Economist Tyler Cowen has some suggestions for how he thinks national arts policy in the United States could improve under a Trump Republican Congress. A futile hope? Here were Cowen’s criteria:
First, they must save the federal government money, to appeal to the Republican Congress. Second, they should stand a chance of appealing to Trump, given his stances on other issues. Third, they should offer a reasonable chance of improving the quality of the arts in the U.S., and fourth, the arts community should not hate every aspect of the changes.
You’ve got to admire the effort to find the positive. Others have argued the arts could be a natural target since artists aren’t exactly in the sweet spot of Trump’s constituency. Federal arts funding has never recovered since the culture wars of the 1990s and it’s highly unlikely that the Republican Congress will increase that funding, no matter how small it is. But at a policy level, Cowen does have some interesting suggestions, basically proposing restoring restrictions put on the NEA at the time the budget was cut. He suggests restoring the NEA’s ability to fund individual artists, a punitive action meant to restrict funding controversial art. And he suggests killing the requirement that the NEA send 40 percent of its budget to state arts agencies so they can “regrant” it. This, he reasons, would give the feds more control of the money.
Restoring individual grants would be hugely popular in the arts community. But it’s difficult to tell if there would be support for removing the 40 percent state allocation. On the one hand, it would give the NEA more bang for its bucks, and the NEA is much more sophisticated in its operations than many state arts agencies. On the other hand, with so much emphasis in recent years on artists being more responsive to their communities, one could make the case that local agencies have a better sense of what their communities need.
ArtsJournal blogger Michael Rushton argues that:
“Whether you agree with his advice or not, he does raise an important issue: arts policy in the US at the federal and state level lack clear goals, and as such rigorous evaluation of the success, or failure, of their policies is near impossible. That in turn explains why the academic literature on arts policy in the US is so uncritical. What is there to criticize? What is the NEA, and in turn the state arts councils it helps to fund, trying to achieve? Without knowing that, it is not possible to evaluate whether transferring such a high percentage of federal arts funding to the states is actually a good use of funds.”
We may be at the beginning of a critical debate about what constitutes essential infrastructure in this country – what are the things that are public goods but aren’t viable as private capitalist enterprises. Trump says he’ll spend a trillion dollars on public infrastructure, but there are signs his idea is not so much to finance construction and modernization but to privatize and create tax incentives. Are the arts a public good? If even our bridges and roads are about to be privatized to pay for their rebuilding, it’s difficult to imagine the case Trump and the Republicans would make that they are.
One Story: Context Published:12.07.16
Middle Class Communities
For the many of us reeling from the recent election, middle class communities are much on our minds. … I thought it might be good to dig a little deeper into what this might mean for community engagement. … read more
AJBlog: Engaging Matters Published 2016-12-06
What to do about the NEA
At Bloomberg, Tyler Cowen posts some recommendations on US federal government arts policy. … The thing I always enjoy about Cowen – especially in his blog – is his ability to put fresh ideas out there as sparks for discussion; this is particularly important in arts policy … read more
AJBlog: For What It’s Worth Published 2016-12-06
Brett’s Bet: What Gorvy’s Sudden Exit from Christie’s May Mean for the Art Market
One thing I know about Brett Gorvy, Christie’s departing chairman of Post-War and Contemporary art, is that he’s very smart — probably the savviest auction-house specialist I’ve ever encountered. So it’s almost impossible not to interpret his … read more
AJBlog: CultureGrrl Published 2016-12-07
When did singers and songwriters first start getting lumped under the moniker “artists?” I think it happened during my lifetime, but I’m not sure, because I’ve spent a lot of my life in a cave. … read more
AJBlog: Infinite Curves Published 2016-12-06
“While critics and book reviewers may continue to be an essential part of public cultural life, literary theorists who do not embrace AI will be at risk of becoming an exotic species – like the librarians who once used index cards to search for information.”
“Artists objected to the fact that the NAS Creative Community Fellows program would have emphasized community engagement–which they view as the province of outreach programs administered by nonprofit organizations. It also placed substantial emphasis on training for more community engagement–an investment of time and energy many artists view as taking them away from the focus of their work. They note that the work itself is exhibited in galleries and featured in art walks and as such has made enormous contributions to Cleveland neighborhoods.”
Collective Arts Network Published:12.06.16
“Now it has emerged that one of the two experts who refused to authenticate the score later tried to persuade the owner of the piece to part with it for just €900 (£757), less than one per cent of the value put on it by the auction house.”
The Telegraph (UK) Published:12.02.16
“In the U.S., we’re citizens of our debt,” the collective, which grew out of the Occupy Wall Street movement, told me. “Almost everyone has some kind of debt. If artists don’t organize around it, [the debt] is going to gobble us up.”
“Symptoms included a frenzy for culling and hunting down first editions, rare copies, books of certain sizes or printed on specific paper.”
Atlas Obscura Published:12.02.16
“Whatever problems you might have with the idea of a Trump administration, it opens up the prospect of a real improvement in American arts policy.”
In the years between the 1925 Paris Exhibition (where the stye became famous) and World War II, Art Deco became as popular in Japan as it did in any other prosperous country. “The cultural hybridity was, in a way, a reversal of the one that emerged in Western Europe in the late-19th century, when Japonism swept through the region, captivating the Impressionists in particular.”
“She went from sort of daffy and inattentive to intimately involved with her client’s world. Her head cocked, her timbre lowered, and she understood everything. A client could have sat down and told her they were going to murder their parents and she would have said, “Well, they have been very mean to you.” With her, the clients felt heard. They’d open up their lives, reveal deeply buried trauma. She was a truly fantastic interviewer.”
Literary Hub Published:12.01.16
A century ago, Maude Adams was such a renowned actress that one critic described her as “the most popular person in the United States.” Peter Pan was the role that made her a superstar, and she was also famous for her Napoleon II. Yet the play she loved most was an adaptation of the old fable of Chanticleer.
Atlas Obscura Published:12.06.16
“One positive story the classical music field has to tell is a multi-tiered membership approach developed by The Cleveland Orchestra. Instead of building a one-size fits all membership program, the Cleveland Orchestra team identified distinct audience segments that fell through the cracks of their existing loyalty programs. Then, they went about crafting a targeted membership initiative for each of those groups: college students, young professionals, and “gap audiences” that hadn’t responded to traditional subscription offerings.”
How ‘Crash’ Got Made Against The Odds And Won The Best Picture Oscar Against Even Bigger Odds: An Oral History
These folks don’t think they beat Brokeback Mountain because of Academy voters’ homophobia (or at least skittishness). But they made the movie, so they would say that, wouldn’t they? Even so, they have quite a story to tell.
New York Magazine Published:12.04.16
“With the ubiquity of the internet and the rise of machine learning, a new kind of solution is beginning to take shape. The infrastructure of the web, built to link one resource to the next, was the beginning. The next wave of information systems promises to more deeply establish links between people, ideas, and artifacts that have, so far, remained out of reach—by drawing connections between information and objects that have come unmoored from context and history.”
The Atlantic Published:12.01.16
Some of the reaction seems to be Poe’s Law in action (though you’d think the title – Bad Little Children’s Books: KidLit Parodies, Shameless Spoofs, and Offensively Tweaked Covers – would clue folks in), and some seems to be indignant virtue-signaling.
Boston Globe Published:12.05.16
Lynn Nottage, Playwright Of ‘Sweat’, On Getting To Know Locked-Out Middle-Aged White Steelworkers In Reading, PA
“I found that the way in which they spoke was really familiar to me, as an African-American woman who has struggled with marginalization throughout my entire life. For the first time, they were saying, ‘We feel unseen, unheard, frustrated.’ At the end of the meeting, I said, ‘You guys sound like socialists.'” A Q&A with Slate‘s June Thomas.
“I came to Australia with a shaved head and a swollen foot. … It’s been extreme hard work, extreme dedication, and also extreme loneliness. This isn’t my home. But it feels so comfortable and I’ve been made to feel so welcome.”
Sydney Morning Herald Published:12.08.16
“The 27-year-old Ukrainian … has been cast in two hot upcoming titles: Kenneth Branagh’s all-star adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express and the spy thriller Red Sparrow from Fox, appearing alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton.”
Hollywood Reporter Published:12.05.16
The figure for last season was up 15% over 2014-15 and is the fourth increase in a row. Total attendance was down slightly, and there was a $561,000 deficit after three years of surpluses; both decreases can be blamed on (yes, really) the weather.
Indianapolis Star Published:12.06.16
The auction house has acquired Orion Analytical and is folding the firm into its newly-created scientific research department. James Martin, the firm’s founder (and now a Sotheby’s exec), has helped the FBI in a number of art fraud cases, not least the Knoedler Gallary debacle.
Executive director Andrew Kipe says that the 29-year-old music director has
“really changed the conversation about the orchestra and its mission and direction. He has wanted the orchestra to do more than be in the concert hall giving concerts.”
Louisville Courier-Journal Published:12.05.16
The artifacts, which range between roughly 1,800 and 2,400 years old, were stored at the Geneva Free Port in 2009-10, before the current Arab civil wars and the rise of ISIS.
The Art Newspaper Published:12.05.16
He’d been acting professionally in British theatre, film, and television for seven decades when he was cast (at age 90) as Maester Aemon in HBO’s juggernaut. “With his bulky figure, small eyes and prognathous jaw, he usually played the type of character you would not want to bump into on a dark night in a darker alley, even though, in real life, Vaughan was known for his conviviality,”
The Guardian Published:12.06.16
These films rarely top critics’ lists, but they’ve definitely captured their people’s imaginations. Britain’s The Great Escape, Russia’s Irony of Fate, India’s Sholay – plus titles for France, Germany, Mexico, Japan, Nigeria, and, of course, the U.S. (for which the choice may be arguable but is certainly credible, especially when you adjust its box-office figures for inflation).
The Guardian Published:12.01.16
And not just in the contemporary category, either. Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain and John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles are up for best opera recording (Higdon’s up for best new composition as well). Among other nominees are the Seattle Symphony doing Dutilleux, Leila Josefowicz acing John Adams, Salonen and the LA Phil zinging Zappa, Third Coast Percussion banging out Reich, and Mason Bates performed by both MTT/San Francisco and Muti/Chicago.
Los Angeles Times Published:12.06.16
“In a year that lacked some of the breakout narratives that have marked the jazz category in recent years – see Gregory Porter, Cecile McLorin Salvant – Grammy voters once more leaned on veteran or otherwise familiar talents for the bulk of the nominations field.”
Los Angeles Times Published:12.06.16
The headline in this morning’s ArtsJournal touted the “bombshell” report by the Toronto Symphony that it had avoided what looked like a likely $4-6 million deficit to instead post an $831,000 surplus AND reduce its long term accumulated debt of almost $12 million by about $5 million. Great news, right?
But read down into the Musical Toronto story and the news is more sobering. In fact, it looks like the “surplus” barely masks yet another shaky financial year for the orchestra, which has been carrying accumulated deficits for decades. How long? The orchestra has carried debt continuously since… 1979.
To put this year’s results in the black, the orchestra drew a hefty $4.9 million on its ~$33 million endowment. And then this curious notation:
The rest of the $5M reduction in accumulated debt comes from the historical musical instrument collection, which the orchestra valued at $4.2M and is unlikely to depreciate, due to its historical classification.
Since presumably the orchestra wouldn’t sell its valuable instruments(?) how did the instruments help reduce the accumulated deficit?
While the overall financial picture doesn’t seem really to have improved, the orchestra does seem to have adroitly avoided what was looming as a financial crisis after former CEO Jeff Melanson left last year. And the TSO did report that individual contributions to the orchestra were up impressively by more than 20% over the previous year, and the number of donors was up 15%.
The TSO’s books showed fundraising hitting an all-time high at 37.7%. Tickets contributed 27.5%, Government grants at 17.3%, Foundation contributions at 15.5% and an additional 4.9% from other sources such as parking and concession sales.
Still – there are an awful lot of unfilled seats in Roy Thomson Hall these days. For whatever his faults as an administrator, Melanson had a big vision for the orchestra. With the TSO looking for a new CEO and a new music director, some compelling idea about what the orchestra should be will be a high priority.
- Douglas McLennan
Okay – so we don’t quite know how Solange beats out Beyonce’s Lemonade for best album of the year. But the bigger question is how this eclectic hodgepodge of styles and genres gets sorted out into a big list that features Barbara Hannigan, Miranda Lambert, Rihanna, Chopin mazurkas, Kaytranada and Christopher Rouse. Just what is the aesthetic through-line here?
“The old world of museums as quiet, cavernous halls displaying collections of objects for those willing to make the trek is having to adapt. While perhaps branding was once sniffed at in cultural institutions as the dark arts of commercial witchery, today it is a key part of the show. In an age of flashy soundbites and stories told dramatically, most commonly on a digital platform, museums recognise the need to stretch well beyond their physical boundaries.”
The Drum Published:12.02.16
Clint Smith: “My classroom was filled with almost exclusively black and brown students, many of them undocumented immigrants. While Ellison wrote of invisibility as a black man caught in the discord of early-twentieth-century racism, this particular group of students read the idea of invisibility not as a metaphor but as a necessity, a way of insuring one’s protection.”
The New Yorker Published:12.04.16
“After years of making use of elaborate renderings on one New York soundstage, NBC is taking a cue from Fox’s recent production of “Grease: Live!” and, for the first time, is staging the production in Los Angeles including a live studio audience and will mount some of the production outside.”
Los Angeles Times Published:12.06.16
As rock’s iconic drummers get to middle age and older, they’re suffering hearing loss and muscle and joint pain associated with a lifetime of hitting the skins.
The Globe and Mail (Canada) Published:12.02.16
Zadie Smith said to me years ago, “Everything we think of as literary culture will be gone in a generation and a half.” She said, “It will last your time, but it won’t last mine.” I don’t think it will ever disappear, but it will shrink. It will go back to what it was when I started out, which is a minority interest sphere, which some people happen to be very interested in.
“By the numbers, museums have become thriving enterprises, competing and ballooning into what we might call a museum industrial complex. Today there are 3,500 art museums in the United States, more than half of them founded after 1970, and 17,000 museums of all types in total, including science museums, children’s museums, and historical houses. Attendance at art museums is booming, rising from 22 million a year in 1962 to over 100 million in 2000. At the same time, and hand in hand with these numbers, billions of dollars have been spent on projects that have largely focused on expanding the social-service offerings at these institutions—restaurants, auditoriums, educational divisions, event spaces—rather than additional rooms for collections. At the present rate, the museum of the future will virtually be a museum without objects, as new non-collection spaces dwarf exhibition halls with the promise that no direct contact with the past will disturb your meal. As London’s Victoria and Albert Museum once advertised, the museum of the future will finally be a café with ‘art on the side’.”
New Criterion Published:12.16
“When musicians play instruments, their brains are processing a huge amount and variety of information in parallel. Musical styles and strengths vary dramatically: Some musicians are better at sight reading music, while others are better at playing by ear. Does this mean that their brains are processing information differently?”
Science Daily Published:12.04.16
“Under Brown’s leadership, GIA’s membership increased thirty-four percent and the budget was nearly doubled from 2008 to 2017. The organization also saw a large expansion of its programs, including the development of webinars, research, workshops, and forums on a wide array of topics including arts education; support for individual artists; cross-sector creative work in medicine, environment, and corrections; and many more. The 2016 GIA Conference was the largest in the organization’s 32-year history.”
Grantmakers in the Arts Published:12.05.16
It’s Mark Stryker, longtime arts writer for the Detroit Free Press. “Some of you will be surprised – maybe shocked – to learn that after 21 years as an arts reporter and critic at the Detroit Free Press, I am leaving the paper. Frankly, I’m kind of shocked to have just typed those words myself. I’m taking advantage of the voluntarily severance package that was offered to all newsroom employees. My last day is (gulp) Dec. 16.”
“Art demands openness, persistence, and a willingness to tolerate failure. You can’t expect an opera composer to write a great opera if she’s never had the chance to write a mediocre one — or five.”
New York Magazine Published:11.30.16
“‘This festival teaches even the little children, artless and simple, to be greedy,’ as one critic put it. ‘The tender minds of the young begin to be impressed with that which is commercial and sordid.’ The year was 400, and the anxious writer was the Cappadocian Bishop Asterius of Amasea.”
“Two years ago, in an essay on the persistence of the Frankfurt School, I wrote, ‘If Adorno were to look upon the cultural landscape of the twenty-first century, he might take grim satisfaction in seeing his fondest fears realized.’ I spoke too soon. His moment of vindication is arriving now.”
The New Yorker Published:12.05.16
“Our findings suggest that those who pursue creativity, and produce significant creative contributions, may benefit from existential security in the face of death,” the researchers conclude. Artists follow their muses for a myriad of reasons, of course. But this research suggests that, whatever their catalyst, doing creative work — and especially getting recognized for it — conveys an invaluable emotional benefit.
Pacific Standard Published:12.05.16
“After weeks went by and no money changed hands, [Father] Zerafa got a parcel in the post containing a slice of the Caravaggio canvas. They intended to slice off strips until they were paid or the painting was destroyed.”
“Life has not been easy for Paradise Sorouri. In the past seven years, the 27-year-old has been forced to flee her country twice, received more death threats than she can count, and was brutally beaten by 10 men on the street and left to die. Her crime? She covers her head with a baseball cap instead of a hijab, raises her voice for women’s rights, and is Afghanistan’s first female rapper.”
The Guardian Published:12.01.16
Tamara Best: “I barely listen to classical music, so how did a live string quartet end up in my apartment on a Saturday night?” (The answer: Groupmuse.)
New York Times Published:12.04.16
“This year we celebrate four extraordinary dance heroes: New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck, choreographer Lar Lubovitch, activist/teacher Carolyn Adams and historian Lynn Garafola.”
Dance Magazine Published:11.30.16
In The Age Of Trigger Warnings And Microaggressions, Are Campuses Still Safe Spaces For Studying – And Experimenting In – The Arts?
“Unlike Jerry Seinfeld and his jokes, college art instructors cannot just take their lesson plans to some local concert hall. In an environment set up to encourage experimentation and free expression, is parody or a critical stance allowable and, if so, which targets are O.K.?”
New York Observer Published:12.02.16
“The idea is that the desire to counter racism might itself end up fomenting prejudice. Based on what we know about the human mind and the psychology of bias, should this ‘backlash’ explanation of the Trump Effect” – the marked rise in incidents of harassment and even assault since the election – “carry any weight?” Daniel Engber looks at the research.
Broadway Collects Data On Just About Everything, But Not On The Race Of Its Performers – So This Group Did Just That
Frustrated, like so many others, by lack of opportunity, the Asian American Performers Action Coalition decided to get the real stats on Broadway diversity. The results probably won’t surprise you.
What’s more, he’s the author of the play that became the Oscar contender Moonlight – Tarell Alvin McCraney, who himself graduated from Yale’s program just a decade ago.
New York Times Published:12.05.16