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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Artist: A Challenge Of Obscenity Law An artist challenges the American obscenity law. "The case, filed in 2001 by Barbara Nitke, whose Web site includes pictures of sadomasochism and bondage, argues that the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which prohibits obscene material from being distributed on the Internet, is overly broad and violates the First Amendment. Ms. Nitke contends that the law has a chilling effect on artists, educators and alternative-sex advocates because the explicit material they present on the Web could be deemed obscene in parts of the country, even if it is acceptable under community standards in other parts." The New York Times 07/28/05

How Disney Changed Where You Live "Before Disneyland, with some notable exceptions, a place was what it was — the product of its own history, geography, climate, economic base, social arrangements and technological development. After Disneyland, American places increasingly came to be idealized fictional narratives about place — not real places, but metaplaces." San Antonio Express-News 07/31/05

Friday, July 29, 2005

Massachusetts Considers Culture Stimulus Plan The Massachusetts legislature is considering a big injection of money for the arts. "The new Cultural Facilities Fund, part of a $296 million economic stimulus package proposed for fiscal 2006, would be among the first of its kind in the nation. Aimed at enriching the lives of Massachusetts residents, the fund is also supposed to bolster the state's economy by shoring up attractions that bring tourists and their dollars to the Bay State." Boston Globe 07/29/05

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Report: 26 Million Attended NY Arts Events In 2004 A new study reports that nearly 26 million attended non-profit arts events in New York City in 2004. "For New York City's legitimate theatre industry, one of the report's central conclusions -- that the total audience for nonprofit cultural organizations is 'more than twice that of the Broadway theatre' -- is doubtless going to be subject to spin and interpretation. For example, it might be seen as representing Broadway's relative strength both as a cultural and tourist destination and as a universally recognized brand." Backstage 07/28/05

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

How's That Online Obscenity Ban Been Working Out? Obscenity has always been a tricky subject for American courts, as they try to balance First Amendment rights against the right of communities to reject things that violate their collective values. A 2001 lawsuit, filed by an artist whose website includes images of sadomasochism and bondage, was intended to force yet another official answer to the seemingly insoluble problem by challenging the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which bans the distribution of obscene content on the Internet. The case has made its way to Federal District Court, where this week, a panel of judges ruled against the artist. But there is little question that the case will eventually land before the Supreme Court. The New York Times 07/28/05

Another Grave Threat To Copyright Stamped Out The Olympic Hopefuls are a highly successful Minneapolis-based band believed by many to be on the verge of breaking out nationally. But if that breakout occurs, the band will be missing half its name. In a strange case of copyright enforcement that recalls the recent dust-up between the U.S. Postal Service and the band known as Postal Service, the U.S. Olympic Committee has firmly pointed out to the Olympic Hopefuls that the word "olympic" was copyrighted by an act of Congress in 1950. In the case of USPS vs. Postal Service, things worked out fine, with the band keeping its name in exchange for a free performance and some promotional work. But the Olympic Hopefuls are now just The Hopefuls, hoping that their fans will still recognize them. Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/28/05

Safe At Home (But At What Cost?) Keeping important works of art in their country of origin is a dicey business, partly because collectors frequently have other ideas, and also because the general public often gulps at the cost of outbidding such collectors. In 2004, the UK government managed to use a combination of parliamentary maneuver and serious cash to keep the Macclesfield Psalter, a supposedly critical part of British art history, in country. But how truly important is the book, and was it really worth £1.7m just to keep it out of California? The Guardian (UK) 07/28/05

The London Aftermath New York's cultural marketplace was devastated after the 9/11 attacks, and in London, fears that a similar fate could befall the city's arts purveyors has been intense since the subway and bus bombings of July 7. It's too early for much more than anecdotal evidence, but early research indicates that theatres were hit hardest, with most galleries and museums returning quickly to normal patron levels. At the BBC Proms, walk-up sales are down, but overall, concerts are more full than at the same point last summer. Of course, no one yet knows whether the attacks will be an isolated event, or the beginning of a new campaign of terror in England's capital city, and that, more than anything, will likely determine the long-term implications of the July 7 bombings. The Guardian (UK) 07/28/05

Does NJ Arts Funding Favor Democrats? In New Jersey, where political corruption is as ordinary as summer rain, the state arts board last week announced its annual dispensation of funds, and immediately, a question arose. Why exactly would such a large percentage of the overall funding be going to counties with a preference for Democratic legislators, while Republican counties were generally underfunded? Members of the arts board "lacked specifics as to why groups in one county got more than another, beyond that their applications may have been more noteworthy. They stressed politics plays no role and said evaluators are experts." Some others in the state theorized that the Republican counties are less urban, and their arts groups less sophisticated at writing grant proposals. Asbury Park Press (NJ) 07/27/05

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On The Plus Side, Hypocrisy Has A New 'Exhibit A' Conceptual artist Mark McGowan has been informed by London's water board that, if he does not dismantle his latest installation, which consists of a tap running continuously and the water swirling down a drain, the board will cut off water service to the entire gallery in which the work is being displayed. McGowan's intention was to highlight waste, which one could argue he has now done quite effectively, pouring some 800,000 litres of water into the London sewers in the midst of one of the worst droughts southeast England has seen in decades. The tap was originally meant to run for an entire year. The Guardian (UK) 07/27/05

Monday, July 25, 2005

Learning From Others' Experience Becoming a successful performer requires a lot more than talent, and unfortunately, they don't teach you about promotion and marketing in music school. That's where The Field comes in, an organization dedicated to bringing artists together with the information they need to be a success in an increasingly crowded world of entertainment. The Field's web site "contains almost 300 interviews with presenters, performers and managers from all 50 states, as well as information about more than 1,000 performance venues and 1,500 other resources, including good coffee houses, schools where artists can teach and housing." The New York Times 07/25/05

The Arts, The Politicians, & The Big Shiny Race Cars The city of Charlotte is considering a package of arts proposals totalling over $150 million, which backers say would revitalize the city's cultural scene. But as with any expensive project involving taxpayer funding, there is controversy brewing. "At a recent City Council meeting, member Nancy Carter contrasted the council's hesitation on the arts plan with its 'stampede' to promise money to a NASCAR Hall of Fame -- if NASCAR lets it go up here... The proposed Hall of Fame would cost $137.5 million -- not far from the price of the five arts projects combined. The city voted unanimously to give the hall nearly $104 million." Charlotte Observer 07/24/05

The 49th Parallel Blues The U.S.-Canada border is the longest undefended national border in the world, and the two countries have always prided themselves on the friendliest of relationships and the ease of crossing between them. But since 9/11, security measures have resulted in an ever-growing mountain of paperwork for any artist or musician looking to cross the border for a performance. The hassles are now so extensive that many venues near the border will no longer book acts from the other side, for fear that the performers won't be able to get official permission in time for the show. Bellingham Herald (WA) 07/25/05

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Censorship Debacle - Why A California Protest Fails Attempts at censorship almost always backfire, as protests against an anti-Bush painting in the California Department of Justice will show. "Throughout human history, great art has been political, or inspired by an artist's political experience. Unless you want museums and public buildings to be sanitized, boring and free of any real art, you have to tolerate works that are sometimes offensive. The other alternative is to create a government committee to approve all public art. Orwell had a name for this. He called it the Ministry of Truth." Sacramento Bee 07/24/05

Salzburg Festival Opens With Comments On Terrorism "Austrian President Heinz Fischer warned against the dangers of European values being 'bombed away' on Sunday at the opening ceremonies of the Salzburg Festival, the world-famous musical and drama event dedicated to art as a universal value. Touching on the terror attacks over the last few weeks in London and Egypt, Fischer said that a Europe recovering from an earlier horror — the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler — was ill prepared for the new threat that targets innocents everywhere." Yahoo! (AP) 07/24/05

Exploiting Our Own Creative Capital: Yes, We Can! "Let's talk intellectual capital. I keep hearing that phrase from Carl Kurlander, the native son screen writer returned from the Wrong Coast to teach at Pitt and evangelize on the depth and potential of Pittsburgh's entertainment talent. Our generally downbeat view of local abilities to the contrary, Pittsburghers have a huge role in the national entertainment industry. Rather than continuing to export that creative and entrepreneurial talent, why not put it to work right here? ... (W)hat's mainly needed is a heightened sense of our own capabilities, a more developed culture of can-do." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/24/05

Friday, July 22, 2005

Art In A Land Of War The Gaza Strip is not a pleasant place to be at the moment, and certainly not the type of locale in which you would expect to find a vibrant cultural scene. "Extreme poverty prevents potential audiences from paying to attend theater performances, which in turn has forced the closure of many small troupes. Existing film and theater groups struggle daily to survive. Despite the many frustrations, however, the Palestinian theater and film scene is remarkably vibrant; this summer even saw successful film and theater festivals held in both Ramallah and the Gaza strip." The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 07/22/05

Cuban Troupe Wins Right To Asylum "Ending an arduous yearlong journey, 50 Cuban performers were granted political asylum this week after what is believed to be the largest group defection of Cubans in American history. The musicians, singers and dancers of the 'Havana Night Club' revue, which recently changed its name to the 'Havana Night Show,' celebrated the official statement on Thursday and planned to appear together in another venue on Friday, the local Social Security office. There they hope to begin the process of becoming permanent residents and, ultimately, United States citizens." Their push to defect began when Cuban authorities raided their Havana headquarters and deported their founder. After finagling a U.S. travel visa, the whole troupe defected in November 2004, while performing in Las Vegas. The New York Times 07/22/05

The Decline Of The Disney Empire The Walt Disney Company used to be the cultural barometer for everyday Americans, combining a cutting-edge marketing apparatus and wide-ranging distribution with legitimately creative product. So what the heck happened? The author of a new book about the company points out that "the creative flame at the heart of the place is flickering rather dimly at this point," but there's more to it than that. It's not just Disney that has changed - the world that once embraced Disney has changed as well, and may no longer be receptive to the happy-go-lucky message of the world's most famous mouse. Miami Herald 07/17/05

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Royal Opera House To Vilar: Pay Up! (Or Else) London's Royal Opera House has given troubled philanthropist Alberto Vilar 60 days to pay up on his £10 million pledge, or else. Or else what? The ROH isn't saying if they'll take Vilar's name off its building. "The 1999 agreement allows the Royal Opera House to give Mr Vilar notice in writing that, by not making the payments he has committed a material breach of that contract. If he does not resume making payments by the end of a 60-day period specified in the agreement, the ROH will then be entitled to notify Mr Vilar that the agreement is terminated." BBC 07/20/05

Kennedy Center Goal: Bring Arts To The Country Washington's Kennedy Center has big aspirations beyond the beltway. "With its new $125 million education initiative, the Kennedy Center aims to give the performing arts bug to more than 11 million people across the country. The center's expanded programming targets not only young, would-be art lovers but also art managers, aspiring dancers and musicians, and even board members at other cultural institutions." PlaybillArts 07/20/05

New York Museums Puzzled Over City's Security Funding Plan Many of New York City's cultural institutions are asking why the City funded increased security out of a $2 million pot at only three museums. "Insurance costs are off the chart. Since 9/11, it’s the fastest-growing cost of doing business in the world of exhibitions. New York museum officials became particularly worried after the looting of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad, speculating that they would face some kind of retribution." New York Observer 07/20/05

Toronto Arts Groups Unite For The Big Ask Five major Toronto arts organizations have joined forces to ask their provincial government for more cash to help complete major expansion projects currently in construction. "The united front is occurring at a crucial time in Toronto's cultural renaissance, as organizations strive to find the final 10 or 15 per cent needed to complete their projects." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/20/05

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

La Fenice Evacuated On Terrorist Scare Italy is trying to assure tourists that its cultural treasures are safe from terrorists. "Police evacuated La Fenice -- Venice's famous opera house -- on Tuesday after finding a suspect package in the building. It proved to be a false alarm." Yahoo! (Reuters) 07/19/05

Burning Man Revolt Charges Artistic Batteries The annual Burning Man festival is 20 years old this summer. Last year a number of artists were upset about what they perceived as a decline in artistic merit of the event. So they staged a revolt. "BORG2, made up of artists and others upset by the lack of art at last year's Burning Man, did not meet the $250,000 fund-raising goal set at the beginning of the revolt, but did manage to start a nonprofit, elect an art council, raise more than $20,000 and hold an election to decide which artists would get the cash." San Francisco Chronicle 07/19/05

Does New York's Arts Funding Make Sense? New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs "gives more money for the arts, officials there say, than any other government agency in the United States, including the National Endowment for the Arts. The way they do it, however, doesn’t have everybody cheering. 'It's inequitable, it's irrational, it doesn't satisfy anybody,” says Norma Munn, who has been following the city’s arts budget since she helped found the New York City Arts Coalition two decades ago. 'The bulk of the organizations that get the money use it extremely well. But as a city policy, the way it’s distributed just doesn’t make much sense'." Gotham Gazette 07/19/05

The Zen Of The Celbrity Swag Bag Want to invite a celebrity to your next party? Better pony up the presents (or should we call them bribes?) and we're talking big-ticket items. "Instead of a small token of appreciation given to celebrities at parties, now it's a 'swag suite' full of long tables of iPods, digital cameras and designer clothes, which VIPs stuff into luggage. The practice has become so excessive, so key to luring stars to awards shows and parties, that there's now a college class devoted to it." New York Post 07/19/05

Detroit Is Closing Its Arts Office Many cities in Michigan have been "building economic development strategies based on the strengths of vibrant cultural activities." But Detroit has decided to close the Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism in an attempt to reduce the city's $300-million budget shortfall. "We all understand that Detroit's policymakers have more demands than they have dollars, but arts and culture pays for itself many times over. And if a stronger economy is the destination we seek, arts and culture in Detroit is one of the best ways to get there." Detroit Free Press 07/18/05

Monday, July 18, 2005

Is The 21st Century The Return Of Amateur Culture? Professor Lawrence Lessig says he thinks so: "If you think of the 20th Century as this period of professionalising creativity - you've got the film and recording industries which become the professional creators, separating and stifling in many ways the popular culture. I do not think you are going to see the elimination of the professional creators but you are going to see it complemented by a much wider range of amateur culture in the original sense of the word amateur - in that people do it purely for the love of creating." BBC 07/18/05

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Are Our Best And Brightest Leaving? "The Rise of the Creative Class gave hope to many in Massachusetts, which boasts the best-educated workforce in the nation and is on its way to becoming one of the most diverse and gay-friendly states in the country. But Florida's new book, 'The Flight of the Creative Class' (HarperBusiness), is more likely to cause night sweats. It tells us that, in part because of new attitudes toward immigration since 9/11, we're in danger of falling behind not only Austin but also Australia, and raises the possibility that, after a century or two of sending many of its hardest-working natives to Boston, Dublin may finally get its revenge." Boston Globe 07/17/05

How Disney Took Over The World Disneyland turns 50 this year. "From the start, there would be no denying the world's infatuation with Disneyland, a rite of passage for millions of vacationing families. In the 50 years since Walt Disney leveled Anaheim orange groves, the park has left an oversized imprint on American culture, influencing family entertainment, shopping malls, corporate branding and more. Indeed, no one has masterminded — and capitalized on — fantasy and illusion like the Walt Disney Co., a $30-billion entertainment powerhouse that has transformed theme park rides into top-grossing movies and a hockey flick into a sports franchise." Los Angeles Times 07/16/05

When Do You Turn Children On To Art? Have we become too protective introducing children to difficult art? "I do worry about exposing children to literature, films and theatre before they are ready - and I am particularly jumpy about violent films. But how do you decide when a child is 'ready' for a film? It is fascinatingly ambiguous. The extraordinary thing is that works of art - especially books - change according to age. A book read at 18, reread at 48, may seem entirely different. Age is part of what we bring to a work of art." The Observer (UK) 07/17/05

Friday, July 15, 2005

Aussies Fight Back At Lebrecht Australian artists have hit back at critic Norman Lebrecht's recent story wondering why so many Australians have gained power running London arts organizations. "It seems just a little bit rich to assume that we are some secret cabal trying to take over the world and run down the quality of British arts." The Australian 07/15/05

  • Previously: UK's Australian Invasion Why are Australians running some of the UK's biggest arts institutions? "Little in their sunkissed insularity has equipped them for the ethnic and economic diversity of British arts and their focus is so short-term that only the most desperate of boards would, it seems to me, choose a second-string Aussie above a locally experienced, lifelong committed Brit. It makes no sense at all. More alarming still is the effect of their mass defection on the morale and infrastructure of Australian culture." La Scena Musicale 07/06/05
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

How Long Should The Intermission Be? "In the straight theatre, the interval norm has long been 15 minutes, giving those quick off the mark just enough time to swallow a warm, over-priced gin and tonic before nipping to the loo. (My own preference is a brisk walk round the block.) Recently, the National Theatre has extended the standard to 20 minutes, and, given the number of slower, older people in today's audiences, perhaps that is the optimum. However, the more puritanical breeds of theatre director don't like reality impinging on their creations at all." The Telegraph (UK) 07/14/05

NY Mayor Gives $55 Million To Arts The city of New York's biggest arts supporter? Gotta be Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "In each of his first two years in office, the gift was $10 million; his largesse for 2004 increased by 50%, to $15 million. This year -- with his re-election efforts about to kick into high gear -- Bloomberg's gift, announced July 5, rose to $20 million, meaning that a total of 406 grants will be awarded, a substantial increase from last year's 302. With his latest gift, Bloomberg has now donated $55 million in four years to the Carnegie Corporation, nearly matching the $70 million he spent on his first mayoral campaign." Backstage 07/13/05

C'mon, There's Enough For Everyo... Oh. I Guess There Isn't. A California legislator recently introduced a bill which would have allowed all the money collected by special license plates touting the state's rich arts community to go to the arts. But under California law, state environmental agencies get a cut of all vanity plate revenue, and proponents of that system saw the arts plate, which would have been an exception to the rule, as a threat. The bill was killed off last week in committee, leaving California's state arts board last in the nation in per capita arts spending. Los Angeles Times 07/13/05

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Virginia Performing Arts Center's Rocky Road A planned performing arts center for Richmond, Virgina is being criticized after significant changes were made in the project... Richmond Times-Dispatch 07/10/05

Thursday, July 7, 2005

London Shows Canceled Concerts and all of London's West End theatres have been closed after the Thursday bombing as police advised residents not to travel to central London. "The theatre closures are thought to be unprecedented since World War II, apart from the days of state funerals. BBC 07/07/05

Does Crime Really Give You Cred? Probably Not. Hip-hop culture has often been said to be inextricably bound together with thuggery and crime, and the genre's biggest stars are also frequently the ones with the longest rap sheets. It's all about the mysterious notion of "credibility," a measure of personal and professional success considered vitally important to American rappers. But the conventional wisdom probably misses the point about hip-hop's crime connection, and so, too, do many rappers: "if your rhymes don't ring true to begin with, an arrest will probably just make matters worse... For a rapper, having your name printed in the police blotter is likely merely to reinforce whatever perceptions fans already have." The New York Times 07/07/05

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

A Tax Break For Performing Arts Radio? A proposal before the US Congress would give tax incentives to a commercial radio station that gave over its license to performing arts groups. "The Cultural Radio Tax Credit Act of 2005 (or HR 2904) was introduced June 15 and would provide a tax credit to the owner of a radio broadcasting station that "donates the license and other assets of said station to a nonprofit corporation for purposes of supporting nonprofit fine arts and performing arts organizations." Backstage 07/06/05

UK's Australian Invasion Why are Australians running some of the UK's biggest arts institutions? "Little in their sunkissed insularity has equipped them for the ethnic and economic diversity of British arts and their focus is so short-term that only the most desperate of boards would, it seems to me, choose a second-string Aussie above a locally experienced, lifelong committed Brit. It makes no sense at all. More alarming still is the effect of their mass defection on the morale and infrastructure of Australian culture." La Scena Musicale 07/06/05

Scrapping For Every Dime In The Original Blue State Three year after absorbing a brutal 62% cut in its state funding, the Massachusetts Cultural Council has made slight gains at the legislature, receiving an additional $1.3 million in public funds for fiscal 2006. The increase, signed into law by the state's Republican governor last week, puts the council's overall budget at $9.6 million. Most of the additional money is meant to restore grants that were eliminated in the wake of the budget cuts in 2002. The governor had originally threatened to veto the increase, but changed his mind under pressue from legislative leaders and the public. Boston Globe 07/06/05

Edinburgh Summer Fests Going Through The Roof Edinburgh's multiple summer festivals are doing particularly well at the box office this year, with many upcoming events already sold out. "Ticket sales for this year's International Festival are 14 per cent up on last year as theatre and dance fans snap up briefs for the most sought-after productions." The book fest is selling at a record pace as well, and the always-popular Fringe Festival is on a steady track as well. Overall, it's a positive sign for the arts in Scotland, given the recent history of government funding controversies and struggling companies. The Scotsman 07/06/05

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Fortress America: Foreign Travel To The US Is Way Down "Planned federal passport and visa rules and other measures intended to safeguard the nation are creating the perception of a Fortress America overseas, tarnishing this country's reputation for hospitality and personal freedom. As a consequence, visa applications from foreign travelers have dropped by one-third from pre-Sept. 11 levels, and fewer foreign students are applying to U.S. schools. Moreover, travel agents report booking foreign travelers away from the United States, and airlines that serve overseas hot spots say business is down on their routes to the United States." San Francisco Chronicle 07/03/05

Aussie Artists Protest Plan To Kill Compulsory University Union Fees A move by the Australian government to to do away with compulsory student union fees at universities has artists concerned. "Every year, students pay a compulsory union fee, which varies between $100 and $500, depending on the campus. Student-run bodies use the money to pay for services such as food and bar subsidies, sporting grounds, advocacy services, galleries and campus sport and arts clubs. A proportion is also used to fund political pursuits, including campaigns against higher university fees. The Government says students who never use these services or don't join campus clubs shouldn't be forced to pay for them, and has drafted a bill to make the fee voluntary." Artists say the cut in fee collections will kill programs. Sydney Morning Herald 07/03/05

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