Study: We Like Ambiguous Art More

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In a small study in which participants evaluated paintings, the researchers found that “the higher the subjectively perceived degree of ambiguity within an artwork, the more participants liked it, and the more interesting and affecting it was for them.”

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Russian Artists Face A Choice: Censor Themselves, Or Else – But They’re Never Sure How

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“Cultural figures in Russia today describe a climate of confusion and anxiety in which the law banning obscenities, as well as a 2013 law that criminalizes acts offending religious believers, are often ignored unless someone wants them applied.” Under the Soviets, said one publisher, “at least we knew the rules.”

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When Arts Donors Get Too Much Control

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“I have observed over the past 10 years, as the need for major donors has grown, that when one donor provides a substantial percentage of total money raised, too many beneficiary organizations are ceding far too much authority to that donor.”

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USArtists Is Back In The Business Of Supporting Artists

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USA, as it’s known (is there a branding doctor in the house?), was launched in the prerecession happy days by four major funders—the Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential, and Rasmussen Foundations. Together they donated $22 million in seed money for a new organization with a double mission: to “invest in America’s finest artists and illuminate the value of artists to society.”

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The US Tax Code Lands On Artists

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“The biggest offender is still the alternative minimum tax, despite the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which brought long-overdue reform. Two provisions of the A.M.T. hit a disproportionate number of actors, screenwriters and directors: In calculating it, taxpayers can’t deduct employee business expenses, nor can they deduct state, local and property taxes.”

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Head Of Philadelphia Cultural Fund Has Not Had An Easy 12 Years

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“When June O’Neill took over as executive director of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund 12 years ago, she barely had time to find her desk before Mayor John F. Street announced he was slashing the fund and eliminating the city’s Office of Arts and Culture. That was followed by the 2008 fiscal crisis, which saw the fund, an independent nonprofit that receives its budget entirely from the city, cut [by] 42.5 percent … [She’s] been through it all.”

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Why American Education Needs To Focus On More Than The Basics

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“America’s last bipartisan cause is this: A liberal education is irrelevant, and technical training is the new path forward. It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher. This dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts.”

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Will The Tate Give Back A Possibly Looted Constable?

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“Tate Gallery says ‘new information’ has emerged over a John Constable painting in its collection thought to have been stolen by the Nazis. It has asked for a review of a recommendation that it should return the work to the heirs of the original owner.”

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‘Man-Seders’ – Matzoh With Steak And Scotch

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“Unlike staid practice sessions of old, these promise flowing alcohol, macho food and male bonding along with some religious instruction, although that last one can get a bit lost at some of the events. … The goal is simple: to teach men about the Passover Seder, including how to run one, and engage them more in the Jewish faith.”

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Was Early Civilization Driven By Agriculture Or By Religion?

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“Some secularists dislike the idea that spiritual needs drove the rise of civilisation. They fret that it will reinforce or restore religion’s central place in society. But just because spirituality may have led to civilisation, it doesn’t follow that it should lead it now. If religion did have an early founding role, we must acknowledge this, learn from it – and move on.”

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Here’s How Much Cultural Tourists Impact London’s Economy

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“The report comes after the latest figures from the Society of London Theatre reported an 11th consecutive year of growth among West End theatre box office takings, measuring gross sales of more than £623 million in 2014. Similarly, attendances for the 53 theatres in full SOLT membership grew to 14.7 million in 2014, a 1% increase on the previous year.”

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Málaga Tries To Make Itself Spain’s Newest Arts Hub

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Francisco de la Torre, mayor since 2000 of the Andalusian seaside city, has attracted branches of such museums as the Pompidou, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the State Russian Museum – in a bid to make the city a destination for more than just cruise ships. Not all Malagueños are pleased, however.

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Is It Time For Hollywood And China To Get Even Closer?

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“We are at an interesting point on the road. Maybe a turning point. To date there has been more talk than action. Looking forward we will see more action with every passing year. We’ve moved from the looking stage to the consummation.”

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The Top 10 Reasons To Support The Arts In 2015

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Randy Cohen on his annual list: “Changes this year include updating #3 with the BEA’s new Arts in the GDP research, #8 to include a statement about the benefits of the arts in the military, and #10 includes the new Creative Industries data (now current as of January 2015).”

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Arts Education And Cognition: A Caution And A Path Forward

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“Trying to find causation between arts education and better academic performance within other disciplines is a bootless errand. I do not believe that it is an effective strategy for arts educators to justify our existence through the improvements the arts may or may not contribute to learning in other disciplines. So what do we do?” Peter Duffy offers some ideas.

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Japan’s Ministry Of Cool

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“For over a decade, the country has embraced ‘Cool Japan,’ a government-supported movement focused on selling what many have described as its ‘gross national cool.’ … There is some irony at work here – an eagerness to promote something as trendy usually signals the opposite – but for years the country’s efforts have paid off. “

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New Arguments On The Value Of The Arts?

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“Mark Stern and Susan Seifert suggest that cultural participation is one component–valued in its own right–of the broader concept of human wellbeing. Though the sentiment might seem obvious, the implication is not: it allows us to elegantly sidestep (if not quite resolve) the whole question of intrinsic vs. instrumental benefits by framing the idea instead as direct vs. indirect contributions to wellbeing.”

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