January 2009 Archives
[Full story at *Charleston City Paper*. . .](http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A62128)
Stacy Pearsall has never been good with words. What she saw in Iraq during two tours only makes them harder to come by. She knows what John McCain meant by leaving "with honor," but feels Vietnam has little bearing on the War on Terror.
We sent volunteers to Iraq, for one thing, who didn't know who the enemy was. Her friend Donny lost his head to a sniper. Her friend Katie lost most of her right hand to one. Soldiers feared their throats would be slit in their sleep. Food was often poisoned. Pearsall herself was wounded twice in combat, once while carrying a man to safety.
Pearsall is proud of doing what her country asked of her. A soldier doing her duty, and leaving Iraq in decent shape, defines "honor." But she has doubts, perhaps the deepest wound of all. Right and wrong get lost in the fog of war, as when an 8-year-old girl tried to give her a live grenade. It's hard to sleep when memories of what she experienced in that country keep her up at night.
"I hope I left with honor," she says.
A former combat photographer who retired from the Air Force in August, Pearsall is now director of the Charleston Center for Photography, a new local nonprofit. Her work has been used by The New York Times, Newsweek, GQ, and CNN. And she was twice named military photographer of the year, the only woman to achieve such distinction.
Words aren't her forte, but Pearsall has her pictures. She hopes the work on display at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, one of Charleston's most high-profile venues, will tell the story of what it felt like to be "down range." There's no better time than now.
One of the campaign promises of President Barack Obama was to set a 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. The Halsey show, called The War on Terror: Inside/Out, has been timed to open with the ascent of the Obama administration. She shares the show with documentary photographer Christopher Sims, a professor at Duke University.
Pearsall comes from a military family. She was 17 when she joined the Air Force. She broke into an elite corps of combat photographers, a macho bunch where chicks are suspect. She loves her band of brothers. They fought for her; she fought for them. She thinks the invasion was a good thing. She saw how badly Iraqi women had it. But the time has come, she believes, to leave Iraq. That's why she cautiously voted for Obama.
"I hope he keeps his promise," she says.
I would add it brings greater light to the role of any person acting in the public's trust. That includes volunteer board members of orchestras who view their stewardship not as a civic duty but as a social obligation. Or worse, as a duty discharged in the name of business, as the Brandeis trustees have done, and not in the name of community, legacy, and cultural heritage.
I think it is the same everywhere. I think all donors, whether in small towns or big cities, often develop long-term relationships with institutions in their midst. Even though there are more donors in bigger cities, they all seem to know one another from various board affiliations and social gatherings.
So it's just a bigger group, but no less intimate. This was brought home to me when I attended a fund-raising event at Harvard (I did a book about their natural history museum a few years ago, and I was up for a book signing). Many of the people there were sharing stories about the Boston Ballet, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Gardner Museum, etc.-- all of which they supported to one degree or another.
Donors talk to one another. If I were a donor to Brandeis, I would be furious, and I would withdraw from future donations. I feel certain this will be the reaction of a portion of their donors. There are many people who love the Rose Museum.
This decision brings into question the whole notion of the role of a Trustee. You'd think it was to protect and defend -- not divide and conquer.
"This puts all of our roles at our institutions in jeopardy. ... And it puts in jeopardy our relationships with our donors with whom we have built our collections," he said. The ethics codes cited by Robertson are vital, museum officials say, because donors will not make gifts to university collections if they believe that their donations could end up in an auction house sometime in the future."I'd imagine Brandeis is going to face quite a few pissed off donors. I can imagine this sending a chill down their backs in communities across the country, even, and perhaps especially, in the small cities and college towns in Flyoverville. Jaschik did some more good digging when he found a profile of the Rose's director in the university's alumni magazine. In it, Michael Rush brags about the value of his collection.
The article cites Rush as saying that by "eyeball," he could tell that the collection was worth at least $300 million, but that he planned to have a formal appraisal done to draw attention to the significance of the art museum. In a quote he may regret, he says: "I'm confident that, after its real estate, art is the university's largest financial asset, and I want everyone to know it."[Full story](http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/01/27/brandeis) . . .
[Full review](http://newhavenreview.com/?p=239) . . .
I first encountered Matthew Dickman's "Trouble" in a recent issue of The New Yorker. It's a litany of the many ways famous people killed themselves. Marilyn Monroe took sleeping pills. Marlon Brando's daughter hanged herself. Bing Crosby's sons "shot themselves out of the music industry forever." The list's utilitarian feeling only makes the horror more horrible, especially when it includes the suicide of Dickman's brother: He "opened thirteen Fentanyl patches," Dickman tells us, "and stuck them on his body until it wasn't his body anymore."
But there's a sense of humor too, even whiffs of whimsy, which make the tenor of All-American Poem, in which "Trouble" appears, feel genuine without being sappy. The poems are lucid and coy, rambling and drunk, playful and gregarious, a tapestry of emotion with a notable thread missing: There's little in the way of satire or irony, by which I mean meanness of spirit. Written amid the anxieties and neuroses of the Bush era, Dickman's poems are conspicuous for their lack of bitterness. After learning about his brother's fate, we learn: "I sometimes wonder about the inner lives of polar bears."
How random. How charming. And how frightening, too. ...
... its leaders say that the way the organization was managed while times were good left it vulnerable to a decelerating economy: The orchestra had operating losses in five of the last six years, signed a five-year contract with musicians that locked in high fixed costs, conducted periodic "save the orchestra" campaigns that alienated donors, and spent meager sums on marketing and fund raising while undertaking an ambitious artistic program.[Cross-posted to CCP](http://arts.ccpblogs.com/2009/01/12/chronicle-of-philanthropy-on-the-cso/).
Full story . . . Cross-posted at [*Charleston City Paper*](http://arts.ccpblogs.com/2009/01/09/amassing-intellectual-capital/).
The University of Houston-Victoria is an unlikely hot spot for experimental fiction and the humanities. But this 3,200-student institution has, in just a few years, become host to a constellation of small but prestigious scholarly endeavors that needed new homes - including an independent press for "artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction," and the 8,000-circulation American Book Review.
"Sometimes, I'm surprised as well," says Jeffrey R. Di Leo, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at UH-V, which doesn't have Ph.D. programs and where most of the master's degrees are professionally-oriented. "I think this should all be at 'Well-Known University Y.' But it also becomes just another thing that the big university has -- whereas here it really is one of the cornerstones of our identity. So...."
[Read full story . . . ](http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A54917)
Creativity is a part of their lives. Millennials don't just dream it. They be it. Kulture Klash's website tells why the event matters: "For the sake of art and community."
"We want everyone to have a voice, everyone to get involved," says Gustavo Serrano. "If we can tap into everyone's imagination, who knows what will happen?"
The idea of a bottom-up, idealism-based community of creative types, like Kulture Klash, goes back to the ancient Greeks.
Today, it can be found in knitting circles, jazz ensembles, open-source technology like Linux, crowdsourced knowledge consortiums like Wikipedia, community arts projects like the recent The Future Is on the Table art exhibit at City Gallery, and even in pick-up games of basketball (which is, because of its reliance on the integrity of individual players, Barack Obama's favorite pastime).
These have characteristics that challenge the old guard of established arts professionals whose minds were galvanized, like Clinton and Bush, by "great disruption" of the 1960s. These characteristics include participation over presentation, collaboration over competition, amateurism (in the best sense of the word) over professionalism, and process over product.
Grassroots creativity is an old idea (Walt Whitman exulted the inventive potential of diversity), but the difference now is scale.
Ninety-five million Americans are applying the ideals of Web 2.0 to the real world, including their approach to the arts.
Nobody need wonder why, in Washington, the arts have become something of an embarrassment. The city--and the country--have never really recovered from the controversies that exploded around the NEA beginning in the late 1980s, when some Republicans decided to save the world from Robert Mapplethorpe's sexually explicit photographs and Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, works which many liberals, while determined to defend the NEA, did not particularly care for, either. If there is any lesson to be learned from those hideous debates, it is that the danger when we talk about the relationship between the arts and the nation is that everybody all too rapidly descends into parochialism. There are the utilitarians, who are convinced that art education is important because it improves children's more general cognitive skills; there are the populists, who think that government is best off supporting bluegrass music and quilting; there are the cultural leftists, who believe that the government should embrace individual artists because they are society's renegades and outcasts; and there are the traditionalists, who want to give money to museums and symphony orchestras and thereby uphold canonical values. The main trouble with all these viewpoints is that they deny the inner integrity of the arts, which in truth are neither populist nor elitist, neither progressive nor conservative, but are in some mysterious way a part of the fabric of the nation.