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Monday, January 31, 2005

Sprucing Up London's "Intellectual Highway" Plans have been announced to spend £35 million to redo an urban corridor in London that is home to one of the biggest concentrations of cultural institutions in the world. "On and around the road are institutions including the V&A, Science and Natural History Museums, Imperial College, the Royal Colleges of Art and Music, the Goethe Institute and Institut Français, the English National Ballet, and the Royal Geographical Society." The street needs to be made more accessible, turning it into "the most significant intellectual highway in Britain". The Guardian (UK) 01/31/05

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Strathmore - Suburban Culture, Urban Ambition The new Strathmore Music Center in a Maryland suburb of Washington DC is an ambitious undertaking for a suburb. Benjamin Forgey writes that "the $100 million center is a traditional urban institution in a fast-changing suburban setting. It'll contribute most significantly to the cultural life of its home county, of course, but, with the Baltimore Symphony treating it as a 'second home,' it'll add choices for many music lovers in the metropolitan area. The architecture itself will be an attraction, eventually. In an age of prominent, in-your-face, innovative civic architecture, the center is a deceptive exception." Washington Post 01/30/05

The Anti-Gay Agenda Protests over SpongeBob, complaints over gay being shown on a PBS cartoon, books that even mention homosexuality being taken off library shelves in Mississippi. What's going on? "If you are a recently re-elected president with a strong conservative Christian base, and some elements of that base are throwing hissy fits over a sponge and a bunny or what's on a university library shelf, it takes unwanted attention away from larger, more politically challenging matters relating to same-sex marriage bans, or free-marketing Social Security, or strengthening the anti-abortion movement -- a movement that, as President Bush vowed on Jan. 24, 'will not fail.' The culture wars aren't won on the battlefield. They're won by playing a good shell game." Chicago Tribune 01/30/05

Aiming For A More Transparent SPAC As a new management team begins to rebuild the mess left behind by the previous administration at upstate New York's Saratoga Performing Arts Center, details are emerging that paint a bleak picture of SPAC's previous management practices. Still, the center's new treasurer is already hard at work sketching a new path for SPAC's fundraising apparatus and fiscal management, and like the rest of the new leadership team, he talks a great deal about bringing a new "transparency" to the organization. The Saratogian (NY) 01/29/05

Friday, January 28, 2005

In Virginia: Squabbling Over An Arts Funding Plan There's a proposal in Virginia for the state to borrow $86 million for arts and cultural projects. But officials in Hampton Roads and the mayors of Norfolk and Virginia Beach said their cities are being shortchanged since 35 percent of the funds go to Richmond. Then there is the state legislator who attacks the funding plan as "vulgar." Virginia Pilot 01/28/05

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Seattle's 911 Hits The Skids Another Seattle arts group is facing a crisis. 911 Media Center has laid off three of its five staff, and is cutting back after a costly move and a downturn in fundrasing. "The immediate problem is money, but the real problem is a crisis the organization survived two years ago, when a four-person board out of touch with the membership fired a popular and effective director and triggered a membership revolt." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 01/27/05

Canada To Name Toronto Cultural Capital The Canadian government plans to name Toronto the "cultural capital of Canada" and give the city $500,000 for that designation, effective this September through August, 2006. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/27/05

UK Watchdog Warns Of Ticket Rip Offs The UK's Office of Fair Trading says that ticket resellers are often gouging customers with fees up to 600 percent of ticket face value. "Some reputable agents add 67 per cent to the face value of pop concert tickets bought on the internet while additional charges of 40 per cent are not uncommon, the report found. One in three people surveyed by the OFT during its seven-month investigation complained that booking fees for concerts, theatre and sports events had been higher than expected." The Telegraph (UK) 01/27/05

New Fees Threaten Outdoor UK Performances A new law before the British Parliament institutes new fees for outdoor performances. "Events attracting audiences of 5,000 people or more will be required to make a one-off payment of between £1,000 and £64,000 on top of their public entertainment licence, which will cost between £100 and £635. While organisers of large commercial programmes will be able to incorporate the extra costs into the price of their tickets, industry figures have warned that large-scale community and not for profit events will no longer be able to function when the additional charge is incorporated into their budgets." The Stage (UK) 01/27/05

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Edinburgh Festivals And Their £135 million Impact A new study says that the Edinburgh Festival generates £135 million for Scotland’s economy and generates 2,900 full-time jobs. So the Festivals will try to make a case for more public investment in the annual arts fests... The Stage (UK) 01/26/05

Monday, January 24, 2005

Culture Wars Make Everyone Look Bad Christian "outrage" over the BBC's broadcast of Jerry Springer, The Opera is cynical. But no one comes out of these debates well. "If the religious thrive on a feeling of persecution, so do artists. They have shouted censorship in response to what in some cases is no more than a consumer boycott. (Violence and intimidation are a different matter, of course.) On Millian grounds, no liberal society should forbid behaviour that is offensive to others without causing any actual harm, and to that extent the BBC's decision to show Jerry Springer must be right. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the controversial elements of the opera are present only to produce a lazy frisson in the audience. In a society as secular as the UK, mocking religious pieties has power only parasitically." Financial Times 01/24/05

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Taking Stock In San Antonio A new study indicates that residents of San Antonio enjoy art and cultural events, but are increasingly frustrated with the lack of financial support given to the organizations that make up the city's cultural scene. More than two-thirds of residents even support a $5-per-capita hike in the amount the city spends on the arts, which is significant when you consider how Texans normally feel about tax increases. But San Antonio's real cultural problem has never been the public sector, but private donors and foundations who either don't give nearly as much as their counterparts in other cities, or who give without any real understanding of where their money is going. San Antonio Current 01/20/05

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Are Suburbs The New Arts Capitals? "At a time when many cities are basing their long-term hope on exploiting their traditional dominance in arts-related industries, the suburbs are beginning to provide some serious competition for both patrons and donors. This evolution has its roots in basic demography and economic trends. Since 1960, more than 90% of all population growth in America's metropolitan areas has taken place in suburbia. Today roughly two out of three people in large metropolitan areas live in the suburbs." OpinionJournal.com 01/18/05

Shouldn't Some Arts Institutions Be Allowed To Die? So some Seattle arts groups find themselves financially imperiled. Again. Who says, asks Roger Downey, that failing arts groups ought to be bailed out just because they're arts groups? "Even individual artists are expected to live by the economic rules that govern all the rest of us. Somehow only arts organizations are allowed to claim immunity from the laws of financial gravity; for them, there's no connection between supply and demand, balanced budgets are for profiteers and sissies, and water runs uphill when we tell it to." Seattle Weekly 01/19/05

New Leadership at SPAC Upstate New York's embattled Saratoga Performing Arts Center has chosen a well-connected state Senate aid to replace longtime President Herb Chesbrough, who is leaving under a cloud after a scathing report took the center to task for its shoddy management practices. Marcia White, who will earn less than half the annual salary that Chesbrough enjoyed as president, will take over the running of SPAC in March, and plans to spend her first few months developing a new business plan for the center. The Saratogian (NY) 01/19/05

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Texas Arts - Up 400 Percent, Funding Down 4 Percent In the past 20 year the number of arts organizations in Texas has increased by 400 percent. In the same period, public funding for the arts has actually decreased by 4 percent. How to do so much more with less? Houston Chronicle 01/15/05

Charlotte Proposes Arts Building Plan Members of Charlotte's city government propose spending $130 million on new arts facilities. "Supporters of the plan -- which was unveiled at Monday's City Council meeting -- say it would mark a dramatic shift in public funding for the arts, with an emphasis on building venues and a drastic reduction for the various arts groups in subsidies for operating expenses such as utilities, janitorial services and minor maintenance." Charlotte Business Journal 01/16/05

Monday, January 17, 2005

Architects Treading Carefully In Tsunami-Ravaged Asia The architecture world has been profoundly generous in its response to the Asian tsunami disaster, sending large donations and offering expertise in rebuilding a good-sized chunk of several countries. But all the good will in the world doesn't make the decision-making regarding reconstruction any easier, and many in Asia are worried that governments will approve the construction of a large number of concrete and prefab housing units just to appear to be doing something. Those on the ground say that what is really needed is "architectural acupuncture, knowing what to do where, marrying local traditions with global expertise." The Times (UK) 01/18/05

Whatever Happened To The Public Domain? As U.S. copyright rules have tilted ever more strictly towards the original holders, artists and filmmakers who created work under far different regulations are increasingly finding themselves out in the cold. As the limited permissions documentary filmmakers negotiated with copyright holders of news footage expire, older documentaries such as the award-winning Eyes on the Prize are having to be pulled from circulation completely. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/17/05

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Is Pop Killing British Culture? The managing director of the London Philharmonia is sounding the alarm about what he views as an unstoppable erosion of British high culture under the juggernaut of commercially-driven pop. "Thanks to a relentless diet of pop and dance music, television theme tunes and a growing cultural ignorance, most of his potential audience only hears classical music at the cinema. If it were not for foreign visitors and tourists, he claims, most classical concerts in Britain would be played to almost empty halls." The Observer (UK) 01/16/05

Cooperation Ain't The Way Cleveland arts groups have been ratcheting up efforts to improve the city's cultural scene, but many have discovered that joining forces can be the most effective way to compete in a world with seemingly endless entertainment options. "So why aren't the creators of two significant new Cleveland arts festivals working together?" The Cleveland Play House is planning a theater and arts festival for May 2006, but the creators of a Labor Day arts-and-technology festival will beat them to the punch by nine months. So why not let two become one? Well, for one thing, the Play House's artistic director thinks that Labor Day weekend is "box office poison." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 01/15/05

Friday, January 14, 2005

Is Copyright An Immoral Monopoly? Extension of copyright is all the rage lately, with companies and individuals scrambling to protect their exclusive rights to various moneymaking characters, songs, and images. On the surface, such protection seems at least somewhat reasonable, but isn't the public interest hurt when the government repeatedly prevents classic songs from entering the public domain? "We rightfully grant the monopoly called copyright to inspire new creative work. But once that work has been created, there is no public justification for extending its term. The public has already paid. Term extension is just double billing." Wired 01/14/05

Thursday, January 13, 2005

British Writers Protest Proposed "Religious Hatred" Law Leading British writers are meeting with the government to express concerns that "the proposed new law on inciting religious hatred will stifle artistic liberty. Salman Rushdie and more than 200 writers of various faiths signed a letter from the writers' group English Pen which was sent to the home secretary, Charles Clarke, earlier this month seeking an "urgent" meeting with him." The Guardian (UK) 01/13/05

Study: Arts Workers Pay Sucks (The Details) "The new study finds that only 10 percent of Illinois arts leaders receive any employer contribution whatsoever to their retirement savings. Other fringe benefits are in similarly short supply. And a striking 50 percent of Illinois arts groups make no contributions to the costs of their employees' health care. The study finds arts managers to be mature, highly educated and highly skilled. Nonetheless, it finds, their tenures tend to be shorter than in other non-profits, and their paychecks relatively small. Although higher than the national average, the average salary in Illinois for a non-profit arts leader is $49,911. Workers at major cultural institutions, of course, earn significantly more. Still, the most frequent salary amounts were $35,000 and $25,000." Chicago Tribune 01/13/05

Studies: Studying Arts Makes Better Students Schools that go beyond basics and include arts studies produce better students. "A study of 23 arts-integrated schools in Chicago showed test scores rising up to two times faster there than in demographically comparable schools. A study of a Minneapolis program showed that arts integration has substantial effects for all students, but appears to have its greatest impact on disadvantaged learners. Gains go well beyond the basics and test scores. Students become better thinkers, develop higher-order skills, and deepen their inclination to learn. The studies also show that arts integration energizes and challenges teachers." Washington Post 01/08/05

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Lincoln Center Chief Resigns Lincoln Center chairman Bruce Crawford is resigning. When he assumed the post in June 2002, he said he would stay three to five years. "In the interview in his office yesterday, Mr. Crawford, who turns 76 in March, said there was no significance to his leaving on the early side of that projection." The New York Times 01/13/05

Proposed California Arts Budget Lowest Per-Capita In US The California Arts Council has a new director - Muriel Johnson, a veteran Republican politician and arts advocate from Sacramento. But she won't have much to work with. The $3.2-million arts budget governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed Monday means that California again will likely rank last in the nation in per-capita state spending on the arts. Los Angeles Times 01/12/05

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

TicketMaster Starts Arts Division American ticketing behemoth TickeMaster has established a new division for the arts. "Ticketmaster sold 100 million tickets valued at $4.9 billion in 2003. It serves more than 8,000 clients worldwide." Los Angeles Business 01/11/05

California Arts Council Gets New Director The California Arts Council has a new director. Muriel Johnson, is a recently retired chairwoman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, where she helped direct a budget of about $1.5 billion. She takes over an agency whose budget was slashed last year from $18 million to aboput $1 million. Sacramento Bee 01/11/05

Monday, January 10, 2005

Will Utah Kill Salt Lake's Arts Tax? The state of Utah is considering leveling its sales tax across the state. That concerns arts supporters in Salt Lake City, because a major source of revenue for the arts comes from a special sales tax levy... Deseret News (Utah) 01/10/05

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Funding Australian Art In The 21st Century Australia needs to reconsider how it funds the arts, writes the head of the Australian Council Jennifer Bott. "Australians now spend $10 billion annually on arts goods; 85 per cent of Australian adults attend cultural events or performances; 78 per cent read for pleasure on most days; and close to 30 per cent of Australia's children are involved in after-school arts activities. All this builds a grid of new arts stakeholders whose needs must be considered by the Australia Council along with its more traditional areas of focus. The arts develop qualities that are the building blocks of the new economies shaping the world. Demand for the arts is growing but, by and large, funding is not." The Age (Melbourne) 01/10/05

Between Madness And Art "I've never believed there is anything more than a coincidental relationship between madness and making art. For every self-mutilating van Gogh, there's a sane, mild-mannered Matisse. Artistic creativity arises from a variety of fluid inner equations; the old image of artists producing masterpieces in some sort of possessed frenzy is far more common in movies than in life. In actuality, making art is a respite from inner demons. Sanity is necessary for the strategy, planning, and trial and error needed to bring a good artistic idea to fruition." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/09/05

And It's All For Your Convenience Between the endless maze of automated phone menus and the do-it-yourself ticketing websites, you wouldn't think that Ticketmaster and its fellow national ticket brokers would even need to employ human beings anymore. So why, exactly, does every ticket still come with a hefty "service fee" slapped on top of the admission price? "Tack-on fees are wrapped up in the larger world of live-entertainment deal-making, which gets particularly shady when it comes to concerts. The service charges are determined not just by Ticketmaster but also the promoter, venue and act, all of which can share in the revenues -- and increasingly want to." Chicago Tribune 01/09/05

Atlanta Arts Exec Salaries Raising Eyebrows Atlanta's two largest arts organizations, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art, have been slashing budgets and negotiating wage freezes in recent years, desperately working to balance their books. But the fiscal austerity apparently doesn't extend to the executives in charge of the troubled arts groups: High Museum director Michael Shapiro's salary has jumped $155,000 since 2000, and ASO President Allison Vulgamore's pay has ballooned from $275,000 to $440,000 in the same period. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 01/09/05

  • The Growing Budget Gap Atlanta's arts scene is rapidly losing its middle class. Some organizations seem to be flush with cash, mounting hundred million dollar expansions and bolstering already-sizable endowment funds, while the city's have-nots see their budgets shrink and donations dwindle. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 01/09/05

Promoting The Arts Takes A Backseat To Controversy "San Diego's cultural tourism program – an aggressive effort to promote the arts community and its creativity as a tourist destination – isn't quite what it used to be. About a year ago, the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau shut down its cultural tourism office, and its manager, Rick Prickett, moved to Hawaii... A city audit of ConVis' finances took issue with bonuses, car allowances and how ConVis spent money on entertaining clients... Amid the controversy, the bureau's budget was slashed by more than 20 percent and it was stripped of responsibility for marketing the San Diego Convention Center." San Diego Union Tribune 01/09/05

Name-Brand Tragedy When celebrities donate their abundant cash to charitable causes like tsunami relief, it's usually assumed that they are calling attention to their own regular-guy generosity as much as genuinely trying to help out. But does the motivation even matter? "Is this charity-plus, a kind of righteous one-upmanship with public relations benefits? Or is it smart fund-raising, recognition that in a society saturated with pop culture even tragedy sells better with a name brand attached." The New York Times 01/08/05

Friday, January 7, 2005

Fort Worth's Bass Hall Turns It Aound Fort Worth's Bass Performance Hall has taken a $750,000 deficit in 2002-2003 and balanced its books for the most recent season... Fort Worth Business Press 01/07/05

Thursday, January 6, 2005

Where's The Parental Guidance In PG? "Parents have always had a hard time drawing the line between hypocrisy and responsibility, and never more than at the present moment, when prurience and prudishness are both operating at high voltage. We've just ended a year in which the exposure of Janet Jackson's breast on national television set off a gasp of horror in some quarters, amusement in others. Regulators have been clamping down on indecency with fines." The New York Times 01/07/05

MacMillan: Taking On The Philistines Composer James MacMillan is on a crusade for Scottish culture. "The Scottish executive's opposition to so-called elitist art is causing damage to Scotland's reputation but also to its sense of itself. They have built a palace for themselves in the shape of the Scottish parliament at a cost of £440m - 10 times above the supposed price - yet they're allowing Scottish Opera to go to the wall for a tiny amount. It represents a cultural vandalism that has to be challenged." The Guardian (UK) 01/07/05

Olympic-Caliber Art Wanted "Depending on which way the arts community chooses to look at it, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games offer either a bonanza of riches or a bureaucratic nightmare. ArtsNow, an independent, non-profit society initiated by the British Columbia government, is now accepting applications for its $12-million cultural development fund, which must be dispersed by 2006... The goal, of course, is to leverage the Olympics into meaningful artistic legacies that will continue to flourish long after the event is over. But... the success of these initiatives will hinge heavily on how well various arts groups, communities and planning committees take advantage of the hard lessons learned from previous host cities." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/06/05

Is It Time To Get Rid Of The FCC? The question isn't as preposterous as it might sound. "Because the FCC has become so politicized and beholden to big business, it has ceased to be protector of the airwaves, which are supposed to belong to the citizens of this country (but most believe they belong to big business)... [Furthermore], there is simply no reason for the FCC to regulate broadcast content. By doing so, it is acting as a censor board. If it were really interested in protecting the public, the FCC would take on the issue of violence on TV, which it doesn't consider indecent, instead of getting worked up over a tit and profanity." Wired 01/06/05

How The Rockettes Stole Christmas This was the first year in Boston for the touring Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and now that the holiday dust has cleared, local arts groups are reporting that everyone's fears about the touring Rockettes were entirely justified. "Business was down at the Boston Pops, Handel and Haydn Society, Revels, and Boston Ballet... The Boston Symphony Orchestra, the corporate entity that oversees the Pops, canceled three Holiday Pops concerts because of slow ticket sales," and the ballet, which was booted from its traditional home to make way for Radio City, reported disappointing ticket sales for its revamped and Nutcracker. Meanwhile, the Rockettes sold 200,000 in less than a month. Boston Globe 01/06/05

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Saving An Indie Underdog, With Help From Goliath "The Boyd Theatre, Philadelphia's last movie palace, is to be saved under a deal that will allow Clear Channel to stage concerts, musicals and Broadway-sized productions there, [the city's mayor] is to announce today... Clear Channel emerged in the fall of 2003 as the angel that would help Goldenberg rescue the once-grand art-deco theater." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/05/05

Monday, January 3, 2005

Giant Hong Kong Arts Complex Project Draws Protests Hong Kong proposes to build a gigantic arts complex that includes "four giant museums, four large concert halls and theaters, a school for the arts and more." Designs for the project have already been commissioned from Norman Foster. "But the project has become the center of a bitter debate in the last few weeks. Artists here are deeply split on the idea, and a street demonstration on Christmas Day drew hundreds of protesters." The New York Times 01/04/05

Sunday, January 2, 2005

A Meditation On Endings Steve Winn ponders endings: "Endings define and disappoint, gratify and frustrate. They confer meaning and confirm the structure of what's come before -- in a movie, a sonata, a work of fiction. But they also kill off pleasure, snap us out of the dream and clamp down order on experience that we, as citizens of the modern world, believe to be open-ended, ambiguous and unresolved. It's a delicious paradox. Fairy tales, adventure films, mystery stories and Mozart symphonies all gain velocity by pointing us at one ending, toying with our biology of anticipation and racing off toward some new false conclusion and then another and another before finishing themselves off." San Francisco Chronicle 01/01/05

What The Arts Mean To Students "Students with high levels of arts participation outperform "arts-poor" students in virtually every important measure. We only recently have begun to document the impact of the arts on teaching and learning. But re search has linked arts-based education to the development of basic cognitive skills, skills used to master other subjects such as reading, writing and mathematics." The Plain Dealer 01/02/05

Conflicting Faith - Religion Vs Free Speech "Religion as faith and as an explanation of the world - why God exists, what happens after we die, who gets to heaven (or hell): most of us would run a mile from such a conversation. We know that argument was won a long time ago and there is no point discussing it. Real believers (as opposed to the soppy "there-must-be-something else" brigade) are infrequently encountered and are not in any case amenable to what we believe is reason. They have their private beliefs; let them get on with them." The Guardian (UK) 01/01/04

Chicago's Millennium Cultural Gamble Chicago's new Millennium Park is a hit with critics and the public. "In many minds, the vibrant new downtown park represents a spectacular and vital transformation of a city's core, and a populist tide that, especially given all the rhapsodic national press that has flowed its way, cannot help but raise all local cultural boats. But there's a downside. The construction of Millennium Park ate up a whopping $200 million in local arts philanthropic dollars. And it's seeking still more donated money in 2005 to fully establish its ongoing conservancy. Some are starting to suggest that the local moneybags are in danger of being tapped out." Chicago Tribune 01/02/05

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