On the Judgment of Appropriators

Photo: SarahMcGowen/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Melissa Hillman, who writes Bitter Gertrude, recently asked her friends on Facebook to help define the parameters of inappropriate cultural appropriation.  Hillman has (among many others) been an outspoken critic of both the casting of white people in non-white roles (see Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in the new movie version of Peter Pan) and the integration of non-white cultural signifiers and traditions in shows and circumstances that she feels are inappropriate (see The Wooster Group’s Native … [Read more...]

Beth Prevor on Diversity, Disability, and Feeling Alone in a Room of Peers

Beth headshot

This is a guest post from Beth Prevor, co-founder and executive director of Hands On, a non-profit that provides accessibility to arts and culture events for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.  At the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in November, Beth spoke eloquently about disability as an under-discussed aspect of diversity, and more generally of her feelings of isolation both at the conference and, in particular, when sitting in the diversity plenary session that I moderated. … [Read more...]

Art Within Bounds: When Is It Censorship, and When Is It Simply Saying “No Thanks?”


In September, in advance of an Americans for the Arts training at the Sundance resort in Utah, I visited Salt Lake City for the first time and met with Caryn Bradshaw of Visit Salt Lake and Karen Krieger from the Salt Lake City Arts Council.  We toured the city a bit, and what we saw forced me to confront a bias that I didn’t realize I was harboring—I thought that Mormons must be anti-art. My relationship to the Mormon Church is at once one of long distance and of great personal … [Read more...]

Dinnervention 6: The Flexibility of a New Skin


This last Dinnervention post is an experiment in group blogging--I wrote the core piece, and then three of my fellow Dinnerventionists-- Margy Waller, Laura Zabel, and Devon Smith--were kind enough to react to it in commentary.  It was really interesting to watch happen--hopefully it is interesting to read as well!  The blogging platform allows limited capability to demonstrate in-text comments, so I've color-coded it.  We'll see if that's as clear to others as it is to me... (If you are … [Read more...]

Dinnervention 5: Pragmatism and Destruction


"I want to kill them," Devon Smith says, the klieg lights heating up the tiny dining room where we are eating and intervening. She goes on, arguing that we need to kill the organizations that aren't relevant, that aren't trying to be relevant. The aggression is off-putting, and my gut response, which I act upon, is to soften up the verb, "surely you don't mean 'kill'," but Devon pushes back and tells me that is exactly what she means.  Which of course it is--Devon isn't one to misspeak. It is … [Read more...]

Dinnervention 4: Art and Institutions


This one’s not going to be very new, I fear.  It seems to have been the core outcome for most of the folks coming out of the Dinnervention, and of course is also a trope that has run its course through the blogosphere for a while.  And yet… If the core problem facing the arts today really is one of relevance, of public value, of engagement, then the core solution must be one that embraces what America writ large finds relevant, what the public values, and what a new and expansive definition … [Read more...]

Dinnervention 3: Happiness: Dinnervention and Disruption by Margy Waller

Margy Waller

This is a guest post from Margy Waller, Senior Partner at the Topos Partnership and fellow Dinnerventionist.  Margy has previously guest-posted for New Beans here. The Invitation One of the great surprises of my year came in the form of an invitation to dinner received last spring when I awoke to an email titled in part: NOT SPAM PLEASE READ. The email and invitation to a Dinnervention came from Barry Hessenius of WESTAF (The Western States Art Federation). The dinner is his invention … [Read more...]

Dinnervention 2: For What’s Sake?


At one point during the dinner, Nina Simon and I got into a few sentences of disagreement about where the line was between arts institutions and community centers—and whether there should be one at all.  For me, this is a complicated issue, and it’s an area where I often end up feeling like the most conservative person in the room, especially when the room is filled with 11 other people making their names by questioning everything. Nina creates interactivity right at the border of the art—it … [Read more...]

Dinnervention 1: The Inaccessible

"Dialog", 2004. by Roland Mayer. photo by Todd Holloway.

The Djerassi Artists Retreat sits on the ridge of hills that cascade down to the Pacific Ocean, sloping deep into protected land and accessible only by a harrowing one and a half lane semi-paved road just wide enough that delivery trucks and yuppies in Priuses think they can barrel down it, stop short, and make unsuspecting strangers in difficult German-manufactured rental cars back up gingerly into narrow turnouts nestled between the road and a steep drop-off with no guardrail.  In late summer, … [Read more...]

The Artistic History of (Part of) a Nation

"Young Woman with Peonies" by Frederic Bazille, 1870.

My daughter arrives to live with me in eight days, as my bi-coastal family reaches the end of phase one of our West-to-East transition and enters phase 2, aka the phase where Cici lives with me and my husband begins his months of being childless after 5 months of being a single dad.  I am excited and terrified at the upcoming changes, but most of all I am looking forward to having her around, being able to snuggle with her and give her hugs and talk with her when I want—and the logistics of … [Read more...]

On Why Lazy, Under-Researched Arts Journalism Just Sets the Diversity Conversation Back

Oh man.

I wish I could say, full WASP, "I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed."  But I can't; I'm angry, too.  This conversation about diversity that we are having as an industry is too important to be lazy about it, especially on the national stage. Growing up, my mother always held me to a really high standard.  There was one time she asked me to straighten up our basement, which was full of my toys, and I did, made a strong 10-year-old effort, and when I proudly told her I was done, I for some … [Read more...]

What You’re Worth


What is a person worth?  Often, especially in the arts (but I think almost anywhere, whether out of necessity or guile), that doesn’t seem the question, really.  It seems more often to come down to what a person is willing to take.  I first started thinking about this issue back when Rocco Landesman launched his #supplydemand earthquake in that now-infamous conversation with Diane Ragsdale.  Rocco, talking about the ongoing existence of more arts institutions than there were patrons to really … [Read more...]

The Arts Diversity Index

Correlated diversities

About a year ago, Theatre Bay Area got a small grant from the California Arts Council that allowed us to investigate how the diversity of the Bay Area theatregoing population differed from the diversity of the general population.  That report, I'm happy to say, finally comes out this week.  Below is an abbreviated version of the executive summary--the full report is available for free on Theatre Bay Area's website.  To see all of the infographics created out of this research, please click … [Read more...]

Bloody Sunday


I was all set to write about something else, which I may write about later, but then something happened.  I saw the news on Sunday that 19 people were shot at a Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans, and that made me extremely sad to hear, but that’s not actually the something that happened that made me not write about the something else.  Because I felt like plenty of people were going to write about that, right?, a shooting in broad daylight at a large group of people—one that injured 19 people, … [Read more...]

The Untenable Whiteness of Theatre


Today I'm foregoing my usual verbosity in favor of a picture.  This is a combination of US Census data, data from the Arts Diversity Index report and data from another survey of 56 Bay Area theatre companies about the diversity of their boards, staffs and artists.  Please share and discuss--the Arts Diversity Index report should be coming out shortly (we shared an executive summary and short presentation of some of the data at the Theatre Bay Area conference earlier this week).  Click to enlarge … [Read more...]

Carrying Forward, Clumsily


A week or so ago, I was in a cab from Chicago O’Hare into the city to speak at the National Alliance of Musical Theatre conference.  The traffic was heavy and the cabbie was chatty, and at one point he ended up asking me whether I was married, and I said yes.  He then, logically but erroneously, assumed that I was married to a woman, and with that assumption he then carried on the conversation, asking me first just generally what she did and whether she minded me traveling so much, and then—as … [Read more...]