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...]

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...]

Standing Up for the Charitable Tax Deduction Is Standing Up for a Healthy Society; or Reframing away from giving a tax break to the rich


In a comment on my post from last week about framing, John Carnwath honed in on a comment I sort of tossed off about the threat to the charitable deduction posed by the fiscal cliff.  Take a look at his comment, which is very well laid out—he notes that while the tax deduction for charitable giving is surely and important driver for the arts, he’s not convinced that, given the topic of the post, a frame that suggests favoring the wealthy with a “tax break” is the best idea.  He notes that, … [Read more...]

Nothing New Under the (Ever-Closer, Ready to Incinerate Us) Sun


On his way out the door, Rocco Landesman lobbed one final, wonderful bomb out there in a conversation with his counterpart in France (who, by the way, receives $9 billion-with-a-B in annual funding whereas the NEA has about $150 million).  He was speaking at the World Arts Forum, and spoke about a “fundamental, visceral distrust of the arts” by the American public.  He called the NEA funding level “pathetic,” and who can disagree, and his blunt honesty about what he called the arts’ “cowboy … [Read more...]

Why You Should Care About Jonah Lehrer’s Great Fall


I discovered Jonah Lehrer in 2008 as I was browsing around the internet looking for interesting, accessible blogs about the brain for non-brain-people.  Back then, Lehrer’s blog was hosted on a relatively obscure (given where he ended up) blog sharing site called Science Blogs, but regardless of where he was, it had the same name as the subsequent, heavily-trafficked blogs he moved to afterward:The Frontal Cortex.  The frontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for most of our higher … [Read more...]

Fiddling with the Believing Machine

flying-spiderman-653948 -

I have had some trouble getting up the energy to be upset about the Mike Daisey problem otherwise known as #DaiseyGate.  This became obvious to me as I sat at lunch at one of my stops on the Counting New Beans tour with a bunch of mid-twenties junior staffers at major theatres and heard them rail against Daisey and his lying lies, voicing the betrayal they felt as staffers who are sometimes put in the position of lying to an audience, either knowingly or unknowingly, in the service of the art … [Read more...]

Finding the Practical in the Esoteric


I’m writing this from Chicago, on the first stop of our multi-city tour to disseminate the results of the intrinsic impact research.  Over this past weekend, Alan Brown and I have been pulling together the presentation for these stops, and I’ve found myself thinking about and reacting to the wonderful coverage we received this past week from HowlRound, Jumper, You’ve Cott Mail and others—and the response that that coverage has received. Last week, I had the fortune to participate in the … [Read more...]

An Obsession with the Afterimage


In June 2009, I was briefly in Washington, DC, visiting friends right after that year’s Theatre Communications Group conference in Baltimore, MD.  I was in their spare room, small and tightly packed, and it was humid because it was DC in the summer, and there was a CPU humming in the corner and various lights blinking under the desk, and I was on West Coast time still, I think—so I was checking Facebook.  Back then, I got a lot of different feeds—many more people than I see now, thanks to … [Read more...]

What Inequality Looks Like and Where and When It Starts

"Not Equal" by holeymoon on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

A couple weeks ago, I was the recipient of a string of emails that are making the rounds—emails stemming from a lack of diversity in the panelists at this year’s National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference.  These emails, which were, in order: An email from Roberto Bedoya, the executive director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council, to Bob Lynch, head of Americans for the Arts, which produced NAMP (ultimately forwarded to a variety of other people by Roberto), An email from Bob Lynch to Justin … [Read more...]

Art and Happiness: New research indicates 4 out of 6 happiest activities are arts-related (!)

"Happiness" by Aprile C from Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Last week, an article that was actually published nearly a month ago on passed through my Facebook feed four times in two days.  The article, titled “The three times people are happiest—you may be surprised,” rather vaguely discussed a research project out of the London School of Economics that was mapping happiness levels associated with various activities—and the results, per the article, indicated that, behind sex and exercise, the next most happiness-inducing activity was … [Read more...]

This Is Your Brain On Art (sizzle sizzle)

Photo: "O is for Occipital Lobe" by Eric on Flickr.  Used under Creative Commons license.

Photo: "O is for Occipital Lobe" by Eric on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.Kristin Shumaker is a closet neuroscientist masquerading as a lowly, hardworking production manager at Dell’Arte, a theatre and school in Blue Lake, California.  She spends most of her time now coordinating the busy production schedule of the Dell’Arte organization, but in a past life she studied biology, and she has remained fascinated with the physiological effects of theatre.  She wants to know what art … [Read more...]

CCI’s Next Gen Leaders Study: Are we all just climbing whiners?

Poster from All About Eve (1950)

I was at the Americans for the Arts conference in San Diego this year, however briefly, I was able to sit in on the wrap up session, in which a woman whose name and title I didn’t catch gamely trooped around the room cajoling participants into discussing their best takeaways from the conference sessions.  People were reticent, exhausted, as they always are at the end of the conference, and it was generally speaking a thankless job for the moderator—but she did draw out a couple of energizing … [Read more...]

In Whose Hands Does Meaning Live?

Photo: "DSC07227" by Phillip Torrone from Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

Where does the meaning of a piece of work live?  When does its particular resonance take shape?  When a playwright puts words down on paper and submits them to be produced, is there something already inherent in those words that form the shape of the meaning?  Or is the true shape of that meaning created by a director, whose particular eye and concept elevate the words from the page to the proscenium? This is not, it turns out, just an esoteric conversation.  As we move into an age … [Read more...]

Communion, Captivation and Flow – With a Little Rapture Thrown In For Spice

Prarie Dog Rapture

Last fall, I was walking with a friend on the expansive brilliantly white patio outside the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  It was a hot day, and when my friend needed to take a call, I snuck out of the sun to stand under the large flat roof of the building in the shade, next to the cool marble walls.  The building is huge, a true monolith, and as I was looking up at the architecture, one of the many quotes they have engraved on the Kennedy Center’s walls caught my eye: “This country … [Read more...]

Social Media and the Arts: a groundbreaking new study

Photo: “Wet Spider Web” by Brad Smith from Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

In my role at Theatre Bay Area, I commissioned Devon Smith of 24 Useable Hours (and now, of Threespot in Washington, DC) to conduct what she termed a Social Media Audit of the arts and cultural sector. In an effort to provide guidance to the field, Theatre Bay Area commissioned “The Tangled Web: Social Media in the Arts” in conjunction with a year-long intensive workshop series called Leveraging Social Media. This series, designed by noted social media expert Beth Kanter, provides Bay Area … [Read more...]

Sydni and the Green Feather

Photo: "The Green Feather" by Sheree Zielke from Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

This past Saturday, I took a drive through a ferocious, and unseasonably late, rainstorm to the house of an eleven-year-old theatregoer named Sydni.  I was interviewing Sydni and her mother, Sarah, as part of the research into the intrinsic impact of art that we are conducting/commissioning at Theatre Bay Area, in this case video interviews with a small group of everyday theatre patrons to understand why they go to theatre, why they value it, and what it means to them.  We were videotaping … [Read more...]