right now in the US. But what is "Latino" art? "The gross American simplification of grouping into one ethnic and cultural qualifier the nearly 30 New World nationalities and two European ones that currently make up the uniquely American term 'Latin' or 'Latino' is beyond me." Cultureflux 12/02

Thwarting The Artistic Inmate The Australia Arts Council awarded $26,000 to inmates of a regional prison to perform an opera and cabaret. But the state's justice minister, who found out about the grant after it was made, says he'll have the money returned, saying "the money would be better spent on victim support services, or programmes aimed at reducing re-offending." ABCNews 12/28/02

Why The Performing Arts Are In Danger Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser warns that the performing arts are in danger, and issues a five-point call to action. "We have been scared into thinking small. And small thinking begets smaller revenue that begets even smaller institutions and reduced public excitement and involvement. No wonder so many arts organizations are announcing record deficits." Washington Post 12/28/02

Circle Of Life - Melbourne Artists Forced Out By Developers In recent years West Melbourne has been a place for artists. Not because it was so aethetically interesting, but because it was cheap. But now building restrictions have been changed and the area is suddenly desirable to developers. And the artists are moving out... The Age (Melbourne) 12/28/02

Friday, December 27, 2002

The Year In Arts The top arts stories of 2002? ArtsJournal editor Douglas McLennan writes in the London Evening Standard that money seemed to be the theme flowing through more than its share of arts stories this year. London Evening Standard 12/27/02

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Take The Arts Quiz Time for the Guardian's annual arts quiz. How closely were you paying attention to what was going on in the arts this year? We thought we were pretty on top of things, but ArtsJournal's editor only scored 18 of 25... The Guardian (UK) 12/26/02

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

WTC - Think Art & Culture, Not Offices While most of the architects imagining new structures for the World Trade Center site focused on office space, one suggests culture as the driving idea. "The mission of reconstructing the skyline is one that is proposed at a cultural level. Should we reconstruct it with the offices of Merrill Lynch? We don't think so. The need is a cultural need. Almost in the same way, the Eiffel Tower became the symbol of Paris, and it is an empty building. This is an empty building." Village Voice 12/24/02

Monday, December 23, 2002

Education For All! (Is It Really Such A Good Idea?) "In the past 20 years, Britain has stumbled into a system of mass higher education. It is enrolling larger percentages of young people than most other comparable countries." But is mass education compatible with quality education? And how do you possibly pay for it? Is elite education desirable in a mass system? Prospect 01/03

Sunday, December 22, 2002

America's Major Culture Groups To Meet For First Time For the first time, America's major arts service organizations will gather together. The American Symphony Orchestra League, Opera America, Dance USA, Theatre Communications Group, Chamber Music America, Chorus America, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Meet the Composer, American Music Center, American Composers Forum and Music Critics Association of North America will hold conferences in June 2004 in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12/20/02

Non-Artists Control Aussie Arts Just who is running Australian arts organizations? Not artists. "Just under 12 per cent of the directors on the 40 boards are practising artists, former artists, or teachers in the arts. The 40 boards comprised 356 directors, of whom 42 are artists, artistic directors or teachers of an art form. The nation's arts boards are dominated by marketing executives, investment bankers, professional company directors, media personalities and accountants." Sydney Morning Herald 12/21/02

Criticizing Copyright - Public Weighs In The US Copyright Office asks for public comment on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And gets it. "Respondents, including several well-known digital rights activists, overwhelmingly favored carving out exceptions to the DMCA for certain uses of music files, text and video technologies. Many argued that buyers of copyrighted works should have the right to make content accessible on more than one device." Wired 12/22/02

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Stuck In The Past = Irrelevance "In an era when the Prime Minister asks to be called Tony, haven’t we in the arts been left behind by the audience?" Artforms that stick to tired old ways of doing things are at risk of becoming irrelevant. "Let’s take the arts right into the heart of contemporary life and aspiration in any way possible." The Scotsman 12/20/02

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

The Pressure To Make It Students at America's top universities have little time for fun. They've had to work too hard to get in. "They've usually started a few companies, cured at least three formerly fatal diseases, mastered a half dozen or so languages, and marched for breast cancer awareness through Tibet while tutoring the locals on conflict resolution skills and environmental awareness. Their main lack is time. Students boast to each other about how little sleep they've gotten, and how long it's been since they had a chance to get back to their dorm room..." Weekly Standard 12/23/02

Problems Plague Arts School Startup Pasadena California School Superintendent came up with the idea to create an arts high school as a way to lure back families who had abandoned the public schools for private schools. About 850 students signed up and the school became "one of the most closely watched new school projects in Southern California." So how's the first year going? Not good. "Since opening in September, McKinley - which uses the site and the name of a long-shuttered campus near the Pasadena Playhouse - has been dogged by poor planning and a variety of start-up problems, according to parents, teachers and students." Los Angeles Times 12/18/02

Copyright Enforcement Takes A Hit "Critics of a controversial U.S. copyright law applauded a jury's decision Tuesday to acquit a Russian software firm charged with creating an illegal encryption-disabling program... The acquittal, announced in federal district court in San Jose, California, brought to a close the first federal criminal trial of a company accused of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act... DMCA critics say the jury showed an unwillingness to convict a company merely for creating a program that others might use to commit acts of copyright infringement." Wired 12/18/02

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Why Not Arts For Arts Sake? So the Blair government threw a bunch of money at arts programs for children because it was proven that arts education cut crime. "At the bottom of the press release was a note saying that in areas where the scheme had been successful, burglary rates had fallen by up to 23 per cent." Great. But why have to justify supporting arts education on social grounds? "Is it too far fetched to believe in a future where artists and performers of all sorts are a familiar and essential part of the school community?" The Scotsman 12/18/02

$120 Million To Americans For The Arts Ruth Lilly has given $120 million to arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts. "Over the years, Ruth Lilly has been a generous supporter of the arts and education. At her death, according to the Indianapolis Star, half of her estimated $1 billion estate will go to the arts and various charities." Washington Post 12/18/02

Monday, December 16, 2002

What A Lottery Can Do (Should It Do?) In Scotland, the National Lottery has, for the last eight years injected millions of pounds into sport, heritage, health, education and the arts. The massive infusions of cash have been used to "improve buildings, facilities and the well being of communities. It’s been very successful: the Scottish Arts Council alone has invested £170 million in arts facilities and activities up and down the country, not just for flagship buildings, but for dozens of musical instruments, children’s workshops and skills training." Now Scots are being asked if the money's going to the right places... The Scotsman 12/16/02

Scotland's Disappointing Arts Showing Three years of Scottish home rule have not been the benefit to the arts many had hoped. It had been thought that Scottish governments would be able to better promote Scottish culture. But "before you knew it consultants were being commissioned and committees being formed, passing the baton back and forward. Serious money had been announced, but when a funding crisis hit local theatres last year the till was raided and the enterprise delayed a full year."
The Scotsman 12/16/02

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Sydney's 2003 Festival In a country of international festivals, the Sydney Festival is Australia's largest. Last year's emphasis on younger-playing attractions boosted ticket sales from 48,000 to 91,000. Keeping a big festival fresh, says director Brett Sheehy, even a successful festival, is a constant game of innovation and trial-and-error... Sydney Morning Herald 12/16/02

Saturday, December 14, 2002

San Jose Arts Groups Get Gift Of Status Quo With economic times being what they are, arts groups across the US have been bracing for government grab-backs of promised funding, and indeed, many cities and states do intend to slash arts funding in an effort to balance budgets. But in San Jose, the city council rejected a commission's proposal to cut all arts grants by 10%, and approved the full amounts previously guaranteed to 53 cultural organizations. San Jose Mercury News 12/14/02

Friday, December 13, 2002

American Dreaming Canadian arts funding is collapsing. So should arts organizations adopt more of an American system to survive? "In Canadian arts circles, the United States is often belittled for its laissez-faire, private-sector-driven approach to cultural funding that tends to emphasize artists' commercial viability over their innovation and ideas. Arts managers across the U.S. profess embarrassment at the woeful state of public support. But the U.S. is also a shining example of how an active, educated and very well-endowed private sector can serve as the primary benefactor for individuals and institutions." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/13/02

You Can Make A Law To Ban Them, But How Do You Stop The Performance? Cellphone interruptions of performances in theatres and concert hall have become a way of life. "Performers have little choice but to respond creatively to electronic intrusions. 'I think peer pressure and embarrassment are going to be far more effective than fines. Legislation banning cellphones would be difficult to enforce. Theaters don't have the manpower to `police' audiences. Although it would bring a whole new meaning to live theater." Boston Globe 12/13/02

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Scalping As A Secondary Market Ticket scalping is illegal in many cities. This is wrong Scalpers more often than not provide a useful service. "At show time, they set up an instant bazaar where the actual value of tickets is haggled into shape; they're basically stock traders in a secondary market without a dress code. Most of them spend their nights scooping up seats from fans who, for a variety of reasons -- friends have bailed, spouse took ill -- need to unload them. The scalper then turns around and sells it at the largest markup the market can bear, which is often below face value." Washington Post 12/05/02

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Fire Season Wreaks Arts Havoc In Sydney With temperatures near 100 degrees and bush fires raging all around Sydney, Australia, arts organizations around the region are finding themselves having to cancel or delay performances due to interference from the elements. Special effects went "berserk" at a performance of Swan Lake due to flickering power, and no one seems to be able to guarantee that any performance will go off as scheduled. Gramophone 12/09/02

The Importance Of The Arts Patron "Popular opinion would have you believe that the classic arts patron -- the wealthy individual who forges private relationships to nurture a favourite artist as much as their own ego -- was long ago eclipsed by the equalizing power of the state. But there will always be a certain type of patron who quietly stands in the shadows, providing the financial means and emotional support that allows their hand-picked protégés to survive -- and sometimes thrive." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 12/11/02

Leaving On A High Note Rarely does the head of a national arts funding organization receive as much praise at the end of her tenure as at the beginning, but Shirley Thomson, who steps down from the head of the Canada Council on the Arts this month, may be the exception. "Ask almost anybody in the arts about Thomson -- and, believe me, I've done a survey -- and the superlatives come thick and fast." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 12/11/02

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bill 'Em In a move which could start a worldwide trend, a Danish anti-piracy group has begun sending bills to users of file-sharing services such as Kazaa, demanding that the pirates pay for all the titles displayed in their shared download folders. The payments are then sent to the appropriate copyright holders. The action is already having an effect - fewer users are trading Danish material online, and U.S. companies are monitoring the action closely. Wired 12/11/02

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Ticket Tax Trouble Boston's mayor proposes a 50-cent tax on tickets to shows, and arts groups are howling. "Jeez, what a time to do that. If I thought my shows could have another 50 cents added to the ticket price, I would have priced them that way to begin with. I don't know where we'll get it. If the public has to cope with a larger burden, it would really be problematic." Boston Herald 12/10/02

Sunday, December 8, 2002

Go West, Young Arts Lover... It used to be that the quality cultural offerings in America were found on the East Coast. No longer. "The great and unfolding story of our cultural geography, however, is happening elsewhere now, driven by population shifts, new wealth, expanded education, international migration of artists and the evolution of a prismatic American aesthetic in cities from Miami to Seattle. Nowhere is this tectonic change more apparent than in San Francisco..." San Francisco Chronicle 12/08/02

  • Room At The Top The San Francisco Symphony isn't one of America's Big Five orchestras - it's helped expand the definition of the country's best ensembles. San Francisco Chronicle 12/08/02

  • SF Opera - Best Of The Rest? Of course the Metropolitan Opera is America's best - and biggest. But San Francisco is surely second (or third?) best? San Francisco Chronicle 12/08/02

  • SFMOMA - The Big Push San Francisco's highest-profile art museum? SFMuseum of Modern Art. "SFMOMA stands reinvented in its landmark - though not universally admired - downtown building designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta." San Francisco Chronicle 12/08/02

  • SF Ballet - A Comer... "Long regarded as a solid regional institution, San Francisco Ballet has vaulted forward in the past decade. Versatility and aplomb, distinctive stars from around the globe, depth in the corps, a clean and confident style and a broadly built repertoire now place San Francisco well ahead of the regional pack and into the first tier of major companies." San Francisco Chronicle 12/08/02

The Big Orange Sad economic stories from arts groups all over America are common these days. But in the Los Angeles suburb of Orange County, the story is mixed. "Success stories are almost as common as negative reports. The mixture of good and bad news here is further evidence that Orange County is a quirky place, not to be graphed on a simple upward or downward chart." Orange County Register 12/08/02

Escape From... Looking back over this year's offerings in arts and entertainment, there's one trend that's easy to spot - a low reading on the substance meter. "Maybe this year we needed an extra dose of escapism. But if the entertainment industry wants to stay connected with us in the long run, it needs to make more works that matter." Boston Herald 12/08/02

Saturday, December 7, 2002

Kennedy Center Gets $100 Million Philanthropist Catherine B. Reynolds has given $100 million to the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. It's the Center's largest gift ever, and "the first donation to the center's plan for a major expansion over the next decade. One of the new buildings will be dedicated to educational programs and exhibitions on the performing arts; the other, to rehearsal space. Together they will be the focal point of a new plaza." Washington Post 12/07/02

Friday, December 6, 2002

Dodging The Buckeye Budget Ax In Ohio, where a massive state budget deficit and an arts-unfriendly Republican leadership threaten to leave arts funding in the lurch, the Ohio Arts Council is looking for creative ways to maintain their cash flow. The OAC budget has been slashed 21% in the last year alone, and further cuts loom, but council leadership insists that they will be all right if they can get at least a philosophical commitment from legislators. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/06/02

Thursday, December 5, 2002

Destination Portland While the number of 20-34 year-olds decreased in America through the 1990s, Portland, Oregon saw a gain of 45,000 young people in that demographic. The infux has helped transform the city. "The result has been a cultural flowering for the Rose City. Young visual artists, Web designers, filmmakers and animators, musicians, media specialists and entrepreneurs are starting a new generation of companies, organizations and events, not to mention clubs, lounges, coffeehouses and restaurants. What has lured this active, inventive age group to Portland?" The Oregonian 12/01/02

$86 Million In The Service Of Art Largely overlooked when Ruth Lilly gave $100 million to Poetry magazine a few weeks ago was another one of her gifts - $86 million to the arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts. There's been much speculation about what Poetry might or might not do with the money. But how about Americans for the Arts? Backstage 12/05/02

The ABC's Of Critical Writing Judges who don't read the books they're pronouncing on, movie critics who don't see the films they're writing about... it's the new form of criticism, writes Alex Beam. "I am partaking in a hot new reviewing trend: Abstinence-Based Criticism (A-BC). At the key moment of critical engagement, just say no. Resist the temptation! Why read the book, see the movie, or, for that matter, eat the food? I can do it from here!" Boston Globe 12/05/02

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

"The Arts" - A Meaningless Banal Phrase The etymology of the phrase "the arts" is fascinating. " 'The arts' has also become one of those irritating modern pieties, like 'community', 'compassion' or ' excellence', which have people crossing themselves. All too often, 'supporting the arts' is little more than a badge of gentility. It doesn't imply a real discriminating passion for music, painting or the theatre, let alone any sense of how they might inform your life or change society. It doesn't even imply paying a fair price for the work of an artist. It is simply part of the cement in the thin wall that separates the respectable from the barbaric." The Telegraph (UK) 12/04/02

Festival Of Brains "Coming soon: A big-brained summit featuring some of the world's foremost scientists, artists, businesspeople, media figures, writers and all-around cultural visionaries... It's the Toronto International Marshall McLuhan Festival of the Future," and it's being launched by the man behind the very successful Toronto International Film Festival. A skeptic might point out that Toronto already has an "ideas" festival, a 4-year-old gathering known as ideaCity, but McLuhan organizers say their event will be broader in scope. Toronto Star 12/04/02

Study Say Arts Better Students Canadian researchers studying the effect of arts education on overall learning in students, discover that "the 10- to 12-year-olds who spent three years in the Learning Through the Arts program scored as many as 11 percentile points higher on standardized math tests than their peers in the study’s control schools. 'It certainly makes us wonder why there isn’t more arts in the classroom. Many people assume that the arts somehow detract from the learning of other subjects, but this study shows that that isn’t the case'.” Kingston Whig-Standard (Canada) 12/03/02

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

The Spires Of Singapore Singapore has a new $343 million performing arts complex. But more than just theatres, The Esplanade — Theaters on the Bay is an architectural statement the city hopes will define it architecturally in the manner of the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Opera House in their respective cities. "Along with an 2,000-seat theater, the Esplanade boasts what is perhaps one of the world's most acoustically meticulous concert halls. Besides, who could forget a building that is so, well, prickly?" The New York Times 12/03/02

Monday, December 2, 2002

The New Cultural Entrepreneurs A group of English artists travels to China and discovers the business of culture is big business there. "Britain now is as insular as I've ever known it. It is not as vibrant or as young feeling as somewhere like Beijing. It is going to be an interesting century for them and for us. But one thing is for sure, if anywhere gets left behind, it won't be Beijing." The Observer (UK) 12/01/02

Projecting The Arts Outside "In an unconventional scheme to bring opera and ballet to the masses," the Royal Opera House plans to set up giant open-air screens in locations around Britain to show live ballet and opera performances direct from the Opera House. The Observer (UK) 12/01/02

Sunday, December 1, 2002

Atlanta Arts Cuts Fulton County, which is Atlanta's biggest arts funder, has proposed a $1 million cut in the arts budget next year. "The arts council's annual budget is $5.7 million; $3.4 million of that is granted to about 100 arts groups through the county's contracts for services program. The rest of the money goes to operate the county's school programs and five neighborhood arts centers." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11/30/02

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