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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Lincoln Center Redo To Commence (at least the first part) Finally - an agreement. Now the first phase of Lincoln Center's badly-needed redevelopment can get started. "The first phase of this grand effort is to improve West 65th Street. Now it feels less like a thoroughfare and more like an oversize back alley. A hulking overhang crosses the street, throwing much of it into perpetual shadow, and the walls of Lincoln Center on either side loom large and forbidding. Early redesigns featured bright marquees, a transparent bridge and a wide staircase leading up into Lincoln Center on the south side of the street." The New York Times 04/01/04

The Audience Problem (Yes, We Mean You!) Audience behavior has got worse and worse in recent years. "Why is this sort of behaviour so common in theatres nowadays? Presumably because we live in a restless channel-flicking culture, where concentration is no longer a virtue. Epidemics of coughing and chatting can, of course, serve as a valid critical response to a tedious spectacle. Yet they are mostly just a manifestation of inattention, laziness, and sheer selfish rudeness. And I'm convinced that people don't switch off their mobile phones because sub-consciously they crave the distraction." The Telegraph (UK) 04/01/04

$630 Million Brooklyn Project Underway Construction is beginning on the $630 million redevlopment of the area around the Brooklyn Academy of Music. "Called the BAM Cultural District, the idea, on the drawing board since 1998, is only now beginning to take shape. The project is spearheaded by Harvey Lichtenstein, who served as BAM executive director from 1967 to 1999 and who now heads up the BAM Local Development Corporation, in charge of turning the idea of a cultural district into reality." Backstage 03/31/04

Can Art Cross State Lines? Creating a workable formula for local arts funding is always a tricky project, but when your metropolitan area spans two different states, it becomes a major headache. Kansas City has struggled with different funding methods for years, and now, the city's Metropolitan Cultural Fund has proposed a new system under which arts groups from across the region would compete for multiple "pools" of funding, which would come from a multicounty, bistate tax. But opposition is already being marshaled to the plan, which would require voters in all affected counties in both Missouri and Kansas to approve the new tax. Some opponents just plain don't like public arts grants, but others consider it an issue of state sovereignty. Kansas City Star 03/31/04

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Philadelphia Arts Funding Cuts Will Be Felt Philadelphia's arts community is struggling to assess the impact of major cuts in the city's arts funding. "The mayor balanced his $3.4 billion budget proposal in part with about $4 million in cultural cuts." Philadelphia Inquirer 03/30/04

Monday, March 29, 2004

Is Copyright Killing Creativity? Current laws on copyright are not serving the cause of creativity and are hampering the production of new works. "Existing laws are simply not good enough to cope with the creative possibilities which are open to us all in the digital world. We need to find the balance between the freedom exemplified by the Grey Album and the anarchy towards which completely unregulated sharing of stolen intellectual property could lead." BBC 03/29/04

Disney Wins Pooh Case Disney has won its case against a small firm that claimed rights and royalties from the Winnie the Pooh franchise. The judge chided the plaintif for its "willingness to tamper with, and even corrupt, the litigation process constitutes a substantial threat to the integrity of the judicial process. Disney officials had earlier claimed the confidential documents were stolen on behalf of SSI by a private investigator in the early 1990s." BBC 03/29/04

Falling Flat On Boston's Strand In 2002, promises and hopes sailed high for Boston's Strand Theatre, a converted vaudeville house being rebirthed as a community performing arts center. "Less than two years later, the Strand's books are soaked in red ink. The Strand's 1,400-seat auditorium is dark on most evenings, and it droops with inactivity during the daytime. Paint is peeling, chairs are broken, and a city maintenance crew recently replaced 150 dead light bulbs that had been left in their sockets." Boston Globe 03/29/04

New York Reduces Financial Aid To Lincoln Center A few years ago, then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani pledged $24 million a year for ten years to Lincolnm Center's rebuilding project. But new mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to reduce the amount. "For the next fiscal year Mr. Bloomberg's preliminary budget has reduced Lincoln Center's $24 million allotment to $5 million. City officials acknowledge that these measures indicate an increasingly hard-line approach toward cultural organizations, the largest of which is Lincoln Center." The New York Times 03/29/04

Sunday, March 28, 2004

The NEA's New Profile The National Endowment for the Arts seems to be politically free of trouble these days. "NEA Chairman Dana Gioia gives the NEA's foes a challenge they've never encountered before: a cultural traditionalist running the agency. (Gioia is a poet who has written for publications such as the New Criterion.) 'I don't know how you create art unless you love the past.' Many conservative regard Gioia as one of Bush's finest appointments." San Francisco Chronicle 03/28/04

In Praise Of London - Cultural Capital of the World Today's London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world. "Perhaps the secret of London’s success as a home to so many different nationalities is that is almost impossible to feel foreign in a city where you are likely to hear Cantonese at one street corner and Italian at the next, where your corner shop is run by Sri Lankans and where your minicab late at night is driven by a Nigerian." Financial Times 03/26/04

Lessig: Give Artists The Choice About How Their Work Is Used Lawrence Lessig thinks that a copyright law that declares that millions of people are criminals is wrong. "I think artists should be allowed to decide what the rules are under which their content is made available in a good copyright system. Sometimes that means their content is made available under compulsory license, which means they get paid but not a price that they set, sometimes they'll give it away. Sometimes their copyright expires, at least that's what was supposed to happen. And copyrights that expire [go into] the public domain." Chicago Tribune 03/28/04

Censorship Wars Suddenly, content in the media is getting the once over for "objectionable" material. "Hoping to avoid millions of dollars in fines and protect their licenses, the networks' gatekeepers are now rushing to cover naked body parts, cut foul language and monitor anything that smacks of poor taste … except when they're not. The only consistent thread running through the current crackdown — which has ensnared culprits ranging from a chronic provocateur like ousted radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge to an accidental offender like NBC's "ER" — is how wildly inconsistent it all seems." Los Angeles Times 03/28/04

Stage Fright - Iraq Theatre Up And Running Iraq's National Theate is up and runnig again, and a week-long festival of plays, dance and music is being produced. There's still not much of an audience yest, in a city once renowned for its cultural life. "The situation is still very complicated. It is difficult to start living culturally again." Aljazeera 03/27/04

Friday, March 26, 2004

Philadelphia May Cut Museum Funding The city of Philadelphia has a $227 million deficit it needs to cover. So the city's mayor proposes cuts, including eliminating the city's annual $2.25 million appropriation to the Philadelphia Museum of Art - "just as it and other stakeholders along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway are ramping up efforts to promote the Parkway as a major destination." Philadelphgia Daily News 03/26/04

Thursday, March 25, 2004

NY Artists Still Suffering Since 9/11 A new report on the condition of artists in New York since 9/11 says that "despite huge infusions of crisis-aid funding from both public and private sources, a new study finds that artists, including performing artists, are still suffering great economic misfortunes with very little end in sight." Backstage 03/25/04

Martin's Arts Budget Doesn't Impress Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin may have thought he would get some accolades from the arts sector after his budget calling for the restoration of millions of dollars to the nation's Television Fund, but it isn't happening. In fact, outside of the TV industry, the Liberal government's budget is being called a disappointment by nearly every arts advocate within earshot of a reporter. The arts world has been wary of the Martin government ever since the PM appointed a sports specialist as his heritage minister, and while the new budget doesn't make any cuts to the cultural budget, the lack of any significant increases seems to have confirmed many artists' suspicion that the arts aren't a priority with Martin. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/25/04

  • Previously: Martin Boosts Canadian TV Budget The Canadian government has pledged to increase its contribution to the Canadian Television Fund by $38 million a year, news which is being hailed by independent documentarians and producers nationwide. Cuts to the fund in recent years contributed to a dismal year for the industry in 2003, and new Prime Minister Paul Martin made a point of calling for the restoration of previous funding levels. But some other Canadian arts groups are none too pleased with the PM's priorities, as major arts organizations will see little in the way of similar funding increases. Toronto Star 03/24/04

Being Prepared, Or Just Being Bigoted? Miami's Community Relations Board is asking that the city's police department turn over all its records of a controversial program which monitors and investigates local rappers and other members of the hip-hop community. The department acknowledged earlier this month that it has been specifically keeping tabs on rappers, leading to charges of institutional racism. The police claim that it makes good sense to keep files on artists who make their living rapping about violence, crime, and hatred of law enforcement. Miami Herald 03/25/04

Fear Vs. Free Expression When college writing instructor Jan Richman first read the horrifying tale of sexual violence and murder that one of her students handed in last fall, she was taken aback by its gruesome detail and terrifyingly unsympathetic tone. But being a teacher, she chose to address the story in literary terms with her class, and to use it as a way to discuss the difference between gratuitous repulsiveness and violent imagery in the service of literature. But "before the week was out, the student was expelled and sent home, the instructor was fighting for her job, and many students and faculty were left wondering about issues of artistic and academic freedom in the post-Columbine era of heightened fear over student safety." San Francisco Chronicle 03/25/04

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Queen vs. The Beatle Back in 1970, a UK gallery displaying several drawings by John Lennon was prosecuted by the crown for supposedly violating an obscenity statute by publicly showing Lennon's work. The case was thrown out on a technicality, and was chalked up to overzealous prosecution. But new documents released by the National Archives show that the case against Lennon's art could have been much more serious, had not the prosecutor been alerted to the potentially wider implications of such a prosecution, and reconsidered, lest his actions lead to a nationwide precedent of censorship. BBC 03/23/04

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Art To Memorialize Rwandan Genocide A decade after the genocide that left more than 800,000 dead, Rwanda is building memorial centers. "Ten years on, Rwanda is erecting its first proper memorials - and racing to complete them by April 7, the anniversary of the first day of slaughter, when centres will open their doors to survivors, perpetrators, scholars and tourists. For those who have kept guard over mass grave sites lest the remains - proof of the genocide - disappear, these centres offer a chance to end their vigil and rebuild their lives." The Guardian (UK) 03/24/04

Of Shopping Malls And Performing Arts Centers The comparison isn't too crass, writes Andrew Taylor. "The most striking thing about this comparison is how differently the savvy mall developer and most cultural facility developers speak about what they do. With the shopping mall, at least among these two visionaries, design is about the consumers and how they engage with their world -- what draws them in, keeps them in, and lowers their barriers to purchase. With cultural facilities, we seem, instead, to focus on the producers in the equation -- the symphony, theater company, road shows -- and what they need to produce their seasons." Artful Manager (AJBlogs) 03/22/04

Monday, March 22, 2004

Abe Lincoln As A Theme Park? Civic boosters in Lincoln, Illinois want to build an "Honest Abe" theme park, complete with animatronic figures from history. "Invoking images of Disneyland, the project's backers promise to build a dignified family attraction, not a kitschy carnival. "There would be nothing degrading about this. It's a great idea. It's called edu-tainment."
Los Angeles Times 03/22/04

US Anti-Cuba Policy Hurts Artists, US Why is the US government refusing to allow Cuban artists into the United States? "In a profound way, our government takes on the role of oppressor when it tries to control which artists will be allowed access to our minds and our hearts. We may think we are isolating Cuba with our embargo and our travel restrictions, but it is we Americans who are becoming isolated. People travel to Cuba from Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy and Spain — countries we consider staunch allies." The New York Times 03/22/04

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Of Obscenity And Small-Time Politics Why is the US Congress making such a big deal about obscenity on the broadcast airwaves? Frank Rich says it's politics: "While the current uproar over broadcast indecency is ostensibly all about sex, it is still all about politics, especially in an election year when a culture war rages. Washington's latest crew of Puritan enforcers — in the administration, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission — are all pandering to a censorious Republican political base that is the closest thing America has to its own Taliban. The media giants, fearful of losing the deregulatory financial favors the federal government can bestow, will knuckle under accordingly until the coast is clear." The New York Times 03/21/04

Is LA's New Cultural Affairs Department An Opportunity Or Political Salve? Last week, Los Angeles' mayor relented and decided not to kill the city's cultural department to save money. "It remains to be seen whether the mayor's redefined Cultural Affairs Department is more than a political tactic to quiet angry arts supporters as the city struggles to close an estimated $250-million budget shortfall. But the arts community shouldn't simply declare victory and accept the mayor's largely commercial vision of his new arts council. Rather, it should emerge from the affair with a new determination to position arts and culture at the center of city life." Los Angeles Times 03/21/04

Arts Education Feels The Budget Squeeze As state governments in America find their budgets squeezed, money for education is being cut. And educators, looking for places to cut, are choosing to kill arts education. In California, "music enrollment statewide is at a 20-year low, according to the latest statistics. From a high of 1.1 million students in the 1999-2000 school year, music participation plummeted to 624,516 students last year. The trend is disturbing to music teachers and others now that more is known about how the arts benefit academics." Sacramento Bee 03/20/04

How The Arts Convinced Florida To Give It Money A year after Florida chopped its arts funding, how did Florida arts lovers get its legislature to approve 115-2 to restore $21 million a year in new funding? The old fashioned way - lobbying. "Before the first committee meeting of this legislative year, arts groups began flooding legislative offices with 200,000 multicolored protest cards, just one of the strategies dreamed up in weekly conference calls that organizers held with arts groups in each of the state's 67 counties." Palm Beach Post 03/20/04

Friday, March 19, 2004

Backlash - The Creative Class Emily Hall is happy to see that a "backlash" is building against Richard Florida's ideas about the "creative class." "It didn't take much nudging for people to start to see, among other flaws in his arguments, that he meant to improve social conditions for computer programmers rather than reform the way arts are funded in this country. Florida can claim as loudly as he likes that he never meant to be an arts advocate, but as far as I can tell, he was the keynote speaker at a gazillion 'save the arts' conferences all over the country, probably accepting nice little fees every time." The Stranger (Seattle) 03/18/04

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Kennedy Center Expansion Wins First Approval Washington, DC's Kennedy Center cleared its first regulatory hurdle this week when the Federal Commission of Fine Arts voted to approve the project for a new plaza. "We at last see the promise of the Kennedy Center, that it will be connected to the rest of the city. It is floating now in that tangle of spaghetti roadways. The design will go a long way to not only connecting it to the rest of the city, but you will be able to walk around it without getting run over." Washington Post 03/19/04

LA Mayor Says Cultural Department Will Be Saved Last week Los Angeles officials were suggesting they might abolish the city's cultural affairs department. But "Mayor James K. Hahn said Wednesday that he would preserve the agency and maintain its popular arts grants and educational programs while finding other ways to streamline it in the face of a municipal budget crisis. Hahn said he aimed to "refocus" the department, including giving it a new mandate to pump up tourism by promoting the city's cultural attractions." Los Angeles Times 03/18/04

Creating A Cultural Cluster Nashville officials have begun to plan what is being described as a "cultural cluster" for the downtown neighborhood which will soon play host to a new concert hall for the Nashville Symphony. The thinking is that while a concert hall alone can be good for a neighborhood, a vibrant collection of entertainment options is better, and if all goes as planned, the new concert hall could anchor a thriving district which would include a minor league baseball park, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and a massive entertainment complex. Of course, these things cost money... Nashville City Paper 03/18/04

Detroit Mayor: Save The Arts School! "Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick made a brief appearance at Wednesday's Detroit Public Schools board meeting to encourage district officials to reconsider plans to close the Communication and Media Arts High School. The school is scheduled to close and merge in January 2005 with the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts in a new, $120-million building off Woodward near Orchestra Hall... Dozens of parents, students and teachers said they feared the new school's academic structure will not be as stringent as CMA's. Currently, 95 percent of CMA graduates go on to higher education; 85 percent go on to 4-year colleges." Detroit Free Press 03/18/04

Privatizing The Arts In L.A. Los Angeles mayor James Hahn has sent a letter to local arts groups informing them that he plans to slash the budget of the city's Cultural Affairs Department and transfer the money to "basic services" such as public safety and street repair. The exact dollar amount of the mayor's cutback hasn't been specified, but current budget projections show a cut of nearly 60%. In place of direct subsidies, Mayor Hahn is creating a council of wealthy Angelenos to encourage private donations to the arts. Los Angeles Daily News 03/18/04

The New People-Friendly NEA Only a decade ago, the letters 'NEA' would bring a scowl to the face of conservative US politicians, and images of urine-soaked crosses to the minds of the general public. The arts endowment's budget was gutted during those years, and many assumed that the country's tradition of federal support for the arts had finally been killed off. But this year, the decidedly conservative Bush administration called on Congress to sharply increase the NEA's budget, and the taint of controversy seems to have vanished in the hands of the endowment's soothing new director, Dana Gioia. "The NEA's turnaround has been achieved, in part, through high-profile tours of unassailable works and by reaching out to traditionally underserved areas, including Southern states." Akron Beacon-Journal (Cox) 03/18/04

Playing Hot Potato With A Concert Hall A Maryland concert hall scheduled to open next summer is running into roadblocks from politicians who are not overly eager to take responsibility for covering cost overruns. Strathmore Hall, which was budgeted to cost $100 million and will become the second home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is supposed to draw the adjoining metropolitan areas of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. together in suburban Montgomery County, but so far, county and state officials can't agree on who should be responsible for unforeseen costs at the site. The county has asked the state for an additional $3 million in assistance to finish the project, but state budget analysts say that they've already contributed more than $44 million, and the county needs to pick up the slack. Washington Post 03/18/04

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

One Hurdle Down, Two Giant Chasms Left To Clear The Florida House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to restore $21 million in annually guaranteed arts funding to the state budget, one year after cutting the subsidy in order to balance the budget. But the restoration still faces a decidedly rocky path to victory, with key Republican legislators vowing to fight it in the State Senate, and Governor Jeb Bush threatening a veto if it ever reaches his desk. Miami Herald 03/17/04

  • Previously: Florida Legislature Considers $21 Million In Arts Funding A bill providing $21 million in state funding for the arts is being considered by the Florida legislature this week. "It marks the end of a one-year funding hiatus begun when the Legislature emptied the state’s arts trust funds, leaving no money for cultural grants. Florida’s museums and other arts centers have more than $8 million in private donations from as far back as 1999 that they can’t touch, awaiting matching state money." The News-Press (Florida) 03/15/04
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Tough New European Intellectual Property Law "The European Parliament has approved a controversial piracy law that would allow local police to raid the homes and offices of suspected intellectual-property pirates, search their financial records and even freeze suspects' bank accounts. The European Union's directive covers selling everything from pirated CDs and counterfeit toys to fake Chanel and Viagra." Wired 03/16/04

Downloaders Aren't Pirates, Court Told People who share digital files of music and movies aren't pirates, an internet advocacy group tells a Canadian judge. "The music industry's “war against file sharing,” if successful, will mean “significant collateral damage” to the rights and interests of Internet users, a federal court was told Monday." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/16/04

Out, Damn Obscenity! America's morality police are on the warpath again. "The threat of tougher punishment for those who outrage public decency has the broadcast industry in a semi-panic. The National Assn. of Broadcasters issued a statement last week that, somewhat nervously, said, 'We hear the call of legislators and are committed to taking voluntary action to address this issue.' One wonders exactly what that portends." Los Angeles Times 03/16/04

Another Cuban Artist Denied Visa To US The US continues its puzzling policy of denying visas to artists wanting to visit the United States. Latest victim, reports a gallery in Washington DC, is Cuban artist Sandra Ramos, whose work is in the permanent collection of American museums including The Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She's visited the US many times, but her visa was denied to attend the opening of her new show at DC's Fraser Gallery. Fraser Gallery News 03/16/04

Monday, March 15, 2004

Florida Legislature Considers $21 Million In Arts Funding A bill providing $21 million in state funding for the arts is being considered by the Florida legislature this week. "It marks the end of a one-year funding hiatus begun when the Legislature emptied the state’s arts trust funds, leaving no money for cultural grants. Florida’s museums and other arts centers have more than $8 million in private donations from as far back as 1999 that they can’t touch, awaiting matching state money." The News-Press (Florida) 03/15/04

Miami PAC Construction "Spiralling" Out Of Control? Miami's new Performing Arts Center is in trouble. The $255 million project is late and over-budget. "With construction costs threatening to spiral 'out of control,' the Performing Arts Center's completion date has been pushed back about another six months to the summer of 2006. Change orders from the builders requesting more money are pouring into Miami-Dade County at the rate of $1 million a week. County officials fear cost overruns could reach close to $100 million." Miami Herald 03/13/04

Rapped Attention - Is Police Scrutiny Of Rappers Proper? Across America "police have been secretly keeping tabs on dozens of visiting rap artists such as 50 Cent, Ja Rule and P. Diddy. At issue: Are investigators violating constitutional freedoms by gathering dossiers and taking pictures of artists in public places -- merely because they're part of a hip-hop industry that has been tainted by murderous violence?" Miami Herald 03/15/04

  • Big Brother And The Rappers Revelations that American police officers nationwide have been tracking rappers' movements have shocked some. Using a police network "to track rappers takes Big Brother tactics to a new, ''onerous'' level. 'This is, from what I can tell, unprecedented. There's been nothing on that scale.'' Miami Herald 03/15/04

Kurdish Artists - Art Of The Future For years, Kurdish artists documented Saddam Hussein's crimes against Kurds. Now, "with Saddam in a prison cell, some Kurdish artists and intellectuals are putting words and images into a new battle for political goals and a dream of a longed-for homeland." The Guardian (UK) 03/15/04

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Post Mortem On Creativity - What're The Rules? What should become of an artist's unplubished work after they're dead? "One school of thought says if a composer, writer or painter does not wish certain works to be seen or heard they should destroy them; that, indeed, leaving them in existence is a tacit acceptance that they will see the light of day eventually." And yet, seeing (or listening to) this work often leads to insight on the "official ouevre. The Guardian (UK) 03/13/04

Twin Talent Towers Manhattan Plaza is a subsidized apartment complex for artists in New York. "The complex's two towers consume the entire block bordered by Ninth and 10th avenues and 42nd and 43rd streets. Inside is the most talent-laden village in New York, its residents packed in as tightly as a pastrami on rye in a profoundly delicious deal subsidized by federal, state and city housing programs." Rent is based on a percentage of your income. Newsday 03/14/04

Ottawa Tax Revolt Threatens Arts Funding Taxpayers in Ottawa are revolting over plans to hike taxes. "The tax-freeze movement finds itself pitted against members of the arts community who are banding together to fight council over proposed cuts. The proposed budget would wipe out funding for 28 major festivals, fairs and events. Critics of any cuts charge that arts spending in Ottawa is among the lowest for a municipality in Canada, at $3.89 per capita. A report by Toronto's culture division last year found that Vancouver spends $17.71 per capita; Montreal tops the list at $26.62; Toronto spends $14.64." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/13/04

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Cultural Capital? Us? We're Honored... But No... A day after an international group announced that the Canadian province of Saskatchewan would be the "2005 American Capital of Culture" governmental officials turned down the honor. "It turns out the Spanish-based organization of the same name wanted $500,000 US to pay for an international promotional package to extol the virtues of Saskatchewan's 'great cultural tradition in the editorial and audiovisual sectors, as well as in folk art and visual arts'." Canada.com (CP) 03/11/04

  • Previously: The Culture Capital Is... And the "American Capital of Culture" for 2005 is... (what? You didn't know there was such a thing? Me neither... shhh, just listen...) the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. OK. "The province has been elected as the American Capital of Culture for 2005 by an organization of the same name with headquarters in Barcelona, Spain. A news release from the group says the designation was made to coincide with the province's 100th anniversary. But it's not clear how much money the province would have to spend for that recognition." Canada.com (CP) 03/10/04

Is Gay The New Black? "It's never been more fashionable or popular to be gay or lesbian than now, if television coverage is anything to go by. If they're not building or renovating homes, they’re winning Oscars and thanking their boyfriends, getting married in San Francisco, or "zhushing" straight guys. Does this mean queer is the new black?" The Age (Melbourne) 03/12/04

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Culture Capital Is... And the "American Capital of Culture" for 2005 is... (what? You didn't know there was such a thing? Me neither... shhh, just listen...) the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. OK. "The province has been elected as the American Capital of Culture for 2005 by an organization of the same name with headquarters in Barcelona, Spain. A news release from the group says the designation was made to coincide with the province's 100th anniversary. But it's not clear how much money the province would have to spend for that recognition." Canada.com (CP) 03/10/04

Artists For Livingstone How many politicians do you know that artists will get behind and support? So London mayor Ken Livingstone must be one special guy. "With mayoral elections just three months away, a prestigious group of artists have banded together to get Ken Livingstone re-elected as mayor of London." The Guardian (UK) 03/11/04

Florida On Road To Restoring Arts Funding Cuts Florida, which took a big bite out of its arts funding last year, may be ready to restore it. "A House budget panel voted 40-4 for a proposal to allocate $21 million in fees collected annually from corporations to fund state grants to local arts and historic preservation projects." Lakeland Ledger (Florida) 03/10/04

Guilty Or Not, It's A Damned Creepy Way To Make A Living "A German scientist who created an exhibition of human corpses has been cleared of allegations that he illegally obtained some of the bodies. Gunther von Hagens was accused in several press reports last year of using bodies from China and Kyrgyzstan. But prosecutors in Heidelberg, Germany, said the corpses had been sold legally by institutions such as hospitals... Dr von Hagens was allowed to buy the corpses from such institutions because they were legal custodians of the bodies if the relatives of the dead had not claimed them." BBC 03/10/04

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Could Canadian Artists Be Charged With Child Porn? "Under a proposed change to Canada's child pornography law, depictions like that of children in sexual situations could be criminalized, say artists and writers. The proposed change removes 'artistic merit' as a defence for any written or visual material charged under child porn laws. If Bill C-12 is adopted, any film, painting or book depicting sexual activity involving people under 18 can only escape prosecution if a judge rules it serves 'the public good and does not extend beyond the public good'." Toronto Star 03/09/04

Huntington On The Attack (Wow!) Samuel Huntington has sparked a firestorm of controversy. "Writing in the March-April issue of Foreign Policy magazine, Huntington - the noted author, scholar and chairman of Harvard University's Academy for International and Area Studies - has identified a 'major potential threat' to this great nation's 'cultural and political integrity.' The threat is: Mexicans. Other Hispanics, too, but mostly Mexicans." Washington Post 03/09/04

Call It The Christian Counterculture "Rather than rejecting popular culture outright, a growing number of Christians are producing and consuming their own popular media on the fringes of the mainstream entertainment industry. Still others are gathering in church basements and living rooms to promote their own brand of media literacy—seeing commercial culture as a “window” into the culture of unbelievers. What we see here is consistent with what media scholars have found within other subcultural communities—a desire to make and distribute your own media and the desire to challenge and critique mainstream media." Technology Review 03/05/04

Berlin's Future - In Start-Up Creatives? The city of Berlin thought companies would flow into the city to invest after the city was unified. It hasn't happened, and Berlin is broke. Now, small creative enterprises are springing up in vacant buildings across the old East Berlin, "many of them former squatter colonies gone legit. Their stock in trade is art, music, publishing, software. 'You can see them as seedbeds. These developments everywhere in these derelict places are perhaps the best hope the city has for better times'." Washington Post 03/09/04

LA Considers Eliminating Culture Department The city of Los Angeles is facing a budget crisis. So officials are considering "eliminating Los Angeles' Cultural Affairs and Environmental Affairs departments. The Cultural Affairs Department grants about $3 million each year to the arts, offers neighborhood classes for adults and children, oversees a city-owned gallery and theaters, and is in charge of the landmark Watts Towers." Los Angeles Times 03/09/04

Monday, March 8, 2004

The Use Of Dr. Seuss Great to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the creator of Dr. Seuss. "But exactly which Dr. Seuss is being celebrated? Is it the literary Seuss, creator of charmingly anarchic, oddball characters whose adventures are recounted in ingenious nonsense verse? Or is it the Seuss of Hollywood and myriad product tie-ins who has been "interpreted" and marketed and theme-parked within an inch--maybe beyond--of his reputation?" Opinionjournal.com 03/05/04

Scottish Government To Nix Extra Arts Funding Scottish arts groups, looking for more funding, are unlikely to get it from the government. "The Scotsman has learned that the best-case scenario under the Executive’s three-year comprehensive spending review is a 2.5 per cent increase in arts funding, barely in line with inflation. The worst is said to be a cut of as much as 10 per cent." The Scotsman 03/08/04

Safire: The New Improved NEA William Safire has had a change of heart about the National Endowment for the Arts: "Remember the hoo-ha a while back about the funding of edgy art, offensive to some taxpayers, by the National Endowment for the Arts? That controversy is over. The N.E.A. has raised a banner of education and accessibility to which liberal and conservative can repair." The New York Times 03/08/04

Reconsidering the Big Box Approach It's been five years since the announcement of a new £22 million arts center for the city of Belfast, and very little progress seems to have been made. For one thing, not everyone in the arts community wants a big, unwieldy, centralized home for the city's myriad groups, fearing that it will detract from neighborhood-based art. For another, the plans for the center seem as much about revitalizing a run-down section of the city as they do about promoting culture, and many prominent arts groups have already issued a polite "no, thank you" to the invitation. Belfast Telegraph 03/05/04

Playing It Safe In Adelaide "Stephen Page, the artistic director of the 2004 Adelaide Festival that began on February 27 and runs until March 14, has put together a program that, by importing plenty of foreign acts, is intent on making amends for Peter Sellars' home-grown, half-baked fiasco of two years ago... Although he defends the American director's festival as 'the most cutting edge' he has seen in its ambition of embracing community, social and regional concerns - 'it was sloppy; it had no order'. So Page, charged with bringing the the festival back from the brink, which includes regaining corporate confidence and that of the politicians who ran a mile from the Sellars fall-out, has shaped a something-for-everyone program." The Age (Melbourne) 03/08/04

L.A. Culture: No, It's Not An Oxymoron To hear most people tell it, you would think that Los Angeles is a sun-drenched wasteland of zombified Hollywood dunderheads, sipping mineral water while they sit in traffic on their way to yet another insipid premiere. As far as arts and culture go, most East Coasters would probably smirk at the mention of such things existing in L.A. But while the rest of North America looks down its nose, Los Angeles has quietly become one of the continent's best arts towns, and other cities would do well to follow its example, says Martin Knelman. Toronto Star 03/07/04

Friday, March 5, 2004

How To Make A Marxist Turn In His Grave It's difficult to imagine the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara being pleased with the idea of his face being plastered all over posters, t-shirts, umbrellas, and other assorted trinkets. But at some point in recent years, the famous portrait of Guevara was usurped by the bizarre and irony-proof world of high fashion, and now, the face represents nothing more than any other hot look of the current season. "How did an avowed Marxist become, literally, the poster boy for conspicuous capitalist consumption? Is it Che's story that fascinates, or has his memory been usurped by that sole image, one that speaks to a life many know little, if anything, about?" The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 03/05/04

Spawning A New Era Of Copyright Law Author Neil Gaiman has won a major court victory over copyright and intellectual property issues relating to the characters in the comic book Spawn, which Gaiman claimed included characters from his Sandman series, used without his permission. "Intellectual property experts predict the appellate decision will have broader influence on joint authorship issues, giving everyone who participates in a creative work a potential copyright claim." Chicago Tribune 03/05/04

Keeping The Arts Alive In A War Zone Israel is not an easy place to live at the moment, with violence and terrorism seemingly around every corner, and little prospect for short-term improvement. But somehow, Israel's artistic and cultural scene continues to thrive, despite (maybe because of?) the political and ethnic strife. "Cultural life in Israel has always been rich and vibrant, even in times of crisis... This is not simply a boost to the morale; it is something Israelis need." Miami Herald 03/05/04

Thursday, March 4, 2004

UC Davis PAC - And Where Are The Students? The Mondavi performing arts center at the University of California at Davis has a been a success with audiences. But there's one thing - in its first season, the Mondavi center sold only 13 percent of its tickets to students. And why are students saying away? California Aggie (Davis) 03/04/04

There's No Point Trying To Please Everyone "The Canada Council yesterday announced the recipients of this year's Governor-General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts: visual artists Iain Baxter, Eric Cameron, Garry Neill Kennedy and Ian Wallace; sound and performance artists John Oswald and Istvan Kantor; and museum director and First Nations cultural activist Tom Hill. Now the discussion will begin. Is it a good list? Is it a fair list? The G-Gs seems to be the one place where you can never make everybody happy." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/04/04

Finding The Silver Lining Cleveland's proposed "arts tax" went down to defeat at the polls this week, but arts advocates in the area say that they were encouraged by the level of support the idea received, and are looking into other innovative ways of increasing the level of public support for the city's cultural scene. "One strategy under consideration is asking Ohio lawmakers to permit counties to increase user fees such as the real-estate conveyance tax on land sales. Another is to persuade lawmakers to allow counties... whose major municipality has a population under 500,000 people to establish countywide arts districts and levy property-tax increases to support them." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/04/04

  • Previously: Cleveland Arts Tax Fails An ambitious initiative which would have established a dedicated fund for the arts in Northeast Ohio failed at the ballot box in Cleveland on Tuesday. The tax levy was designed to make up for a critical lack of arts and cultural funding in the region, but organizers had a difficult time selling the notion of any new tax to the public, and many felt that the complexity of the funding structure made the initiative difficult to explain. The final vote tally was 54% to 46% against the ballot measure. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/03/04
Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Consolation Prize - Money For Runner-up Cultural Capitals The British government is offering those UK cities that lost out in the compatition for 2008 European Capital of Culture a pot of £15 million to spend on cultural projects. "The lottery-generated money, channelled through the Millennium Commission and the Arts Council, is intended for festivals, exhibitions and other events which show that culture and the arts are contributing to the area's regeneration." The Guardian (UK) 03/03/04

Cleveland Arts Tax Fails An ambitious initiative which would have established a dedicated fund for the arts in Northeast Ohio failed at the ballot box in Cleveland on Tuesday. The tax levy was designed to make up for a critical lack of arts and cultural funding in the region, but organizers had a difficult time selling the notion of any new tax to the public, and many felt that the complexity of the funding structure made the initiative difficult to explain. The final vote tally was 54% to 46% against the ballot measure. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/03/04

Monday, March 1, 2004

A Creative Class That Underperforms? Is Richard Florida's "creative class" idea really a strategy that can help cities prosper? "According to one recent independent study of entrepreneurship in America, Florida’s most creative cities are no more likely to be powerful incubators of fast-growing businesses than those at the bottom of his rankings." City Journal 01/04

Art Of The Terminally Ill A new British festival staged by the terminally ill involves 250 people "ranging in age from 20 to 80, sufferers from cancer, HIV/Aids, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and other incurable conditions. "Among the works awaiting audiences at the Rosetta: Live! festival will be 15 videos made by amateur film-makers, most of whom are no longer alive. There will be performances, music, a mural, installations, workshops, collaborations with established artists including Mike Figgis, the director of Leaving Las Vegas, and talks by experts such as Dr Oliver Sacks." The Observer (UK) 03/01/04

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