Uncategorized: March 2007 Archives
The Full Monty
Whitney Smith reviews The Full Monty byÂ American Cabaret Theatre.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Byron Woods says North Carolina University's dramatic arts program needs to upgrade more than just the about-to-close theater--the acting needs an overhaul as well.
Dominic Papatola observes a production that ebbs and flows around the emotional linchpin of a powerful actress.
Jennifer Smith tells how a real-life married couple performing at Madison Reperatory Theatre bring Lanford Wilson's play to life.
Kati Schardl shares the dramatic detective work done by a professor to reconstruct a play possibly written in a collaboration between William Shakespeare and John Fletcher.
Kati Shardl shares the process of reconstruting a play possibly written by
In a recent post at Category305.com, Juan Carlos Rodriguez offers poignant commentary on the soullessness of Miami's Calle Ocho Festival.
Over at the Louisville Eccentric Observer, Elizabeth Kramer catalogs the range of local art inspired by the war in Iraq, and makes a strong case for more of it.
Who would imagine that you'd find 3,000-year old art and a world-class collection of ancient medical texts in the home of a retired doctor in Missoula, Montana? Or that he would be so eloquent in explaining his fascination with art that depicts birth defects? In an installment of the ongoing, multimedia Art at Home series at Missoulian.com, collector Bruce Beckwith talks about his peculiar passion.
Cincinnati residents will soon see a wave of new murals around town, thanks to a $400,000 civic project sponsored by the city, Proctor & Gamble, and UBS Investments.
Studies, studies, and more studies: the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation thinks it has a blueprint for developing local arts tourism; the Rand Corporation has come to the conclusion that Philadelphia could use more centralized coordination of local arts marketing efforts; and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts has pegged the economic impact of artists in the state at $205.2 million dollars.
Critics and arts journalists are quick to hold artists responsible for the work they produce. They have an equal responsibility to hold governing boards of artistic organizations responsible for their management decisions, especially when non-profit boards have such immense control over what is done.
Lansing's professional resident theater, BoarsHead, recently laid off three employees (their education director, their general manager, and their carpenter) and changed a show mid-season to one with fewer actors after their board demanded they cut $150,000 to $200,000 in expenses. They were forced to do this despite the fact that they've been playing critically successful shows to full houses. Their budget had taken a short-fall due to the death of a donor and the reduction in state monies.
The president of their board, Larry Meyer, is a businessman whoÂ is the president of the Michigan Retailers Association. He appears to have little understanding of how an arts organization is distinct from a commercial business. In the coverage of these layoffs, I kept waiting for Meyer to be asked why, if BoarsHead is to be run like just another business, anyone should donate money to them? We wouldn't donate money to Wal-Mart so that they could increase market share. By showing a lack of commitment to the season and to artists, the board sends the message that money is more important than the art they create--which makes future donors less likely to give.
Also, why lay off the education director who has been bringing in grant moneys far in excess of his salary or the managing director who saves the theater money by hosting actors at her home and who has wide connections in the community?
At the NEA Institute, Ben Cameron talked about a society's need for the gift economy and the market economy to be in balance. Commercial businesses compose the market economy while artists, clergy, and teacher compose the gift economy. The two can't successfully be run the same.
When a board suddenly demands that a theater organization in the midst of a successful season change shows and staffing, there must be a reason more compelling than budget projections not hitting where expected. Nor is it healthy to have a board president whose response to creative suggestions is to threaten to shut the theater down if they refuse to comply with his draconian demands.
Unlike commercial businesses, theater and the arts are supposed to be the vehicle that invigorates the soul in our society. Their success is perilous if their fate is placed into the hands of businesspeople whose understanding of the bottom line eclipses their commitment to the arts.
I'll be covering the Savannah Music Festival from March 15-April 1. So it's unlikely that I'll have a chance to post something every day as I have been. However, I will try. In the meantime, please check out my blog for the Savannah Morning News, where I am an arts reporter. You can find it here. It's called Artful Talk, and perhaps I'll simulcast, so to speak, and post comments on Artful Talk to Art.Rox. I'll let you know what I decide. In the meantime, my colleague Bridgette Redman, from Lansing, will continue posting thought-provoking entries. Until April . . .
One of the elements that struck me in the story about the Seattle art critic gone awry were these statements:
In December, she said, the paper asked him to choose between curating art exhibitions and acting as a reviewer because of the potential for a conflict of interest, and he chose curating. "Books, that's the thing for me now," Kangas confirmed, reflecting a career shaped not by the monogamy and security of staff jobs, but by the constant shifting of priorities and loyalties necessitated by contract work.
With more newspapers outsourcing the majority of arts coverage to stringers, the question of loyalty becomes an intricate one. It's certainly one that I've stopped and asked myself. When I left my newspaper staff job nearly 15 years ago, one of the biggest joys was that I was now free to participate to a greater degree in the arts community. When I returned to the newspaper as a freelance critic and columnist, it was with different priorities and loyalties.
Yes, I am loyal to my newspaper and want to see it succeed. However, a higher priority is to see the arts community thrive. Most of the time, those loyalties complement each other. High quality arts coverage is good for the newspaper and good for the arts community. The more I strive to write better reviews and stories, the more both will benefit.
However, my commitment to arts journalism transcends any single source that I write for. As my newspaper cuts its budget for arts coverage, I do whatever I can to offer creative alternatives. In the mean time, I expand what I write elsewhere, even if that means creating competing news sources. Some of that is simply the life of a freelancer, but most of it is that the commitment to arts journalism isn't just about what is best for the newspaper. It's about what is best for the community in which I live.
In many of the issues that art.rox is exploring, I believe we'll find shades of differences in how freelancers and staffers respond to different issues. It will certainly make for an enriching discussion.
Lansing, Michigan is still reeling from the death of aman whom everyone knew even though he was rarely in the headlines. After all, he was an arts patron and coverage is usually given to the performer. Yet articles like this show the difference that one person can make to the arts and cultural life of a community.
I would wish for every community that they could have a General Motors retiree who will inspire so many people and organizations. He made it possible for Lansing to have intimate jazz, black box theater, and visual art exhibits of new artists.
A Lansing State Journal columnist wrote today about the impact Busby had on his son--which was the same impact he had on a lot of people:
Busby's verdict, when it came, was not the gushing approval of a flatterer, but the knowledgeable, perceptive encouragement of a fellow artist, delivered with characteristic Busby understatement.
If my son didn't feel like a real artist before his encounter with Busby, I know he did so afterward. And I know that some day he'll recognize the experience for what it was: a boost upward in his life's trajectory.
Would that all critics could have the same praise said of them at least once in their careers.
And for people who doubt the power that art has in a community, I would invite them to see the reaction that has taken place in this community over the murder of this arts patron: neighboring businesses closed their doors so they could mourn and comfort each other, 250 people turned out for a candlelight vigil with only a few hours notice, the mayor proposed renaming a new bridge in Old Town after Busby, every online article about him has comments, and even non-arts people are mourning his loss.
Art matters. People doing art matters.