This week: What ethical responsibilities do funders and funded have to one another?… The gatekeeper problem is still a thing in the internet age… What should the measure of success be in opera?… Historians are going to have a real problem documenting today’s artists… Our all-image culture suggests the place of images in art may be changing.
- What Ethical Responsibilities Do Funders Have To Serve Their Communities? An organization attacked Chicago’s MacArthur Foundation for failing to fund more African-American institutions. “Phillip Jackson, author of the op-ed, is the former Chief of Staff for Chicago Public Schools and Chief For Education for the City of Chicago, and founded the Black Star Project in 1996. Analyzing the $56 million in grants given to Chicago organizations during 2015, he found that only $375,000 went to black organizations working to improve the black community. He calls this ‘modern day redlining’.” But Zoe Mendelson writes, “Of course foundations can have their own funding priorities, but at what point does an emergency in their hometown merit special intervention? … MacArthur’s basic stance is that it’s already doing its part. The impossible question becomes: When are you helping enough?” Considering funding from another angle, what responsibility do arts organizations and artists have for the ethics of their funders? “Increasingly, artists and arts organisations are being asked to reflect upon who funds their work and examine whether that funder shares their values. The motivations of a corporate sponsor are not something that should be taken for granted. But in order to do that, we first need to understand our own ethical values.”
- In The Age Of The Internet, Why Do We Still Have A Gatekeeper Problem? It’s a problem that pervades virtually every cultural industry: The people who make the decisions, the “gatekeepers” who decide which stories get told, are overwhelmingly homogenous, which often limits their ability to appreciate narratives and artists who don’t share their own perspective. “There’s a very narrow doorway through which big ideas get to audiences,” said Chris Jackson, the editor-in-chief of Random House’s One World imprint. But as mainstream culture looks increasingly unlike America, there’s reason to hope cultural gatekeepers will soon be forced to expand their horizons.
- How Should We Measure Success In Opera? On the one hand, there’s the Los Angeles Opera, which announced significant jumps in attendance and ticket revenue for its 2015/16 season. And there’s Berlin’s Komische Oper, which has seen a big revival of its fortunes by staging subversive obscure work. On the other hand, Oslo’s fantastic shiny new opera house is in such dire straits that it’s having to rent itself out for weddings. And then there’s the case of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, whose finances are a mess of a whole different scale. But about those problems: are we thinking about what ails the Met in the wrong way? So argues the blog Mask of the Flower Prince: “The arts world has to let go of these popular, though incorrect clichés. First, paid capacity is a terrible way to gauge success—it does not provide real numbers that are actually tied to the budget…”
- Contradiction: Is Documenting Our Artists In The Era Of Social Media More Difficult? In a way, because of social media we know more about the thoughts of famous people than at any time in history. Historians have always treasured the letters, diaries and marginalia of their subjects. But the digital world is ephemeral, and artists tweets and posts can disappear in a click. And with fewer artists documenting in paper, the historian’s task is more difficult. “If journals, sketchbooks, letters, and scribbled-on napkins are venerated and kept for insights into great minds, there seems to be a case that tweets should be held onto, too. Then again, publicly accessible 140-character bursts can be so frivolous – and based so much on maintaining appearances – that they might seem like they don’t offer anything worth preserving.”
- A Picture Is Worth… The world is awash in images, and even the most dazzling of them are endlessly reproduceable and ultimately disposable. Artists have been debating the value of images since forever, but never before have the “masses” had so much control of creating, changing, mashing, circulating, and sharing anything they happen to see. And what is this doing to the value of art, the uniqueness of physical objects?