Elizabeth Alexander has been closely involved in one of the most important trends now shaping arts philanthropy: a growing focus on using arts and cultural grantmaking to advance social justice. You can bet that she’ll push Mellon to step up its own funding along these lines. It also seems likely that we’ll see a more powerful axis between Ford and Mellon that extends the influence of both institutions in the arts and cultural space.
Roxane Gay: “We can no longer worship at the altar of creative genius while ignoring the price all too often paid for that genius. In truth, we should have learned this lesson long ago, but we have a cultural fascination with creative and powerful men who are also “mercurial” or “volatile,” with men who behave badly. There are all kinds of creative people who are brilliant and original and enigmatic and capable of treating others with respect. There is no scarcity of creative genius, and that is the artistic work we can and should turn to instead.”
The effects are immediate: At first, people seem agitated and unsure of what to do with their hands. But then they adjust. “In line at the concession stand, you’ll overhear people talking about the artist and the show, and then about the fact that they’re having this conversation because they don’t have phones. You’ll see people fully engaged with each other talking, and the feel of it is radically different.”
“As a director, Ms. Jones won a Peabody Award for the four-hour documentary 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School. … In 2005 Ms. Jones was appointed executive director of the National Black Programming Consortium, now called Black Public Media. Her work there included moving beyond the organization’s role supporting black filmmakers. During her tenure, the consortium created an online digital media project documenting the 2005 hurricanes that devastated New Orleans and neighboring Gulf states.”
“We found both a rapid increase in suicides in August 2014, and specifically suffocation suicides, that paralleled the time and method of Williams’ death,” a research team led by David Fink of Columbia University writes in the online journal PLoS One. “Although excess suicides were observed across gender and age groups, males and persons aged 30 to 44 had the greatest increase,” the researchers report. That presumably includes a lot of people who grew up with his movies.
Alexander, a renowned writer, poet, and scholar, is recognized as one of the nation’s leading voices in modern literature and a bold visionary in the academy. Over the course of a distinguished academic and artistic career, she has developed a number of complex, multi-arts and multi-disciplinary teams, departments and partnerships, and dedicated herself consistently to creating, building and sustaining highly successful institutions – from the Poetry Center at Smith College, to a major rebuilding of the African American Studies department at Yale University, from the poetry non-profit Cave Canem, to the Ford Foundation’s programs in journalism, arts and culture.
The point is that most of the really profound pieces of life advice are actually bloody obvious. It’s just that, sometimes, we need to be told. Which is why the idea behind Desperately Seeking Self-Improvementis so terrific. Two sceptical business school professors, André Spicer and Carl Cederström, devote a year to exploring what used to be known as the self-help industry but is now called the optimisation industry because it sounds cooler.
He was a champion student athlete (and occasional football pro), an NYU- and Columbia-trained lawyer, London socialite, and linguist. (He was also, for a time, a nude artists’ model.) Many know that he was a civil rights firebrand, but he became a committed Communist and Sovietophile (he had fluent Russian) – until, far too late, he came to understand what life was like in the USSR, and it wrecked him.
“I’ve made over 100 motion pictures, and some of them were even good. It’s nice to be reborn every few decades, because then you can have another career. The nice part about awards and being nominated is the fact that it wakes everybody up again, and makes them realize you’re alive and kicking and available.”
We cannot say that Rebekah Mercer and her family foundation are dictating museum exhibitions by virtue of her board seat, and the museum, in a statement, has said that she is not and that “its funders do not shape its curatorial decisions.” But that’s not really the issue. As a funder of climate-science disinformation, Ms. Mercer stands in direct contradiction to the museum’s mission “to discover, interpret, and disseminate — through scientific research and education — knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe.”
“I am guilty, for putting her in that car, but not the way that people are saying I am guilty of it,” Tarantino told me. “It’s the biggest regret of my life, getting her to do that stunt. There are certain things I can’t get too far into the weeds on, but I will any questions you have about it.”
“When reporter Nicholas von Hoffman joined The Washington Post in 1966, he brought with him a flair for controversy that eventually triggered a resignation threat from a top editor, a boycott from advertisers and, according to Post historian Chalmers M. Roberts, ‘produced more angry letters to the editor than the work of any other single reporter in the paper’s history.'”
He didn’t begin his acting career until his 40s, but he worked steadily ever since – winning a Tony for John Guare’s House of Blue Leaves, earning several Emmy nominations for playing the Crane brothers’ father on Frasier, taking character roles in such films as Moonstruck and Say Anything. Above all, he was one of Chicago’s favorite stage actors; he took more than 30 roles with Steppenwolf alone, and he performed with many other companies there, large and small.
“Dr. Adams, a tweedy anthropologist and former provost of the University of Chicago, was secretary of the Smithsonian from 1984 to 1994 … [and he] sought to make ‘confrontation, experimentation and debate’ part of the Smithsonian’s mandate.”
The artist isn’t personally on Twitter or Instagram – or rather, she’s on them all of the time, but simply to observe. “As uncomfortable as she seems with contemporary standards of personal exposure, she is at ease in the realm of the abstract. As in her work, she quickly distills dissertation-worthy topics into stuff you want to put on a sweatshirt. ‘History is a circle jerk of hurt and damage,’ she told me at one point.”
She spent most of her career playing bit parts – something she said she was glad of. Yet that career stretched from opening for vaudeville and radio legend Sophie Tucker, through notable spots in the films A Hole in the Head, True Grit, Dumb and Dumber, and Pineapple Express, to her final TV appearances at age 102.
“Throughout her career, De Larios’ work took singular forms – as small, sprightly sculptures of animals and towering goddesses – inspired by her interest in pre-Columbian craft and ancient Japanese design.”
“Over more than a half-century, Mr. Castle helped establish a creative genre, the studio crafts, that blended furniture-making and sculpture. He was a designer whose chairs, tables and coat racks were works of art, and an artist whose oeuvre could be used as well as admired.”
“[She] did her work behind the scenes, eschewing labels like ‘producer’ and ‘presenter’ while performing a wide array of functions – go-between, convincer, fund-raiser and more – that might in fact have fallen under those job descriptions. When pressed, she would use a humble term to characterize her role: ‘secrétaire d’artistes‘ – secretary of artists.” Among those artists were Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Meredith Monk, Richard Foreman, Philip Glass and Robert Wilson (she engineered the commissioning of Einstein on the Beach).
“In contrast with the work-shirking soldier he immortalized, Mr. Walker was a man of considerable drive and ambition. He drew his daily comic strip for 68 years, longer than any other U.S. artist in the history of the medium.”
“[He] performed alongside Ella Fitzgerald and Marlene Dietrich during a decades-long musical career, but who gave his most consequential performances as an inmate of the Nazi concentration camps where, he said, music saved his life.”
Mulcahy established Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre as a major hub. He doubled the subscriptions and the theatre was packed every night. Mr. Mulcahy was fired in 1972 for criticizing the theatre’s leadership. At the time, he said it was because of “several irritating dissatisfactions I am undergoing with the theatre’s administration.” Mr. Mulcahy was the artistic director at five other Canadian theatres, most of them in smaller cities, from Fredericton, where he was director of the Playhouse, to the Press Theatre in St. Catharines, Ont. He was co-artistic director of the Shaw Festival’s first professional season. He also continued acting.
Danez Smith’s poetry is part of a movement, or so it feels. “This is a significant moment for poetry. We are meeting days after Ocean Vuong (gay, Vietnamese and a friend of Smith’s) won the TS Eliot prize, and it is tempting to think poetry is at a turning point, belatedly diversifying, relaxing its borders. The reality is that there is still a long way to go, but this is a flicker of intent, the poetic ghettoising becoming less flagrant. It’s a mainstream momentum.”
The board, Laura Raicovich said, was not very happy with the decision to close the museum for 2017’s presidential inauguration. Then “she recently proposed to the board that the museum — in collaboration with other institutions — consider becoming a kind of sanctuary space that connects immigrants with social services. ‘It was made very clear to me that that was not something that was of interest,’ she said.”
As an anarchist, she would have wanted a self-governing society, with gender and racial equality. She would have wanted respect for life-forms other than human. She would have wanted a child-friendly society, as opposed to one that imposes childbirth but does not care about the mothers or the actual children. Or so I surmise from her writing. But now Ursula K. Le Guin has died.
Which is not to say that all the ideas they had about sex in medieval Europe were scientifically or medically sound, mind you. But they weren’t exactly prudes.
A dedicated stage and screen performer – and an African-American woman who earned degrees from Bard College, London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and the Univ. of Minnesota in the 1960s – she won the Emmy for playing Matilda, the wife of Chicken George in the Alex Haley miniseries. She was nominated for a second Emmy for Backstairs at the White House and co-starred in the Oprah Winfrey production The Women of Brewster Place.
She took everything that might have hindered a lesser spirit and made it into a strength. As part of the New Wave in science fiction in the 1960s and ’70s, she and writers like Samuel R. Delany, J. G. Ballard, and Philip K. Dick brought sophisticated prose style and contemporary political and sexual questions into a genre that had often felt artless and blunt.
Comedy is a great unifier. I hear from people every day from both sides saying, “We don’t have the same beliefs, and, you know, I hate gay people and I hate white people and I hate black people and I’m an awful person—but I laughed at your video!”
In this adaptation from her Robert B. Silvers Lecture, the National Book Award-winning journalist uses the seven words that Centers for Disease Control researchers were warned to avoid to shape an examination of her own life and her moves across oceans, cultures, and gender boundaries.