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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Resolutions of a Critic Paul Horsley has a few things he's hoping to do better in 2004 than he did in 2003, and he's not afraid to share. "I will write less, listen more... I will not whine... I will have agendas. A newspaper critic has two basic functions: to cover the arts news and to comment on it. I'm going to work harder in my commentary to uphold certain things that I deem to be worthy of further support." Horsley also resolves not to be too nice, and laments having left a particular sentence out of a recent review of a Mahler symphony: "We wept at the usual places, but for different reasons." Kansas City Star 12/31/03

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Russell Resigns P.S.122 After 21 years, Mark Russell has resigned as executive director of New York's P.S. 122. "In addition to the widespread kudos for the man who helped launch Whoopi Goldberg, Eric Bogosian, Blue Man Group, John Leguizamo, and the Hip Hop Theater Festival—and brought heating, lighting, and a managerial infrastructure into the once abandoned public-school building—artists and producers of experimental work also sounded the alarm over the possibility that a corporate mentality might replace the aesthetic vision and commitment that have characterized Russell's tenure." Village Voice 12/30/03

2003 - The Year States Bailed On The Arts Across America, states cut arts funding in 2003. "By July, virtually every state arts council had received an appropriations decrease. Some cuts were draconian: 30% in Minnesota, 62% in Massachusetts, almost 80% in Florida, and a near defunding in Colorado. Compared to this, the cut sustained by the New York State Council on the Arts -- 15% -- seemed almost benign." Backstage 12/30/03

Monday, December 29, 2003

Liverpool At The Top (Culturally Speaking) Excuse me, all you scoffers who snickered when Liverpool was named European Capital of Culture. "A spectacular waterfront, museums without parallel outside London, an elegant Georgian quarter, two imposing 20th-century cathedrals, the neo-classical masterpiece of St George's Hall - where can those be matched? Past glories make every Scouse heart swell: imperial trade, cup-winning football, the Beatles." The Telegraph (UK) 12/30/02

Culture To the People... "The pompous, almost self-flagellatory, tone which compels us to suffer for our art is sounding increasingly irrelevant. Walk into the Tate's Turbine Hall and what you will see is young people "hanging out". That funny word from the cultural explosion that was the 1960s, "happening", is happening again. And it is happening everywhere: at the National Theatre, whose new director Nicholas Hytner signalled his intent by putting on a blasphemous satire of trash culture; at the National Gallery, which surrounded us with ultra slow-mo videos that had us double taking to detect movement from stillness; at the Royal Opera House, which for the first time admitted a bona fide musical - Sweeney Todd -through its doors. We all felt a little dislocated in 2003." Financial Times 12/29/03

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Milan's Missing Documents An investigation of missing documents at Milan's State Archive has proven startling results. "Thousands of pieces were found to have disappeared: parchments from the 11th century; papal bulls; official decrees bearing the signatures of Emperor Charles V, Empress Maria Theresa and Napoleon; autograph manuscripts by such Italian literary giants as Alessandro Manzoni and Gabriele D'Annunzio — a substantial slice of eight centuries of European history, as seen through documents from one of the continent's wealthiest metropolitan centers from the Middle Ages onward. Some 3,000 items from the State Archives and smaller depositories have been recovered, while 1,000 more are still reported missing, probably smuggled into private collections in Italy or abroad." Andante 12/23/03

The Art Of 7-11 (And Other Businesses) At a time when some American cities are cutting back on public art, "Menlo Park (Cal.) now requires that public art adorn new commercial buildings and major remodeling. Early next year, Menlo Park residents will see the fruits of this new law when art is installed at the 7-Eleven, a cafe, and a Chevron gas station. To some, it's a smart way to further beautify this bedroom community without using city money. To others, making business owners spend 1 percent of a project's cost on art is an expensive annoyance." San Jose Mercury-News 12/23/03

Actors Equity 1, Homeland Security 0 Canadian actor Geordie Johnson should be on a San Francisco stage today, rehearsing for a new production of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. But thanks to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Johnson's work visa was refused as the DHS tightened restrictions on foreigners entering the country. The company Johnson was to have worked with was forced to recast his part, since they could not afford to wait for an appeal. Nonetheless, Actors Equity filed an appeal anyway, and this week, it was granted, the union having successfully argued that "the entire framework of agreements under which actors, directors, musicians and even professional athletes gain cross-border employment [was] in jeopardy." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/23/03

Corporate Giving: Good For The Bottom Line? A new study commissioned by the Boston Foundation reports that the public is more likely to patronize corporate businesses which make a point of donating to the arts and other nonprofits than those which do not. The pollster who led the study says that the upshot of the report is that "foundations have got to get out of the purely good guy giving pool and they've got to drive the argument that partnerships between nonprofits and corporations help a corporation's bottom line. If you can make that case, you can start this argument again and maybe you can get more money." Boston Globe 12/23/03

Monday, December 22, 2003

Judge: Miami Beach Streets Go To Artists Artists can perform where they want now in Miami Beach. "Miami Beach has lost a significant round in its years-long effort to regulate street performers. Last month, a judge declared unconstitutional a city ordinance limiting performers and artists to 11 locations throughout the city. Under the ordinance, only two performers are allowed at each location, chosen by lottery every three months from scores of applicants." Miami Herald 12/22/03

Edinburgh's Brain Drain "New figures reveal that Edinburgh has been overtaken by Glasgow as Scotland’s cultural capital. In the most comprehensive attempt to map changes in Scotland’s cultural employment in the first years of devolution, researchers found Edin burgh was undergoing a massive brain drain of creative talent." Sunday Herald (Glasgow) 12/21/03

Winn: Breaking Out Of The Basic Newspaper Arts Review A panel at the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors in St. Petersburg, Fla got to talking about the state of arts coverage in daily newspapers. Steven Winn - arts writer at the San Francisco Chronicle: "Over the years, I felt a kind of creeping alienation. No one but a critic attends the theater 150 times a year. I was becoming, gradually and inexorably, self referential. I wrote about theater in terms of other theater, because that was what I was living." Poynter 12/20/03

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Fort Worth Wonders - Can We Afford Bass Hall? Bass Hall is the cultural capital of downtown Fort Worth. "In its five-year history, the hall has easily fulfilled its promise, becoming a grand symbol of Fort Worth's commitment to the performing arts and a striking monument to the private and proud family for which it is named. But over the past year, as the recessionary economy ravaged arts institutions everywhere, the hall's seemingly impregnable facade has begun to show cracks." With revenue and attendance down, "the current economic hardships hint at a deeper problem - one that has persisted since the early days of the hall and now prompts the fundamental question: Can Fort Worth still afford Bass Hall?" The Star-Telegram (Fort Worth) 12/21/03

The Art (Against) Reagan Ronald Reagan is revered by his conservative followers as a great president. But "the art of the Reagan era - not just art about Reagan, but art made during his presidency - reflects a more complex memory of the man. The most potent artistic forces unleashed in the Reagan years were overtly political, and little of this overtly political art was or is kind to the old man. The plague of AIDS, and protests of AIDS activists, would create a new and volatile visual language that refreshed the graphic arts; punk rock emerged, in this country, as an angry and anarchic force, often explicitly in opposition to what musicians saw as a geriatric retrenchment into imperial self-satisfaction; and performance art came into its own, defining a new, anti-commercial, wildly independent form of drama. One summary of the Reagan years is that they were immensely productive, artistically, even if much of the art was vehemently opposed to the man." Washington Post 12/21/03

Is The Pen Mightier Than The Playstation? You can hardly turn around these days without encountering some public scold decrying the influence of violent movies, video games, and television shows on the behavior of the public at large. At the same time, you rarely hear anyone threatening to slap warning labels on books, lest any susceptible souls take them seriously. But literature has long influenced some of the world's most notorious crackpots, (the Aum Shinrikyo cult took some of its ideas from an Isaac Asimov novel,) and such notorious terrorists as Timothy McVeigh are known to have worshipped at the altar of a terrifying book of hate called The Turner Diaries, not at the game console of Grand Theft Auto. Toronto Star 12/20/03

Friday, December 19, 2003

An Ethnic Furor In Oakland "An exhibit at the Oakland Museum examining how the war transformed California is scheduled to open in August. But instead of putting the finishing touches on the exhibit, the museum is working to repair its relationship with the Vietnamese American community. The damage control comes after the museum's Oct. 24 dismissal of researcher Mimi Nguyen days after she submitted a memo complaining that the exhibit was not sufficiently inclusive of ethnic minorities." The controversy has been widely reported in California's Vietnamese press, and a groundswell of popular support for Nguyen is causing headaches for the museum. San Francisco Chronicle 12/19/03

Thursday, December 18, 2003

UK Arts Biz, 03 So what kind of year was it for the arts in the UK? "The Arts Council itself can always be relied upon to provide a little black comedy. The esteemed organisation paid consultants over £70,000 to remove the words "the" and "of" from its name, so it was transformed from The Arts Council of England to the stunningly different Arts Council England. A triumph for branding professionals everywhere." The Guardian (UK) 12/19/03

Scotland's Coming Arts Overhaul "The launch of a long-promised review of Scotland’s arts policy has been delayed to reflect better the First Minister’s new agenda for 'cultural rights'... The cultural review - seen as the Scottish Executive’s move to put its post-devolutionary stamp on the arts - is being overseen by the culture minister, Frank McAveety, and his advisers... The review will be closely watched by arts organisations in Scotland, and is anticipated with a mixture of nervousness and hope. The closely guarded consultation paper could pave the way for a shake-up of organisations such as the Scottish Arts Council, which administers £60 million in Executive and lottery funds, and Scottish Screen." The Scotsman (UK) 12/18/03

Paper To Arts Groups: Show Us Why We Should Care In Detroit, voters and politicians have demonstrated time and time again that they are not interested in a significant public funding program for the arts, and the editorial board at one of the city's newspapers thinks it knows why. "Cultural leaders should have learned from their election defeats that they've not done an adequate job persuading the people that what they offer both enriches individual souls and feeds this community's comeback." Detroit Free Press 12/18/03

What Kind Of Silly Law Is That, Anyway? City leaders in Cleveland are moving ahead with plans to place a levy on the March ballot with the intention of dedicating a new source of funding to the arts. But there's a catch: state law prohibits cities of under 500,000 from creating a specific arts district, so Cleveland (population 478,403) must instead use a standard "economic development" levy, which may be used to fund artistic initiatives. The concern with such a non-specific funding plan, of course, is that the ongoing status of the new arts funding would be reliant on the "arts friendliness" of the county commissioners in office at any given time. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/18/03

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Power Of Images To Tell Stories After a weekend of staring at images of the humiliated Saddam Hussein, Philip Kennicott ponders the power of images to change how we feel about something. "Images that emerge from photo ops unravel because people tug on the loose threads of their constructedness. His capture, without a fight, no doubt has extraordinary power for the Iraqis who hate him. But the great leader brought low is a more complex image than has yet to be acknowledged." Washington Post 12/16/03

Canada's Cultural Leaders Ask: Hélène Who? Since Canada's new prime minister named Hélène Chalifour Scherrer to head the country's culture ministry, cultural groups have been asking Hélène who? She is unknown in the cultural world. "Her very specific interest in amateur sport and the cries of rapture with which the Canadian Olympic Committee greeted her appointment to the portfolio, which does includesport, suggests she may lack the broad vision needed to tackle the large range of regulatory and funding issues that lie at the core of the Canadian Heritage mandate. Comments made to the CBC by her spokesman immediately after her swearing-in about running a "tighter ship" at a ministry that wasn't going to be a "bank" any more didn't help." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/17/03

Monday, December 15, 2003

What Happened To Korea's "Age Of Culture?" When he came to power last February, South Korea's new President Roh Moo-hyun declared that the 21st Century would be the age of culture and that he would help make it happen. But "like so many other quotes taken from the outspoken chief of nation, the depth of commitment to actually materializing his rhetoric remains questionable, at least after the administration's unproductive first 10-months of hollow debates, confusions and scarce achievements in cultural policies." Korea Herald 12/15/03

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Evolving Palate - When Critical Tastes Expand Wouldn't you expect a critic to narrow in tastes as the years go on? Surprisingly not, observes Terry Teaachout. "One of the most surprising things that has happened to me in recent years is that I now like far more music, as well as a wider range of interpretative styles, than I did as a young man. This is not at all what I expected to happen as I grew older." About Last Night (AJBlogs) 12/13/03

Charitable Giving Down In US For First Times In 12 Years "Private contributions to US charities declined last year for the first time in 12 years, according to an annual survey of the 400 largest charities in the country. The report, compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, indicated that donations in 2002 fell 1.2% (adjusted for inflation) compared with an average gain of 12% during the previous five years. The total dipped to $46.9 billion from $47.5 billion the previous year." And how'd the arts do? Down 26 percent, says the report, but the drop is exagerated because of big one-time gioftes recorded the year before. The Art Newspaper 12/12/03

Whither Canada's Arts Ministry? Canada has a new prime minister, and Paul Martin's choice to head the nation's Ministry of Canadian Heritage is already causing arts groups to wonder about the intentions of the new government. "A first-time cabinet minister, Hélène Scherrer is largely unknown among Canadian arts groups... The heritage minister is responsible for a broad range of issues and agencies, including arts and culture, citizenship, multiculturalism and sport." Scherrer's background is almost entirely in sports, and her spokesman has already said that the ministry will no longer be the "bank" for the arts that it was under former minister Sheila Copps. CBC 12/12/03

Bad Time For Nonprofits in Minnesota, Unless You're An HMO A recent summit meeting of Minnesota nonprofit companies was a fairly dismal affair, with executives from the state's biggest arts groups bemoaning the downturn in public and private financing. But at least one corner of the nonprofit sector is raking in the dough - in Minnesota, HMOs and other health care companies are non-profits, too. It makes for an interesting contrast, since the skyrocketing cost of health care is one of the factors causing so much suffering at the state's larger arts groups. Minneapolis Star Tribune 12/14/03

Christianity For The Matrix Generation Increasingly, it seems as if the current generation of teens and young adults is getting its moral guidance in the form of entertainment, rather than from religion. In fact, the line between Christian theology and secular moralism seems to be increasingly blurry, with blockbuster movie franchises like The Matrix and Lord of the Rings presenting morality plays not dissimilar from the ones you might find in the Bible. Some Christians see the pop culture moralists as a threat, of course, but increasingly, non-denominational Christian churches are embracing secular pop as a way to draw in the next generation of devout churchgoers. Minneapolis Star Tribune 12/13/03

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Funding The Arctic Arts A new initiative from the Rasmuson Foundation will create a 10-year, $20 million arts funding program in Alaska, with money from the foundation going to develop a cultural scene as unique as America's northernmost state. "Over the years, arts groups in Alaska have struggled for money. At the apex, 1982, the Alaska State Council on the Arts received nearly $5 million in state money, handing out more than $4 million in grants... for 2004, it is about $460,000." Alaskan arts groups have relied mostly on private donations to survive, but it can be hard to solicit donations to cover day-to-day operations. That's where the Rasmuson program comes in. Anchorage Daily News 12/11/03

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Christians Against Ridicule Clive Hibbert is the president of Christians Against Ridicule. He writes that "over the last few decades there has been a shift in the way that Christianity is portrayed in the media that needs to be challenged. Rarely a day goes by today without underhand and insidious mockery of the Christian faith. It's nothing specific or too damaging in its own right, but the cumulative effect is more harmful than any one-off headline grabber. It is as if Christians have become the convenient and silent whipping boy for the sound-bite generation." The Guardian (UK) 12/09/03

Monday, December 8, 2003

DC Gov Gets Into The Arts Biz Historically, Washington DC government has not funded the arts in much of a significant way. But DC recently approved $20 million towards a new downtown home for the Shakespeare Theatre. The city's mayor wants to dramatically increase cultural funding - "despite the city's general fiscal troubles - by pitching theaters and galleries as economic development projects and arguing that they should be funded through sources that do not directly compete with routine city services." Washington Post 12/07/03

Sunday, December 7, 2003

When Art Went To War Against AIDS "If art had often tried to protest prejudice, encourage compassion and console the grieving, it had never tried to provide safe-sex information, lower drug prices and stimulate the development of antiretroviral therapies. I remember thinking, early on, that this was not only unseemly in some way but also too much of an agenda for poor little art to shoulder." New York Times Magazine 12/07/03

Zagat On Classical Music? Yikes! The new Zagat guide rating culture has some flaws when it comes to classical music, says a letter writer to the New York Times. "Classical recordings, unlike those in other categories, are usually identified by at least three criteria: composer's name, title of the work and performer's name. In the Zagat guide, classical albums are typically listed alphabetically by composer name, perhaps followed by title, with little or no indication of performers. But a recording of a Tchaikovsky piano concerto with Van Cliburn as soloist is listed under "V." I suspect that this is a little joke. Or perhaps not." The New York Times (4th item) 12/07/03

Iraqi Art In A Time Of War "While bombs rip through buildings, rival factions assassinate each other's leaders, and increasingly brutal occupation and resistance forces duke it out, Iraqi artists are playing it safe. This is in contrast to the art scene under sanctions, when poignant tableaux spoke of the suffering of a populace under siege, playwrights pushed the political envelope with veiled criticisms of the ancient regime's corruption, and composers wrote angry orchestral anthems with damning titles like "To the U.N." (which was, after all, the embargo enforcer)." San Francisco Chronicle 12/07/03

Saturday, December 6, 2003

A Culture Gap Between Europe And The US Is there a growing gap between the cultures of Europe and America? A group of five European and American writers get together to agree that there is. But as for how the gap is defined and what its causes are... The New York Times 12/06/03

Frayling Named Arts Council England Head Art historian Sir Christopher Frayling has been named as the new head of Arts Council England. Sir Christopher has been rector of the Royal College of Art since 1996. BBC 12/06/03

The Awards Biz After the end of the year, the awards season begins in earnest. A documentary reports that there are "565 show-biz awards competitions each year, of which 100 are televised. That's better than one broadcast every four days." Why so many? The awards "mainly reflects outstanding achievement by the industry in ginning up ever more shows for viewers to watch - and thus ever more outlets for promoting entertainment product to the public." Boston Globe (AP) 12/06/03

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Good News Bears Why does most research on culture end up with a positive spin, asks Andrew Taylor. "Much of the research on the public aspects of the arts is done by advocacy organizations or community coalitions with an admitted bias (of course the arts have a positive impact on city economies, education, at-risk youth, and luring the creative class, and we've designed research to prove it). Even at professional conferences, we are more likely to share 'best practices' and handy tips to sell tickets quickly, rather than exposing and exploring times we dropped the ball or didn't even see it. It's all fine and friendly, but such one-sided and guarded discussions are contrary to learning." Artful Manager (AJBlogs) 12/04/03

Branding For Non-Profits "Large nonprofit organizations, like their corporate counterparts, have long recognized the value of branding. Now, small local groups are picking up on the importance of standing out from the charitable crowd. Nearly 1.4 million nonprofits are competing for dollars in the United States. Whether they hire a public- relations expert or buy an online-branding kit, they all hope their logos will convey a trustworthy cause to donors - and make it easy to distinguish their envelopes from the daily round of junk mail." Christian Science Monitor 12/05/03

NLRB Rules Against Lincoln Center In Union Dispute "In a decision issued on Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Lincoln Center had violated federal labor law when it sought to have the police arrest union supporters distributing leaflets in front of the center, while it permitted nonunion groups to do so... The labor board ordered Lincoln Center to post a notice acknowledging that it violated federal labor law." The center's lawyers are considering an appeal. The New York Times 12/04/03

Steel City Windfall A gala fundraiser held to mark the opening of Pittsburgh's new convention center has raised nearly $700,000 for area cultural groups, according to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. "Checks in the amount of $115,000 each were received yesterday by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Pittsburgh CLO, Pittsburgh Symphony and the Cultural Trust." The amount raised is far in excess of what any of the arts groups had expected to receive from the event. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 12/04/03

Looking For A New Paradigm It's not an exaggeration to say that the arts in South Florida are on life support, and in serious danger of slipping into oblivion. With the demise of the Florida Philharmonic still sending shockwaves through the arts community, and legislative funding for all arts having been slashed by nearly 80% in one year, local leaders have convened a summit with the intent of finding new, workable business models for the arts. Lobbyists are encouraging supporters to look beyond the traditional model of state funding, which they say may never return to previous levels. South Florida Sun-Sentinel 12/04/03

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Time Out In Chicago "The publisher of Time Out New York and Time Out London said Tuesday it would start printing Time Out Chicago in September 2004. Aimed at the urban hipster, Time Out's weekly magazines feature listings of concerts, club shows and other events, as well as articles on the urban arts scene." Chivago Sun-Times 12/03/03

California's 'Arts City' Is A Suburb? "Located 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles and 15 minutes from Newport Beach, Costa Mesa has been dubbed the City of the Arts. It's a magical, art-filled cultural and even shopping mecca - from its Orange County Performing Arts Center and South Coast Repertory theater complex to many outdoor sculptures and its world-class 'anti-mall.'" And while L.A. may have Disney Hall, it is this Orange County suburb which has come to embody the spirit of the arts as ingrained in a community's soul. Oh, and it's not bad for tourism, either. The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 12/03/03

Looking For A Vision A longtime Seattle newspaper editor is issuing a call for a newly invigorated vision for the city's arts scene. Noting that the city's Bookfest is held at a substandard facility, and that it was forced to charge an attendance fee for the first time this year to make up a deficit, Lou Guzzo thinks that the city needs to make the arts a far greater priority, even if it means using tax dollars to match private contributions. "Taxpaying citizens have an equal share in all the cultural organizations that provide not only a wealth of great programming for the public but also the teachers of their children in every phase of music, drama, ballet and all the rest of the arts." Seattle Times 12/03/03


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