What have the Romans ever done for us?

stones were so much better then

Think of your cultural consumption in your late teens. It was pretty great, wasn't it? Favorite bands, and getting their new LP within days of release, favorite magazines about music and films and books, lining up to get tickets for the movie everyone in the papers was talking about. I have my own list of memorable moments, I think we all do. And we remember what was best - the great concert, the cover of an issue of Rolling Stone you kept lying around for years after, the movie you talked about with your friends for hours following the … [Read more...]

How should we subsidize charitable giving to the arts?

the state really ought to pay for this

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn write: Moms in poverty often live in stressful homes while juggling a thousand challenges, and they are disproportionately likely to be teenagers, without a partner to help out. A baby in such an environment is more likely to grow up with a brain bathed in cortisol. Fortunately, a scholar named David Olds has shown that there are ways to snap this poverty cycle. Mr. Olds began his career working with 4-year-olds, but then decided that many children were already traumatized and … [Read more...]

Night at the museum


Back in February, Business Week reported: When Maxwell Anderson took over as director of the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) two years ago, he told the board he wanted to offer free memberships to anyone willing to share some data—even when it’s just their name and e-mail address. Anderson’s idea is novel in the staid world of art museums, but it echoes what companies such as Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB) have long understood: Learning as much as you can about your customers’ behavior can be more valuable than the price of admission. “We’re … [Read more...]

Wellbeing and how to fund the arts

Aye, that's wellbeing!

Via The Stage, what arts funding should have priority? The (UK) All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics has released a report recommending that changes in the wellbeing of individuals ought to be the central concern of policy, beyond calculations of narrower economic measures such as are at the core of standard cost-benefit analysis. They have striking recommendations for arts policy. First, about wellbeing economics. In essence, the leading economic indicators we see reported most commonly have obvious effects on wellbeing. We … [Read more...]

Artists should not retain copyright in publicly commissioned art (Updated)

Good thing he didn't make Mount Hood

An interesting story from Portland, Oregon, on the copyright held by sculptor Raymond Kaskey in his statue Portlandia. Willamette Week reports on his close guarding of reproduction rights in the large, iconic statue made 30 years ago, commissioned by the city: You would think the image of Portlandia would adorn postcards, photos and T-shirts. She doesn’t. That’s because her maker, Washington, D.C.-based sculptor Raymond Kaskey, has, over the past three decades, often threatened to sue those who dare use photos or illustrations of Portlandia … [Read more...]

Local arts funding and urban design: responses

we get letters

My thanks to those who took the time to comment on my most recent post. As usual - and this is for the good! - discussion went in unexpected directions. One commenter wrote, in response to my line that local government arts funders should respond to local tastes: Should “taste” be the deciding factor of who and what get’s funded in the arts? Shouldn’t governmental or even foundational funding sources take into consideration the minority voice just as our constitutional government is required to consider not just the voice (taste) of the … [Read more...]

Local arts funding and urban design

No services

In the United States, most public funding for the arts happens at the local, rather than the state or federal, government level. And there are good reasons for that; this is a big, diverse, dispersed country, and local arts councils are best placed to respond to residents' tastes and cultural traditions. What kind of city design best facilitates a lively cultural scene? I had always thought of density as key - lots of residents around a core give the opportunity for various amenities - culture, cuisine, shops - to generate income and … [Read more...]

How should we rank the employment prospects of cities?

Let's not make an index

News sites on the web demand a stream of content, and a sure way to produce something is to make a list. My previous post knocked a recent list of  'top cities for culture', on the grounds that the way the index was constructed made no sense. Another day, another list, this one from Atlantic's CityLab: 'The best job markets for young college grads now'. Relevant to me, as I teach students in arts administration and hope to understand as best I can what is happening in the labor market. The piece has some of the usual problems of all indices … [Read more...]

How should we rank the cultural/creative scenes of cities?

so many creatives!

Yesterday I came across a ranking of the 'top 20 US cities for culture', from the real estate blog propertyshark.com (no, not one I usually follow, h/t Ted Gioia). The internet loves to produce listicles, and diminishing returns have long set in when it comes to ranking cities. But this one raises an important issue for researchers of the creative economy. It ranks cities according to cultural venues (museums, libraries, theatres) per capita. Their reasoning: And while New York City has an impressive number (2,693!) of such properties — … [Read more...]

The superstar economy

no flat screen for you

The distribution of artists' earnings is heavily skewed, much more unequal than in the population as a whole, between some who earn very, very much and those whose earnings are negligible (if not zero, in their search for free exposure). The economic analysis of 'superstars', pioneered by Sherwin Rosen, finds that when given a choice audiences will, by a great majority, buy from what is considered to be the very best, and so the very best capture the lion's share of the earnings. When are earnings likely to be most skewed? There are two main … [Read more...]