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Friday, December 31, 2004

Ireland May End Artists' Tax-Free Status Ireland is going to review its tax policy that allows artists to not pay any taxes. The review is in response to widespread public anger that "millionaires in the music business and other fields have been using relief schemes that allow them, legitimately, to avoid paying any tax on their earnings. The tax free scheme for writers, artists and musicians was introduced more than 30 years ago by former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, an arts patron who was then finance minister. The scheme, unique to Ireland, was intended to show how the country valued artistic and creative talent, as well as being of practical help to struggling artists." The Stage (UK) 12/31/04

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Predicting What Tickets You'll Buy John Elliot is getting attention for his direct marketing analysis of arts audiences and how likely they are to buy tickets for a given show. He has "detailed computer analysis of consumers' purchasing patterns and statistical models to track down the most likely ticket buyers for cultural district shows. His secret weapon? A database of 425,000 households based on 14 years' worth of ticket sales." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12/30/04

The Arts Audience: Last-Minute Buyers The ticket-buying habits of arts groups are changing. "Across the board, concerts in general, everyone is waiting longer to buy tickets than five years ago. It used to be, you had a window that started six weeks out. Now, that's shrunk to three or four weeks, and you see a lot of sales in the week before the concert occurs. The trend creates several problems for performing-arts groups..." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/30/04

101 Culture Highlights Of The New Year Looking to plan your culture calendar for 2005? The Guardian has staked out the 101 culture happenings you don't want to miss... The Guardian (UK) 12/30/04

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Year of Sex & Stupidity There are worse combinations, we suppose, but looking back at what should have been a year of serious debate and international soul-searching, 2004 was instead a year in which television went from covering news in an insipid manner to actually creating its very own insipid storylines which were then imposed on the world with an unforgivable seriousness. "Both in Canada and the United States, television not only reported the news and created hit shows, it also became the news. The sex was more implied than dramatized. The stupidity was to be found in the fuss about it." The Globe & Mail (Caada) 12/29/04

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

In The UK: Proposed Laws Threaten Free Speech The British parliament considers new laws in reaction to violence threatened over a Sikh play in Birmingham. "The fact that we have to be free to outrage one another is potentially in conflict with a law that soon will be put to the Commons that would add 'incitement to religious hatred'--punishable by seven years in prison--to the equally dubious legislation already on the British books banning 'incitement to racial hatred'." OpinionJournal.com 12/28/04

Review-Based Arts Funding - More Money, But... "The Howard model for arts funding was set: if arts organisations wanted more money from government, they should forgo warm, fuzzy talk and instead build a business case based on thorough research. Through its review-driven cultural agenda the Howard Government has given the arts greater funding fillips than most governments. Its record for injecting extra funds into the arts is impressive, up there with the Whitlam, Keating, Kennett and Dunstan administrations. Yet it is not perceived to be an arts-friendly government, and many artists still don't support it." The Australian 12/27/04

An Efficient Freeze? Can an arts funding freeze in the UK be made up by arts organizations becoming more "efficient"? That's the claim, at least. But theatre managers say their operations are already pretty lean... Financial Times 12/28/04

Monday, December 27, 2004

Philanthropic Nature - Britain Lags Behind Breitain's level of charitable giving is quite low, especially compared with America. "Victorian Britain invented modern philanthropy, but in the 20th century an important strand of British opinion, mainly on the left, came to see charity as a poor alternative to state-funded provision, Americans have had no such qualms. Since the time of de Tocqueville's early 19th-century celebration of voluntary associations as a cornerstone of US democracy, philanthropy has enjoyed an honoured place in the American story." Prospect 01/05

Cork Is For Culture Cork, Ireland is about to be crowned the new European Capital of Culture. It's the smallest city to win the title. "An ambitious programme of more than 230 events and projects range from the international to the idiosyncratically local, from Relocation, the pan-European theatrical collaboration which will transform the city centre in the summer, to celebrations of the late rock guitarist and local hero Rory Gallagher, and of the Corkonian passion for Gaelic football and hurling. Meanwhile hundreds of needles have already been clicking for a mammoth textile project, the Knitting Map, the pattern incorporating CCTV street images and satellite imaging." The Scotsman 12/26/04

Culture At War - The Year Pop Culture Was Politics "The past 12 months put forth two faces because American entertainment was riven by partisan politics and the culture wars emanating from them. We saw all the symptoms of split personality play out every day on our TVs, DVDs, CD racks, bookshelves, and movie screens, in reds and blues that rarely blended into a peaceful and Princely purple. Even the most benign of pop provocations -- a metal-clad aureole, stage prattle from Linda Ronstadt, ''Saving Private Ryan" -- were transformed into politically divisive events analyzed relentlessly on talk radio." Boston Globe 12/26/04

Friday, December 24, 2004

Sikhs Lose In Play Controversy Who loses in the controversy over shutting down a Sikh play in Birmingham? Britain's Sikh community. "In a single act the community has overturned years of hard work and reverted to type as a militant tradition fixated with narrow communal interests. Doubtless the mobilisation will be seen as another nail in the coffin of freedom of speech, coming close on the heels of the murder of Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands and the proposed legislation on incitement to religious hatred. What these interpretations overlook, however, is the pioneering role of Sikhs in framing British multiculturalism, the contribution - unwittingly - of the British state in promoting the idiom of religion in public life, and the deep tensions within the Sikh community itself that have produced such a play." The Guardian (UK) 12/24/04

Thursday, December 23, 2004

That's The Ticket Many of Toledo's arts groups are banding together in an effort to devlop a joint ticketing service which would save them all money on their individual box office costs, and make it easier for patrons to plan their nights out. "The idea was generated at a series of town-hall meetings about the arts in 2002 and 2003. The strategic plan that grew out of those meetings recommended more collaboration and a calendar of events. An on-line calendar - www.toledoarts.org - has been established." Toledo Blade 12/23/04

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Artists Sign Letter Of Support For Sikh Playwright More than 700 artists have signed a letter of support for Sikh playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, who has gone into hiding after her play was threatened with violent demonstrations. "Actors, writers, directors and others - ranging from Prunella Scales to Tariq Ali, via Terry Jones and the poet laureate, Andrew Motion - have signed the statement, published today in the Guardian." The Guardian (UK) 12/23/04

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

In The UK: Public Summit On Free Speech UK community and arts leaders are brokering a public summit to talk about free speech issues after a play was shut down in Birmingham. "Two official bodies - the Commission for Racial Equality and Arts Council England, will jointly broker the discussions, which aim to quell future clashes between religious believers and artists. The debate over the drama - which depicts rape and murder in a Sikh temple - has provoked warnings that "mob rule" will intimidate artists into self-censorship, while religious groups have warned that freedom of speech is being abused as a licence for gratuitous offence." The Guardian (UK) 12/22/04

Cleveland's Culture Crisis Cleveland arts groups have experienced a significant downturn in business, selling fewer tickets. "Some blame temporary causes, like the continuing bad economy. Other short-term explanations include lingering worries about terrorism and the war in Iraq, and distraction during and disappointment (in some quarters) with the presidential election. Others suggest paradigm shifts to which the performing arts may be hard-pressed to adapt." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/21/04

Monday, December 20, 2004

Irish Arts Council Gets Funding Boost The Irish Arts Council is getting a 16 percent increase in funding. "Some €61 million in funding has been allocated to the body for 2005. The council said the 16 per cent increase will be passed on directly to artists and arts organisations. The largest increases were for the film and traditional arts sectors, which received increases of 22 per cent and 18 per cent respectively." Eircom.net 12/20/04

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Streetside Stores Rally To Compete Against E-Tailers The idea that people will buy all their music, movies and books online is just wrong. Look at how savvy bookstores, record stores and video rental companies are changing the customer experience. "It's the customer - that would be you - who designs the shopping experience now. The notion that all books and discs will soon be bought online, or that independent stores must be crushed between e-tailers and chains, ignores how inseparable 'shopping' is from 'lifestyle'." Denver Post 12/19/04

Deep Freeze - UK Artists Betrayed Why were British artists so upset at the arts funding freeze announced last week? Because for the past few years, for the first time in a long time, arts funding had become significant. "Across the country, thousands of artists and thousands of projects have been properly funded for the first time in living memory. For the first time in our professional lives there has been money for experiment, money for growth, money for creative investment. A revolution occurred in Sheffield, where Michael Grandage turned the new money into world-class theatre. At Tate Modern and the National Theatre, visionary leadership has been rewarded with substantial investment and the results are palpable success. Give the RSC a couple of years and it will join them. There is no doubt that this investment was creating a cultural golden age in Britain." The Guardian (UK) 12/18/04

Canadian Arts Minister Under Attack For Premature Funding Canada's heritage minister is under attack for announcing $191 million in next year's arts funding instead of waiting until the government's general budget is presented to parliament. "The minister said she had to take the step to ensure arts and culture projects wouldn't be interrupted next year." Edmonton Sun 12/17/04

Comparing Arts Spending In The UK And US (It's Not Pretty) So the UK is holdings its arts budget steady for a couple of years. And the US is increasing its arts spending. Woo hoo US! Except when you see how far behind in spending on the arts the US, the situation is pretty bleak. "Divide by population, and it comes out that, in England, the government spends a little less than $16 for every man, woman and child on the arts. In the United States, per-capita federal spending on the arts works out to a measly 54 cents." St. Pail Pioneer-Press 12/19/04

Friday, December 17, 2004

Canada Renewing Commitment To Public Arts Funding The Canadian government's renewal of the arts funding program known as Tomorrow Starts Today, which had cultural organizations across the country breathing a sigh of relief, was far from a foregone conclusion. Arts advocates had spent months lobbying new Heritage Minister Liza Frulla to insure that the program, which was launched in 2001, would not fall victim to the budget knife. Now, with funding secured through mid-2006, Frulla is predicting that she may have more good news for the arts when the new national budget is released early next year. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/17/04

Talking 'Bout A Content Revolution The Federal Trade Commission brought representatives of the recording industry together with purveyors of peer-to-peer file sharing networks last week for a two-day workshop designed to find common ground between the warring factions. There doesn't appear to be much, but at the very least, such face-to-face meetings take away both sides' ability to posture, and force everyone involved to consider the logic of the opposing position. Still, peer-to-peer network operators insist that the recording industry isn't interested in any partnership that doesn't completely wipe out file sharing, and solutions appear to be a long way off. Wired 12/17/04

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Now In Pop Culture - The Big Discussion (Literally) "Discussions about body size are on the upswing, as pop culture - apparently trying to keep pace with news reports about obesity among Americans - is generating entertainment that deals with being fat. From Broadway to books, reality TV to the movies, the lives of the overweight are being mined for laughs and drama - giving a voice to those who typically don't get heard, and testing the theory that society is becoming more tolerant of bigger bodies." Christian Science Monitor 12/17/04

Swiss Cut National Arts Budget Because Of Controversial Exhibit The Swiss parliament has voted to cut the budget of the Swiss Arts Council because it supported a controversial exhibition in Paris. "Entitled “Swiss-Swiss Democracy”, the exhibition contains an attack on the justice minister and rightwing People’s Party figurehead, Christoph Blocher. It also takes aim at the country’s system of direct democracy." Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland) 12/16/04

Theatres Vs. Cell Phones Theatres and concert halls are going to greater and great lengths to try to get audiences to turn off their cell phones during performances. How about this pitch in a San Francisco theatre: "Dinner for two before the show: $60. Parking for the evening: $18. Ninety minutes of live entertainment without the annoyance of ringing cell phones, beeping pagers or chatty neighbors: priceless. Thank you and enjoy the show." San Francisco Chronicle 12/16/04

Jowell: Arts Funding Freeze Won't Hurt Arts British culture minister Tessa Jowell says that it is untrue that arts funding will suffer because of a budget freeze over the next few years. "According to Ms Jowell, £53m will be freed up through running existing arts programmes more smoothly, and through efficiencies at the council." The Guardian (UK) 12/16/04

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

In Canada: Young Audiences At More Performances Statistics Canada reports that young people are a large proportion of the country's arts audiences. "Young people attended a total of 13,500 performances in theatre, dance, music and opera in 2003, accounting for about one-quarter of the attendance figures, according to a new study from the government agency. In all, 3.8 million young people attended performances in 2003. That compares with 3.6 million in 2001 and 3.4 million in 1999." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/15/04

Will Barnes Ruling Hinder Bequests? The ruling in the Barnes Foundation case, breaking the founder's trust and moving the institution to downtown Philadelphia may bode ill for philanthropy in Pennsylvania. What donor won't be afraid that a bequest might later be broken? "It cannot help but encourage courts to act more assertively to alter donations that trustees or political officials, such as state attorneys general, regard as antiquated or problematic." OpinionJournal 12/16/04

Canada Renews Crucial Arts Funding Program "The sense of dread engulfing Canada's arts community is about to be lifted — for now. Canadian Heritage Minister Liza Frulla will announce today that Ottawa is renewing its Tomorrow Starts Today arts-funding program, the Toronto Star has learned. That translates into about $200 million for 12 months starting April 1, 2005. The decision comes after months of fierce lobbying and parliamentary hearings, as well as fear, anger and frustration. And it removes a big black cloud hanging over the cultural world. The program, which has pumped more than $750 million into the arts over the past four years, was heading for a sunset on March 31, which would have been devastating." Toronto Star 12/15/04

You Pay The Piper, You Call The Tune The regional government of Wales has announced that it will be bypassing the UK's Arts Council and taking over the fiscal management of all the major Welsh arts groups immediately. The change marks a dramatic shift in the way the arts are funded and managed in the UK, as politicians and bureaucrats will now have absolute authority over the affected groups, without the usual democratic council of experts acting as middleman. Strangely, no one in the Welsh arts community seems to be protesting too loudly. The Times (UK) 12/15/04

Major Moves At SPAC The chairman of New York State's embattled Saratoga Performing Arts Center has resigned in the wake of a scathing audit which accused the center of absentee management and severe negligence in its oversight of one of the Northeast's prominent summer arts venues. The SPAC board also canceled its planned $400,000 buyout of its president, Herb Chesbrough, which was specifically targeted for withering criticism by the auditors. The Saratogian (NY) 12/15/04

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

New Barnes Key To Philly Arts Boulevard? With the addition of the Barnes and the possibility of a new Calder Museum, Philadelphia's Franklin Parkway might indeed become a long-envisioned grand arts boulevard. "The Parkway, of course, already has a lot going for it. The area is home to the Art Museum, the Rodin Museum, the Free Library, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Moore College. But there are huge gaps along the broad, tree-lined boulevard that make it hard for visitors and natives alike to think of the 1.1 miles from LOVE Park to the Art Museum as an entity." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/14/04

Monday, December 13, 2004

UK Freezes Arts Spending English arts funding is being frozen through 2008, which means a net decline in cultural spending. "Based on a Treasury estimate of inflation at 2.7%, its grant will be worth £10m less in the financial years 2006-7 and £20m less in 2007-8, meaning a total real-term shortfall of £30m." The Guardian (UK) 12/14/04

  • Arts Funding Seesaw Bad For UK Arts The British government's arts funding plan is ill-advised. "Arts organisations were braced for a tough few years following the last spending review, but the decision to tilt the flow of funds so strongly from one sector (arts) to another (museums) goes against the grain. All arts and culture organisations ask for one thing: not bottomless pockets but reliable funding. Sudden sharp changes in who gets funds and who does not sets off a see-sawing of resources." The Guardian (UK) 12/14/04

  • UK Arts Funding Freeze Will Kill Momentum Government plans to see a "4.6 per cent cut in support for English Heritage, an allocation for museums and galleries which falls far short of previous demands and budgets frozen in the performing arts. From heritage bodies, through theatre chiefs to museum directors, all expressed concern that the genuine progress of recent years would be stalled and potentially reversed by the deal." The Independent (UK) 12/14/04

  • Arts Leaders Angry At UK Arts Funding Cut Arts leaders reacted angrily to news that the British government intends to freeze cultural spending until 2008. This means a net decline in arts spending. "Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre, said he was mystified by the decision. 'The achievements [of the past few years] will not be lost overnight; we will cope. But it is at the edge that has been most exciting and progressive that the arts will be forced to compromise'." The Guardian (UK) 12/14/04

South Africa Disbands Arts Council South Africa's Minister of Arts and Culture has dissolved the country's National Arts Council. Based on consultations, he is "satisfied that the NAC as presently constituted has lost the confidence of the arts community and is not in a position to carry out the responsibilities assigned to it." Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 12/14/04

Sunday, December 12, 2004

In Minnesota: Arts Giving Up, Social Services Down "In all, Minnesota's 12 largest arts organization -- driven largely by proceeds from major capital campaigns -- saw total revenue rise 18.1 percent. Meanwhile, total revenue generated by the state's 29 largest social service agencies -- from Lutheran Social Services to Catholic Charities to the Salvation Army -- fell 4.4 percent." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 12/12/04

SF Postpones Consideration of Cutting Ballet, Opera And Symphony Funding A proposal in San Francisco to "strip public funding from the Opera, Symphony and Ballet to help plug a projected $97 million hole in the municipal budget has been put on hold." San Francisco Chronicle 12/10/04

Learning The Lessons Of North Adams Could the success of MassMOCA in revitalizing the town of North Adams be repeated elsewhere? Researchers are planning to find out. "The question is, can this be translated to other communities as a model, or are there special things about North Adams that have contributed to its growth? That's what we're trying to find out." Berkshire Eagle 12/12/04

Philly's Christmas Glut The end-of-the-year holiday season is make-or-break time for many performing arts groups, and in large cities like Philadelphia, where dozens of groups are competing for audience, getting a big enough slice of the ticket revenue pie becomes crucial, and difficult. "In the last three years, the Philadelphia Orchestra has added eight holiday concerts, supplementing its traditional two performances of Handel's Messiah and its yearly New Year's Eve concert. The Philly Pops, which in 2000 gave its first holiday-themed concert, now offers six. The Kimmel Center itself also has added holiday shows such as the Vienna Boys Choir. Smaller arts groups also are relying ever more heavily on holiday receipts." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/12/04

Supreme Court To Hear File-Sharing Arguments "The Supreme Court agreed Friday to consider whether two internet file-sharing services may be held responsible for their customers' online swapping of copyright songs and movies. Justices will review a lower ruling in favor of Grokster and StreamCast Networks that came as a blow to recording companies and movie studios seeking to stop the illegal distribution of their works... The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in August that file-sharing services were not responsible because they don't have central servers pointing users to copyright material." Wired (AP) 12/11/04

Friday, December 10, 2004

Proposal: Cut SF Arts Funding The chairman of San Francisco's budget committee last week "recommended taking roughly $800,000 from the combined budgets of the opera, symphony and ballet in order to keep more social services afloat during mid-year reductions. The sum equates to half The City's current backing, which performing arts supporters point out has already been reduced by 25 percent." San Francisco Examiner 12/10/04

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Mixed Year For Arts Funding In Congress How did the arts make out in the US Congressional session just closing? Well, the extra $18 million President Bush requested for the National Endowment for the Arts got cut to $2 million. But also Congress ignored Bush's proposal to cut $35 million from arts in education funds. So a mixed result... And things arenh't likely to change much in the new Congress... Back Stage 12/09/04

Chinese Intellectuals Under Fire Again Public intellectual debate has been on the rise in China in the past few years as the economy opened up. But the new openness may be closing up quickly. "A scathing commentary on the list, published last month by a Shanghai newspaper and republished by the party's main mouthpiece, People's Daily, said that promoting the idea of “public intellectuals” was really aimed at “driving a wedge between intellectuals and the party.” The window for free debate that opened a crack over the past couple of years, as China's leadership shifted to the “fourth generation” of leaders, is closing again." The Economist 12/09/04

Melbourne's New Theatre Complex Melbourne is getting a new theatre complex, and the architecture is firmly contemporary. "The $91 million project combines two buildings - one providing a new home for the Melbourne Theatre Company and the other housing the city's first purpose-built recital hall for acoustic music. They will be built on a car park opposite the ABC headquarters." The Age (Melbourne) 12/10/04

Your First Hit's Free; Then You Pay A discount ticket program aimed at college students has been quite successful at drawing young adults to arts events in Pittsburgh, but some in the city's arts community have begun to question whether the cheap (and sometimes free) tickets will ever actually translate into a new generation of paid subscribers. Still, the program represents an important revenue source for performing arts groups in a time of fiscal uncertainty. And the program's coordinator claims that more and more students lured in by an initial freebie are taking advantage of discount ticket offers. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12/09/04

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Dismay Agenda - Homophobe Invited By Bush To White House The Alabama state legislator who has introduced a bill to ban books that "promote homosexuality" has been invited by George Bush to the White House. "Traditional family values are under attack. They've been under attack "for the last 40 years". The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is "Hollywood, the music industry". We have an obligation to "save society from moral destruction". We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from "re-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children". We have to "protect Alabamians". The Guardian (UK) 12/10/04

Australia Council Strategy - Fewer Projects, More Money "The idea is to spend more on fewer projects but ones that the council hopes will excite Australian audiences. A $9 million fund will be set up to drive strategic initiatives, which could include more international touring, support for indigenous art and education projects. Heads of art-form boards will be given greater power and will be encouraged to apply to the fund with important projects." The Australian 12/09/04

  • Critics Blast Australia Council Overhaul As part of the Australian government's restructuring of the Australia Council, the Community Cultural Development Board and New Media Arts Board are to be abolished. Critics were quick to pounce: "It's a fairly appalling decision made by people who clearly have very little comprehension of what contemporary arts is all about. They have shown a complete disregard for any idea of progress." Sydney Morning Herald 12/09/04

Claim: Australia Council Reorg Will Mean Higher Profile For Arts Directors of the Australia Council say their reorganization of the agency will up the profile of an arts agenda. "We are trying to make sure the arts are a vibrant part of society's agenda, and the Australia Council needs to be seen as a driver of change and a strategic, impactful organisation that makes important and interesting things happen." Sydney Morning Herald 12/09/04

UK's Arts Boom - But Where's The Beef? The UK National Lottery has funded some 53 arts centers at a cost of about half a billion pounds. "We're witnessing an expansion of national arts facilities on a par with the nineteenth century, when local philanthropists and businessmen funded art galleries, theatres and concert halls across Britain. But the striking feature of today's cultural institutions is that they don't seem to be based on an artistic agenda." spiked-online 12/07/04

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Australia Council To Be Rethought The Australia Council, the federal government's main arts funding body, is being restructured. "On the chopping block are the council's new media and community cultural development boards, which give grants respectively to artists working in new media, and with communities such as disadvantaged youth, prison inmates and the homeless. It is believed some of the operations of those boards will be handled elsewhere in the organisation. The restructure is the outcome of a six-month review of the council's operations." The Australian 12/08/04

Better Times For South Florida Arts Arts funding is looking up in South Florida. "Here in South Florida, the Miami-Dade County populace voted on Nov. 2 to spend nearly $553 million for arts and culture. That was just one of eight categories on a $2.9 billion bond issue, each of which passed ballot muster." The Sun-Sentinel (Florida) 12/05/04

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Why Copyright Matters America's major entertainment unions and associations are taking a hard line on copyright infringement. "The question is not whether the technology is good or bad -- it simply is. The question is how we create a model which allows consumers the widest access and choices while ensuring that individual artists can sustain a career and continue to create. It is easy to attack the 'establishment' and the litigation-based solutions they are employing to try and deal with piracy. What is harder is to reconcile the fact that free access has a direct link to loss of income for individual actors and recording artists which, in turn, can result in everything from the loss of health and retirement benefits to the inability to continue to support a family or pursue a chosen career. " Back Stage 12/03/04

A Christmas Fantasy All these Christmas shows. Really. There are too many of them. And how can you see most of them in a busy season? So why not put them all on a rolling parade and let people sit in one place while their favorite festivities roll by. Let's call it "Let's Roll." Tom Proehl, organizer of "Let's Roll!" and managing director of the Guthrie Theater, said, "The aesthetic synergies and economies of scale will benefit both audiences and arts organizations alike. Instead of deciding which of the many holiday shows to see, patrons can get the best of the Twin Cities performing arts in one sitting." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 12/04/04

Attack Of The Killer Logo The new Connecticut uber-agency on culture and tourism needed a logo. So a design firm came up with an abstract logo meant to evoke the agency's diverse mandate. Now there are big protests. "Instead of criticizing the art ("Have a conversation about art? Not me!") they attacked the cost. "This thing cost $10,000!" Of course, focusing on the final price tag disregards that such designs can cost much more (Hartford Stage's new logo went well above $10,000); that the fee included months of meetings with state committees; that this was a Connecticut designer with a world-class reputation giving a deep discount. Hartford Courant 12/04/04

Beijing Bans Public Intellectuals "Late last month, reports began to surface on foreign newswires that hard-liners in the Chinese government had banned public discussion of thinkers and scholars guilty of taking "arrogant" (read: independent) positions on political and social affairs. In mid-November, Beijing's Publicity Department, which is responsible for "ideological control," issued an order to prohibit state-run newspapers, magazines, and TV stations from creating lists of such persons." Boston Globe 12/04/04

Buenos Aries Regains Its Groove Buenos Aries had one of the world's great cultural scenes in the 1960s and 70s, seemingly pointing to better times ahead. "But the world did not take the turn they were all expecting for it to take. The times that followed were hard and painful. Dreams were trashed by the world's powerful. The following decades to this cultural impasse can be described as the entering into the system's main flow of mass production and consumption." Now there are signs that Buenos Aries is regaining its groove. Buzzle 12/02/04

The Lighter Side of Contract Negotiations Lots of arts organizations negotiated new contracts with their musicians, dancers, and stagehands this year, and while the resulting documents usually make for fairly dull reading, there are a few notable contractual oddities scattered across the vast union landscape. The San Francisco Symphony notes that "the music of Ludwig van Beethoven need not be performed at Beethoven festivals." Cleveland Orchestra musicians taller than 6'4" are entitled to exit-row or bulkhead seating on tour flights. And dancers at the Houston Ballet Theater get a $47 bonus if they are required to simulate diving into a lake. The New York Times 12/05/04

Finally, Some Good News From Florida It's been a rough few years for the arts in South Florida, but recent trends seem to be signaling that better times are ahead. The state legislature has begun "rebuilding arts appropriations stripped during last year's cultural cleansing. Private and corporate philanthropy increased significantly this year... [and] the Miami-Dade County populace voted on Nov. 2 to spend nearly $553 million for arts and culture." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 12/05/04

Cheating The Arts In KC? Plans for Kansas City's huge new performing arts complex stalled recently after the city manager proposed moving the center's parking garage one block east. The center's backers claim that the new location, which is down a steep hill from the entrance, will be a major inconvenience for patrons, and several outside experts are now claiming that the move wouldn't actually save the city any money, either. "Some arts leaders are feeling like the poor cousins of downtown development: Making the garage more convenient to sports and entertainment and less convenient to the arts, they say, points to the city's relative lack of interest in the role of the arts in downtown's resurrection." Kansas City Star 12/05/04

Stern Family Battling Over Estate The former executor of the estate of violinist Isaac Stern paid himself outlandish fees, sold off assets without authorization, and effectively cut the Stern family out of the estate, according to a $2.25 million lawsuit filed by the late performer's children. The suit further claims that the executor worked in collaboration with Stern's third wife to deprive the family of their rightful inheritance. "The court documents open a window into the troubled affairs of a man known largely for his musical achievements." Newsweek 12/13/04

Friday, December 3, 2004

Arts Funding Cuts For Northern Ireland Artists are protesting the Northern Ireland government's plan to slash arts spending next year. "The government has proposed funding will be cut by more than 10% over the next three years. That would mean spending being slashed from £14.5m per year to £13m per year by 2007. The Arts Council believes if the cuts go ahead many artists and organisations will not survive." BBC 12/03/04

Thursday, December 2, 2004

What Audiences Saw What In Australia Last Year "A report released by the Australia Council shows the Melbourne Theatre Company topping the list of the 10 biggest ticket-sellers in 2003, with 322,000 tickets sold. Opera Australia came second, with 284,000 tickets, and the Sydney Theatre Company third, with 274,000. Last year's report on 2002 ticket sales had Opera Australia at the top of the list, with 263,000, and the MTC second with 251,000." The Age (Melbourne) 12/02/04

Arts Transformation In South Africa Has Failed Attempts to transform South Africa's culture since apartheid have failed, says the country's culture minister. "These problems were attributed to the legacy left by apartheid plus a skills shortage. Dismantling the legacy of apartheid had taken a lot of time and energy." Independent Online (South Africa) 12/02/04

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Do Culture Wars Mean Ignoring Science? In Pennsylvania and elsewhere in America, culture wars are heating up in schools. A drive to include creationism in textbooks is emboldened by the recent election. Some schools also propose censoring school reading lists of "immorality" or 'foul language' and to allow the distribution of Bibles in schools. "In Texas, the nation's second-biggest school textbook market, the State Board of Education approved health textbooks that defined abstinence as the only form of contraception and changed the description of marriage between 'two people' to 'a lifelong union between a husband and a wife'." San Francisco Chronicle 11/30/04

Arkansas - Where Arts Education Matters Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has made arts education a priority of his administration: "It’s a critical part of the education of any child. A part of what I feel like I have to do is help superintendents, school chiefs and other governors realize that they’ll be leaving a lot of children behind if they don’t put a focus on arts education." Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 12/01/04

Arts Funding, Jersey Style (It Helps To Have Connections) Three New Jersey arts groups split $1.2 million from special allocations determined by members of the state legislature. The grants did not go through the traditional arts funding process. "The politicians conferred with members of the Treasury's Division of Administration to decide the grants. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the state agency that already distributed $22.7 million to arts organizations this year, was not consulted." Newark Star-Ledger 12/01/04

Congress Rebuffs Bush Effort To Boost NEA Funding A new appropriations bill is set to be approved by the U.S. Congress without an $18 million special allotment to the National Endowment for the Arts that President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush had specifically lobbied for. "'American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius,' was meant to be a chance to reacquaint people with the best of American dance, theater, jazz, classical music, literature and other arts, extending the NEA's reach into communities all over the country, giving members of Congress bragging rights about how they were bringing home artistic pork and insulating the agency from political critics." But Congress has allotted only $2 million for the project, which will have to be scaled back considerably. Washington Post 12/01/04

Bigger May Not Be Better For The Arts The city of Richmond, Virginia, is contructing a beautiful new performing arts center as part of an effort to revitalize its downtown. But not everyone is happy about the project - two local writers have created a weblog called SaveRichmond.com, which takes aim at the PAC as an expensive plaything for the elite, and asserts that the city "should work with its artists, musicians and entrepreneurs to build a vibrant and diverse 'street-level' arts scene." The critics also claim that the planners of the PAC don't know anything about arts administration, and accuses the center's board of using "dodgy finances" to hide its inability to raise money. Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch 12/01/04

Fund All You Want, We'll Make More Canada has a long history of government support for the arts. But "over the past 20 years, as activity in the arts has grown, federal funding has remained fairly stable. The result has been that the proportion of federal funding in the revenues of Canadian arts organizations has dropped by half." It's an uncomfortable situation - can you ever really have too much art, and even if you can, how do you decide who is worthy of support and who isn't? Governments don't generally like to be in the business of making value judgments, but without a serious increase in arts funding, many fear that Canada will soon have no other choice. Toronto Star 12/01/04

Chicago Sued For Intentional Mutilation of Flowers A 72-year-old Chicago man who designed, planted, and maintained a massive wildflower garden on the city's North Side, is suing the city for destroying his creation to make way for the increased foot traffic to the new Millenium Park. The lawsuit contends that the wildflowers were not merely a garden, but a work of art, and as such, they should have been protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act, a federal law prohibiting "'intentional distortion, mutilation, or other modification' of public artwork without permission of the creator." Chicago Sun-Times 12/01/04

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