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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The NEA Visits Congress Will the National Endowment for the Arts get a funding boost? There are recommendations for an increase. But still, some legislators balk at the idea of government support for the arts... Rocky Mountain News 05/29/05

Monday, May 30, 2005

A Culture Of Critical Decline Critics have declining influence? "It is dangerous to be defensive -- there's no question that the critics' lot has changed for good. Critics now have less power. To the degree that flows from the marginalization of serious cultural inquiry -- and it surely does -- that fact is to be mourned and fought back against. But to the degree it flows from the empowerment of the audience, reader or listener, it is to be cheered." Chicago Tribune 05/29/05

Some Critics And Some Critical Traction What did America's critics hope to accomplish by getting together and talking last week? Dominic Papatola: "Will my fellow critics and I reach any grand conclusions here in La-La Land? Perhaps not. Maybe the best we can do is reassure ourselves that, in a world of increasingly slippery standards, we can help to give culture some traction. And then go back home and fight the good fight." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 05/29/05

With 400 Critics In A Room... So what was the scene in Los Angeles at last week's first-ever joint gathering of five of America's critics' associations? "Gather 400 of them and, depending upon the moment you step in, the scene might resemble a learned symposium, a stampede of cats with sharp claws, or a support group for the underpaid and overeducated." Los Angeles Times 05/29/05

Friday, May 27, 2005

Critical Democracy Is critics' inluence declining? Who cares? "Just as we don't need bigger, more powerful and intrusive government, neither do we need fewer, more powerful critics. Today's profusion of self-appointed critics, publishing via blogs and Podcasts and e-mail lists, is a great thing indeed, bringing the truest form of democracy to the once rarified world of arts criticism. Instead of having to work their way through the academic and corporate-media gauntlet, the best critics simply need to say their piece. If it's solid, it will eventually rise to the top n just as the best art has done, for millennia. And if this means that there eventually won't be any jobs left for paid, professional critics, so be it." The Missoulian (Montana) 05/27/05

Chicago Says "Snap Away!" Chicago city officials have decided to relax permit rules for those taking pictures in Millennium Park. Security guards had been chasing away photographers who tried to take pictures of the hugely popular giant Anish Kapoor "Bean" sculpture. "Permits were initially priced at $350 a day for professional still photographers, $1,200 a day for professional videographers and $50 an hour for wedding photographers." Chicago Tribune 05/27/05

A Look At A New Opera House For Dallas Revised designs are unveiled for a new opera house in Dallas. "The opera house is the centerpiece of the $275 million Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, which also includes the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by Rem Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture; and the City Performance Hall by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago and Corgan Associates of Dallas." Dallas Morning News 05/27/05

Thursday, May 26, 2005

SPAC Has A Lot Of Healing To Do Upstate New York's embattled Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) has elected a whole new board, taken steps to become more responsive to community concerns, and done its best to respond to a scathing internal report that blasted its previous leadership and programming decisions. All that having been said, however, SPAC's finances have turned out to be in even worse shape than anyone had predicted, and one of the new board members speculated at this week's annual meeting that the organization would likely have been bankrupt within a year had changes not been made. The Saratogian (NY) 05/26/05

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Answering To The Arts What good are the arts, asks a new book. The answer - "not much, it answers, if you want to argue rationally." The Telegraph (UK) 05/25/05

Millennium Dome To Become Concert Facility London's Millennium Dome will reopen as a "first class" concert facility. "The £758m Dome was built as a Millennium project and opened in 2000. Intended as a symbol of the new, brighter Britain and funded by more than £600m of lottery money, the dome was mired in controversy from its inception." BBC 05/25/05

Has The File-Swapping War Already Been Lost? Defenders of traditional copyright law might have the law on their side in the battle against file-swapping and free music, but that won't be enough to win what is basically a Quixotic war of principle being fought against simple progress, says Joshua Ostroff. The latest battle has seen courts ruling that "sampling" of other artists' work is illegal, an absurd notion that has done nothing to stop the widespread practice. Such crackdowns might temporarily set back the advance of new media practices, but audio enthusiasts are firmly convinced that nothing can be done to stop the changes already in motion in the music industry. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/25/05

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

How Computers Got Their Soul According to a new book, scientists might have built the computer, but "longhairs liberated computers from I.B.M. and the military industrial complex and profoundly shaped the technology that is ubiquitous today. Formerly sequestered behind forbidding glass walls, computers went on to become accessible, usable and friendly. The industry had its consciousness raised - became a vehicle of togetherness." The New York Times 05/22/05

Group Ends Disney Boycott The fringe American Family Association has ended a nine-year boycott of Disney, saying the AFA's point had been made. "The organization objected to movies like 1995's Kids being made by Disney through its Miramax subsidiary, as well as the company's decision to grant benefits to the common-law spouses of homosexual employees. It also wanted to put an end to gay-themed events at Disney's parks." CBC 05/24/05

National Arts Journalism Program To Close At Columbia "After an outstanding 11-year record of advocating for and promoting the cause of arts journalism, the National Arts Journalism Program, the only program in America dedicated to the advocacy of arts journalism, is being closed down at the Columbia School of Journalism." San Francisco Chronicle 05/23/05

  • NAJP Alums Respond To Program Closing Arts journalists who have been fellows of the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia, weigh in on this week's decision to close the program... Straight Up (AJBlogs) 05/24/05

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Age Of The Self-Producer "Today the phrase "vanity project" is an accusation redolent of bloated ego, absence of talent, ill-used money or clout and contempt for the ethics of merit. Most of all, the phrase implies scorn for the normal artistic filters: all the editors, directors, producers, investors, curators and institutional functionaries who make things happen and bestow prestige. Lurking behind the term is the assumption that the only reason to produce, distribute and market your own creation is that nobody else will do it for you. But in this world of blogs, pocket video cameras, on-demand publishing and instant Internet distribution, dismissing an artistic undertaking for its vanity quotient has become so 20th century." Newsday 05/23/05

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Death Of The Critic Arts critics used to wield tremendous power as American tastemakers, their words forming the crux of the cultural sphere and their opinions read as seriously as those of political commentators. These days, cultural tastes are controlled mainly by savvy marketers, and critics have become ever more marginalized, frequently reduced to bleating from the sidelines and begging for a return to serious cultural discourse. "While many lament the situation, some think the decentralization of authority means the arts — and the conversation around them — will flourish without these stern, doctrinaire figures." Los Angeles Times 05/22/05

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sifton Named To Run NYT Culture Pages Sam Sifton has been named culture editor of the New York Times. "He has demonstrated a strong sense of the intersecting worlds of the arts, a powerful devotion to strengthening the reporting tradition in Culture, and a coherent vision of how the disparate pieces of that complex department fit together. Sam has an impresario’s gift for matching writers with ideas." LAWeekly 05/19/05

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

National US Forums To Discuss Common Problems "Americans for the Arts and the MetLife Foundation have announced a series of 20 national arts forums to take place from coast to coast during the remainder of 2005. The goal of the MetLife Foundation National Arts Forum series is to identify as many major shared issues as possible and, more important, the strategies being developed to tackle them." Backstage 05/18/05

Even On Sale, Tourists Avoiding The US "At the start of what should be a booming summer season, with the entire country virtually on sale because of the falling value of the dollar, an international pall has settled over the US travel industry. More foreign tourists are coming to the US but not in the numbers expected. The problem is not economic, but political, travel and international-relations experts agree. A poor US image abroad, coupled with overblown concerns about visa and security hassles, is keeping international visitors away." Christian Science Monitor 05/19/05

Keeping Memory Alive Archives are an underappreciated art, a tangible example of institutional memory lovingly maintained, frequently by individuals who don't want their personal passion forgotten. But therein lies one of the greatest challenges of the professional archivist: what happens when an amateur in charge of some vast and important archive dies without stipulating what is to become of her/his life's work? It happens far too often, and frequently, the result is that the archive is scattered to the winds. The New York Times 05/18/05

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Copyright? When it comes to new media, (downloadable audio and such,) Hollywood and the American recording industry are likely to talk about "threats to commerce" and the all-important god of Copyright Law. Meanwhile, across the pond, the BBC is doing just the opposite. "America's entertainment industry is committing slow, spectacular suicide, while one of Europe's biggest broadcasters is rushing headlong to the future, embracing innovation rather than fighting it. Unlike Hollywood, the BBC is eager and willing to work with a burgeoning group of content providers whose interests are aligned with its own: its audience." Wired 05/18/05

Mountain Laurel, Take Two The $35 million Mountain Laurel Performing Arts Center in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains was a grand plan that quickly became an unmitigated disaster, going out of business less than a year after opening amid accusations of incompetence and misuse of public funds. But "the complex, which was built with the help of a $15 million state grant, is reopening with a fresh infusion of public money, including $500,000 from the state and $750,000 in projected annual revenue from a new hotel tax in Pike County." Gone, however, are most of Mountain Laurel's original grand plans, such as playing summer host to the Pittsburgh Symphony. This summer's lineup includes mostly "blues, pop, rock, country, jazz and Latin music, genres that typically attract healthy audiences, in hopes of meeting ambitious attendance goals and buying more time to stabilize the center's finances." Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 05/18/05

New Jersey Arts Center To Be Shuttered Facing a possible zeroing out of the state funds that keep it afloat, the South Jersey Performing Arts Center located on Camden's waterfront has announced plans to shut down by June 30. The SJPAC was to be the crown jewel in Camden's civic rebirth, but the plan has fallen far short of expectations, with the city continuing to struggle, and the arts center never attracting the audiences organizers had hoped for. The center, on the Delaware River just across from Philadelphia, has been open for nine years. Camden Courier-Post (NJ) 05/18/05

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Vote On NEA Money This Week? The US Congress may vote this week on a budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. The proposed budget calls for no increase. "The bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus, composed of House members who support the arts, is prepared to introduce an amendment from the floor calling for a minimum increase of $9 million for the NEA. The House Appropriations Committee reallocated about $6.5 million to the new American Masterpieces initiative from the Challenge America arts program, and the caucus's amendment would restore the Challenge America funding." Back Stage 05/17/05

Monday, May 16, 2005

Eye On A Wheel Of Art On the longest day of the year (June 21), artists are taking over the London Eye - the giant ferris wheel. "On that date, each of the 32 capsules will host a performance by a different artist, musician, dance troupe or acting company in an effort to highlight the campaign for fair trade with the third world." The Guardian (UK) 05/16/05

Sunday, May 15, 2005

WWII's Enduring Hold On Us Why does World War II endure as a topic of our imagination? "There are important cultural reasons for its persistence. This was, historically, the first continental war to be waged in the age of broadcasting. Radio and film conveyed its actuality and artists quickly converted its sounds and images into creative work. Art was a battlefront in itself. Dictators harnessed it to their propaganda machines while the democracies unintentionally inspired a spontaneous cultural renaissance." La Scena Musicale 05/13/05

Taking The Mass Out Of Mass Media Our consumption of mass media is dropping off. Why? "It can't be a coincidence that the five major pillars of the American media — movies, television, radio, recorded music and newspapers — are all suffering at the same time. And it isn't. Something major has changed over the past year, as the availability of alternative sources of information and entertainment has finally reached critical mass. Newly empowered consumers are letting the producers, creators and managers of the nation's creative and news content know that they are dissatisfied with the product they're being peddled." New York Post 05/10/05

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Creatives Leaving America? Is America's "creative class" fleeing the US for other countries? Richard Florida tried to make the case: "It may be too soon to anoint Tallinn, Estonia - or Dublin, Ireland, or Sydney, Australia - the world's new creative capital, as opposed to many thriving US cities. Still, by Florida's reckoning, America's magnetism for creative workers has weakened as the drawing power of other nations has become supercharged - owing to regulatory policies, quality of life, tolerance, and a range of other issues." Christian Science Monitor 05/12/05

San Jose Bumps Up Its Arts Funding For the first time in four years, the city of San Jose is increasing its arts funding - to a total of $2 million. "Up from $1.8 million last year, the figure represents the first jump since 2002-03, when the city awarded $3.2 million. The fund had peaked at $3.9 million in 2001-02." San Jose Mercury-News 05/12/05

Insert Your Own Wildly Offensive Headline Here The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the indecent exposure conviction of a public access TV host whose show featured a segment in which his exposed penis appeared to tell jokes to the camera. The host claimed that the segment constituted free expression, but the court disagreed, saying that there is a noticable difference between nudity in serious films and a crass public access show. The host intends to appeal to the State Supreme Court. Detroit Free Press 05/12/05

SPAC To Grow A New Board From Scratch As part of its attempt to dig out from under a wave of bad publicity and accusations of fiscal irresponsibility, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is junking its entire board and starting fresh. The board unanimously resigned last week, and the new roster includes only four members with previous SPAC board experience. SPAC came under fire last year after dropping New York City Ballet from its summer schedule, and was subsequently the subject of a scathing audit which accused the board of willful mismanagement. The Saratogian (NY) 05/12/05

Louisville To Consolidate Arts Funding "Louisville's four key performing-arts groups would get a total of nearly $2 million a year to erase their recurring budget deficits during the next three years under a new plan to combine city, state and private funding. The plan is part of a broader Cultural Blueprint that has just been completed after nearly two years of gathering data in Louisville and Southern Indiana. The intent was to get detailed information on how all regional arts groups could best respond to the market. Much of the effort focuses on the Louisville Orchestra, Kentucky Opera, the Louisville Ballet and Actors Theatre of Louisville -- organizations that have largely defined the city's national and international arts reputation but have struggled to balance their budgets." Louisville Courier-Journal 05/12/05

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Why Iranian Art Is So Interesting Today "As the borders closed and new boundaries were established by the government, artists had no choice but to look inward to their imagination, to transform this isolation into an artistic resolution. Consequently, we have seen an outpouring of artistic production in literature, film, theatre, visual arts and music. We find bold attempts by artists who have not only challenged the authority, but have pioneered an authentically Iranian, non-Western aesthetic; which, while remaining mindful of the crippling social, political and religious realities of their country, aims at transcending national boundaries, to become universally significant." The Art Newspaper 05/06/05

Monday, May 9, 2005

Curiouser And Curiouser (And That's Good For The Arts) Curiosity, says Robyn Archer, is the key to healthy arts audiences. "Anyone who approaches art, or virtually anything, only wishing to defend their own tastes, anyone who won't look at something because they fear it won't be to their liking, anyone who bags something before they've seen it, might as well be dead already. They've lost their sense of curiosity. They're winding down." The Age (Melbourne) 05/09/05

Sunday, May 8, 2005

BC - A Place Where The Arts Don't Matter? Why do British Columbia politicians ignore the arts? None of the major parties has much helpful to say to the arts. "Is it any wonder that arts organizations are screaming? The B.C. government spends the least on arts—$1.98 per person—of any province, according to Statistics Canada research cited by local umbrella group the Alliance for Arts and Culture. Quebec spends $19.32 per person. Alberta spends $5.69. 'We look like idiots when we go to national conferences. They’re like, ‘What’s with your province?’ It’s embarrassing!" Gioria Straight (Vancouver) 05/08/05

"National" Obsession - What Does It Mean? "What is the purpose of a national theatre, a national opera or ballet company, a national orchestra, or a national gallery? What is the meaning of the word 'national' in those famous organisations? Is it simply a matter of pride and funding, an indication that those particular institutions have the backing of an entire nation, its hopes and dreams of excellence? Or is it more complicated than that: do we expect these arts organisations, above all others, to embody in their work something essential about the nation?" The Telegraph (UK) 05/08/05

Of Critics, Friends, And Conflicts Critic Dominic Pappatola finds himself uncomfortable about descriptions of Mel Gussow in obituaries last week. "If my obituary happens to focus on my career as a critic, I guess I'd much rather be known as a Champion of Audiences than a Champion of Playwrights. As a journalist, if you begin writing for your sources instead of your readers, you enter an echo chamber. Inside of that chamber, your voice might be resonant. Outside, it's irrelevant." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 05/08/05

What Is Art And Why Does It Matter? Ah, the age old question, now so endlessly debated it has become one of the great cliches. A new book is about to take up the question once again, and the Observer asks some artists who ought to have some interesting answers... The Observer (UK) 05/08/05

The Art Of Routine Routine is the foundation for many things in life. "The myth is that artists are somehow different. That they leap from one peak of inspiration to another. That they reject limits - that this is precisely what makes them artists. But of course that's not true. Most artists work as the rest of us do, incrementally, day by day, according to their own habits. That most art does not rise above the level of routine has nothing necessarily to do with the value of having a ritual." The New York Times 05/08/05

Thursday, May 5, 2005

End Of The Age Of Irony? The 90s were the Age of Irony. It was an art, actually... But Scott McLamee sees some distressing signs that irony is... soooo yesterday. Insidehighered.com 05/05/05

The US Senate's Culture Club "Four U.S. senators are spearheading the formation of a new bipartisan Senate caucus to promote the vital role the arts and humanities play in American life -- a coalition that will likely serve as a strong base of support for pro-arts legislation in Congress' upper house." Back Stage 05/05/05

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

A New Chief For Lincoln Center Lincoln Center has chosen Frank Bennack Jr. as itss new leader. Bennack has been chief executive officer of the Hearst Corporation. "In choosing Mr. Bennack, Lincoln Center appears to be seeking a leader in the tradition of the current chairman, Bruce Crawford: a stabilizing elder statesman with a long track record at the performing arts center. Mr. Bennack is 72 and has been a member of Lincoln Center's board since 1994 and a vice chairman since 1999, as well as a managing director of the Metropolitan Opera Board." The New York Times 05/05/05

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Can Government Make The Arts Seem More Appealing? A new government agency has been formed in Northern Ireland to "broaden the appeal of the arts" and centralize performance information and online ticketing services for the province's arts groups. Belfast Telegraph (UK) 05/03/05

Birmingham Council To Audit City Arts Groups Arts organizations in Birmingham (UK) are being ordered to submit to a "funding review" by the city council, and have been told that their government grants could be cut or revoked if they refuse. "Birmingham Royal Ballet, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Midlands Art Centre and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre are among 12 companies that have been told they must open their books for inspection. The review will look at the impact of the council’s investment, the contribution of arts organisations to the life of the city and how the council works with each company... The move follows the council’s recent announcement that it plans to provide £5 million for the 12 organisations in 2005/6." The Stage (UK) 05/03/05

Monday, May 2, 2005

WTC Project Manager Resigns The man in charge of the troubled World Trade Center project has resigned. "Kevin Rampe's departure comes at a particularly sensitive moment for a rebuilding effort that has recently been plagued by bad news. The construction of the Freedom Tower, the site's most prominent structure, is months behind schedule, and faces even greater delays after the New York Police Department last month delivered a disturbing assessment of its security shortcomings. Larry Silverstein, the lead developer of the site, has signaled that he may need hundreds of millions of dollars from the government to address the security concerns." The New York Times 05/03/05

Initiative: Arts To The "Culturally Deprived" An initiative in Scotland aims to bring the arts to people who don't have access to them. "The £1.4 million Partners project will see a host of accomplished artists open up residencies in areas with little experience of the arts and invite local people to participate. The project's aim is to inject both a creative and economic boost to the communities involved. Residencies will be established to enrich students, disabled people and other members of the general public. People can choose from a wide array of the arts, including writing, web design, dance, photography, electronic music - even circus skills." The Scotsman 05/02/05

New Foundation Focuses On 'Creativity' There are plenty of grant-awarding foundations out there, but Louise Blouin didn't see enough of them encouraging real creativity through their grants, so the 46-year-old Canadian native decided that the time was right to start her own foundation. In addition to handing out individual grants, "one of the foundation's early projects will be to study the economic importance of the arts. It plans to hold forums at which artists, politicians, business leaders and educators propose cultural policies. The foundation also wants to endow a chair at a leading university to research the relevance of art to everyday life and the connections between the study of art and the study of perception and cognition." The New York Times 05/02/05

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Connery: Scotland's Arts Policy Inadequate Actor Sean Connery has struck out at Scotland's cultural policy and its culture minister. He "bitterly complains that the nation has had six culture ministers since devolution but there is little progress in developing the arts." Scotsman on Sunday 05/01/05

Did Hollywood Steal The Crusades? Author James Reston is considering legal action against director Ridley Scott and movie studio 20th Century Fox after concluding that Scott's latest epic, Kingdom of Heaven, is based directly on Reston's 2001 book, Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade. The book was pitched to Scott as a film idea in late 2001, but Scott turned it down, and claims never to have read the book. CBC 04/29/05

Why Can't High Art And Pop Culture Coexist? UK composer Peter Maxwell Davies recently made waves when he accused television's addiction to pop culture of being one of the root causes of the decline of classical music. But the arbitrary setting of "cultural standards" like these drive some in the arts sphere up the wall. "There is as much rubbish passed off as a serious creative endeavour in high art as ever disgraces a TV screen... I like John Keats as much as I like Bob Dylan. I’m fond of cheap Hollywood movies and Matisse – is this allowed? – simultaneously. I can discuss any sept of the Marx clan, from Groucho to Karlo, you care to mention. In a few small areas of art and ideas I am almost, but never quite, an expert. I am also a disgrace, culturally speaking, and proud of it." The Sunday Herald (UK) 05/01/05

Good Money After Bad? Camden, New Jersey is a struggling city, plagued by poverty and violence and haunted by comparisons to thriving Phialdelphia, just across the Delaware River. Back in 1996, the state subsidized the construction of a major performing arts center inside Camden's massive Clear Channel-owned Tweeter Center. But while the for-profit arm of the Tweeter has thrived, the non-profit arts center has been a dismal failure, and some are questioning the massive taxpayer subsidies that continue to be pumped into the project. Newark Star-Ledger 05/01/05

The Other New York When most people think of New York, they're really thinking of Manhattan, and that's fine, since Manhattan is all exciting and trendy and stuff, but the fact is that there's another borough of America's largest metropolis that deserves equal attention, especially from those interested in the arts and culture. Yeah, it's Brooklyn. Yous gadda problem wid dat? Chicago Tribune 05/01/05

Making A Push For Cultural Tourism In Minneapolis "If you've got it, flaunt it. And what Minneapolis has right now is cultural palaces, a whole raft of them, designed by some of the world's leading architects. With about $500 million worth of museums, libraries and theaters nearing completion, the city's arts groups are banding together to launch a national marketing campaign promoting the Minneapolis 'arts explosion'... [Already,] European tour directors are adding Minneapolis to their itineraries, and architecture schools nationwide are making plans for their students to visit the city and its new buildings." Minneapolis Star Tribune 04/30/05

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