Arts News: June 2007 Archives
It was during a recital by super-diva Isabel Bayrakdarian, perhaps one of the best known voices in the world thanks to her soaring soprano contributions to the soundtrack of "The Lord of the Rings" and to a recent dance club hit called "Angelicus," that I learned what might have gone wrong with the Savannah Symphony Orchestra.
By the time Bayrakdarian performed at the Savannah Music Festival this past spring, the orchestra, then the most important cultural institution in this historic city for almost half a century, had been bankrupt with no sign of re-forming for almost five years.
During intermission, I found myself engaged in a conversation with a former member of the symphony's board of directors. At the time, she knew me, but I didn't know this woman personally. I knew her by reputation only. She is a prominent figure in Savannah's cultural and philanthropic circles. I'll call her Linda.
As Linda and I gabbed about festival performances past, present and future, the topic of conversation turned to the lost symphony, as these conversations often do in the wake of the its 2003 Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which required complete liquidation of assets, with no chance of reorganization under legal protection. At one point, Linda made a comment that illuminated one of the key reasons for its collapse.
"My social life was ruined," Linda said.
Sicko starts small
All right, so movies aren't the usual fare for Flyover, but this news item was so fitting our theme of the American Outback that it just had to be mentioned. Michael Moore's latest film is having its North American premiere not in New York or L.A., but in a small northern Michigan town of Bellaire. Tickets are $40 a piece and being sold in this town of fewer than 1,000 people.
(Thanks to Kevin Wright of the Traverse City Record-Eagle)
Promoting Wisconsin works
Three groups have joined forces to help encourage Wisconsin playwrights. They're hosting a Wisconsin Wrights New Play Project that will perform three premieres. " After weeks of intensive workshops, Normal Human Beings by Bruce Murphy, The Queen of Janesville by Greg Lawless and Recovering the Real Me by Kurt McGinnis Brown will receive staged readings in UW Vilas Hall's Hemsley Theatre from June 7 to 9, with 7:30 p.m. performances each night. Selected from a pool of more than 40 entries, these three finalists were scored by a team of expert readers, evaluated by a panel of judges, and finally ranked by lead judge and Madison native Bradley Whitford, the Emmy-winning actor of West Wing fame.
"Besides a public reading, Wisconsin Wrights finalists are awarded a week's stay at Madison's Edenfred Mansion and provided with professional dramaturges and directors to assist in their works' development. Once scripts are finalized, one of the three plays will be selected for inclusion in the Madison Repertory Theatre's 2007 New Play Festival."
(Thanks to Jacqueline West of Isthmus)
The troubled legacy of Rufus Thomas at Stax
"It's late February, and things are buzzing inside the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
On the floor of Studio A, two dozen or so familiar figures are greeting each other with hugs and handshakes. Among them are Stax artists Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper, songwriters Mack Rice and Bettye Crutcher, and label executive Al Bell. They've assembled for a press conference for European journalists who've flown in on a junket to cover the 50th anniversary of Stax."
(Thanks to Bob Mehr of the Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Atlanta's breakdancing scene attracts attention, but at what cost?
"Breakdancing surged into the mainstream the first time in 1983 when Jennifer Beals' artful exotic dancer (and welder) in Flashdance gave her Julliard audition some street cred. Her moves were ripped from the Rock Steady Crew, whose members appeared in the movie, breakdancing in alleyways and on sidewalks. ... But by 1985, breakdancing had all but become a joke. Witness Don Ameche backspinning at a nightclub in the 'Seniors Gone Wild' antics of 1985's 'Cocoon.' By then, the pop music audience had decided that headbanging was more dignified, and I started stealing David Lee Roth moves from 'Just a Gigolo.'"
(Thanks to Thomas Bell of Atlanta Creative Loafing)
Mysteries of patronage: The gift that keeps on taking
"If corroboration were necessary for F. Scott Fitzgerald's assured cliché that 'the very rich are different from you and me,' it is conspicuously available in the current exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art. The philanthropist and notable Yale benefactor Paul Mellon financed the Center's Louis Kahn building, and then he filled it. 'A Passion for British Art' constitutes a recreation of the opening of the museum thirty years ago, with almost everything on view acquired by him, or guided by the standards he applied."
(Thanks to Stephen Vincent Kobasa of the New Haven Advocate, New Haven, Conn.)
Talkin' Tags: An (Ex) Graffitti Artist Goes Public
"Compared with other small American cities, Burlington has a reputation for being hip and artsy. But when it comes to public perceptions of graffiti, that hip-hop-inflected, spray-paint-intensive artistic subculture -- fuhgeddaboudit. At least, that's the word from a former 'tagger.' He reports that average Burlingtonians don't have a clue about all the graffiti in their midst -- where it's done and who's doing it, let alone what those bubble letters mean. Then again, he doesn't really want them to find out."
(Thanks to Mike Ives of Seven Days, Burlington, Vermont)
Today, Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Americans for the Arts released detailed data from the third in a series of studies on the economic impact of the arts. Titled "Arts and Economic Prosperity III," the survey compiled data on the impact of non-profit arts organizations in 116 cities and counties, 35 multi-county regions, and five states across the nation during 2005.
The study is the third produced by Americans for the Arts; previous studies were published in 1994 and 2002.
This new one shows, essentially, the same thing that the previous two showed: that non-profit arts organizations contribute significantly to local economies. To quote the summary of the results:
"Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity annually--a 24 percent increase in just the past five years. That amount is greater than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries. This spending supports 5.7 million full-time jobs right here in the U.S.--an increase of 850,000 jobs since our 2002 study. What's more, because arts and culture organizations are strongly rooted in their community, these are jobs that necessarily remain local and cannot be shipped overseas.
Our industry also generates nearly $30 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year. By comparison, the three levels of government collectively spend less than $4 billion annually to support arts and culture--a spectacular 7:1 return on investment that would even thrill Wall Street veterans."
Here in Missoula, MT, the results released today are particularly -- perhaps suspiciously -- promising. In the past five years, if we are to trust the results of the previous 2002 study and the current one, non-profit arts and culture organizations and their patrons have more than doubled their contribution to the local economy, from somewhere around $16 million per year to over $34 million.
I've lived here all that time, and things have indeed been good. But that good?
Maybe. Maybe not. A 2001 study by the RAND Corporation found that past attempts to quantify the economic impact of the arts (including the Americans for the Arts surveys) suffered from "noteworthy weaknesses" and "holes in the evidence."
Only time will tell whether this new study will stand up to the analysis of the stat-geeks among us.
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program