Friday, December 07, 2007

Arts Advocacy Update XXII

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv.

This week, two announcements:

Americans for the Arts and Sundance Preserve Host Second Annual National Arts Policy Roundtable Americans for the Arts
You can find a good description of the most recent version of this event here. To my woozy eyes, it initially seems like one of those wonk-fests where people discuss what people should discuss. But, in fact, it's a fascinating topic: how can creativity be utilized to make U.S. industries more adaptable and competitive?

21st annual Arts Advocacy Day
March 31 - April 1, 2008, Washington, DC
This will include the annual Nancy Hanks lecture, to be delivered by Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation. More information can be found here.

And now with this week's items:

Arts chief warns of cultural 'apartheid'
Guardian Unlimited (UK), 12/2/2007
In the UK, "Sir Richard Eyre, the distinguished director who led the National Theatre for 10 years, has warned that 'apartheid' in the arts is denying millions of people access to high culture. Identifying a chasm between those who feel the arts are for them and those who are disenfranchised, Eyre said failure to instill in schoolchildren an appreciation of theatre, art and classical music means the situation is deteriorating. The director is concerned that the next generation will turn its back on the world of classical art and entertainment."
The funny thing about this is, people get very upset when I illustrate a point -- say, about the received wisdom of a group of people, say, for example, at the Culture Project's A Question of Impeachment -- but somehow it bothers no one that Sir Richard Eyre would employ the term "aparteid." Another term that is a bit suspect in this context is "disenfranchised" -- in the sense that the millions of people Eyre claims are being denied "access to high culture" more than likely remain unaware they are being denied such access. Some are aware, of course. And the importance of instilling an appreciation for any kind of culture in the young is quite clear. I would also add, though, that the manner in which those schools that do instill this appreciation go about their work should also be under review. It's not just a question of the interest of our children but how we go about generating that interest.

EU funds research into roles for older female performers
The Stage (UK), 12/4/2007
"Global union the International Federation of Actors has won EU backing for a Europe-wide investigation into television and theatre opportunities for female performers over 40. Grant money of more than €150,000 has been awarded from Brussels for the research, which will examine what roles exist for older women and how decisions are made when casting parts which can be played by either sex. It will also look how women over 40 are portrayed in television and theatre."
And the U.S. component of that study will be headed up by...(sound of air escaping).

Stalled Brooklyn Arts District Regains Momentum
New York Times, 12/5/2007
The plan to transform the parking lots near the Brooklyn Academy of Music "into a cultural district reminiscent of the Left Bank in Paris" elicited both excitement and fear from "longtime Brooklynites of a Manhattan-oriented enclave, where local artists would be snubbed. A recent decision by city officials may help to quiet some of those anxieties — and may finally give the long-stalled arts district some momentum."
Specifically, this piece talks about Danspace and the beginning of construction for Theatre for a New Audience's new space. Would be nice if the latter happened, since the building is co-designed by Frank Gehry and my old boss, Hugh Hardy.

The art of education must include the arts
Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/29/2007
In Philadelphia, "[s]chool district administrators confirm there are literally no music or art teachers in the city's middle and high schools - even though music and art are core curriculum subjects with minimum standards for instruction. Those who care about arts learning in Philly schools are hoping that the School Reform Commission's new CEO, Sandra Dungee Glenn, will include art and music in her priorities. For now, organizations such as the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership and the National Endowment for the Arts are picking up some of the slack."
From the files of the Unfunded Mandate...

The Artist and Power, 2007
"This is an excerpt from 'Leading Through Practice,' a research paper by Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle, published online in March 2007 by a-n The Artists Information Company. The full paper is an in-process presentation of the research gathered during the Artist as Leader program, which aims to understand artists' influence on shaping the role of creativity in culture, focusing on the concept of leadership. Say the researchers: “It opens up a new trajectory of thinking about leadership that is not predominantly management-based, in which the role of artist operating within the public realm is scrutinized for what it can reveal about creativity in general.” The editors of the paper invited four contributions — Linda Frye Burnham, Reiko Goto, Francis McKee and Tim Nunn — to demonstrate a range of perspectives. This excerpt looks at artists and the concept of power."
I would actually like to quote this particular section, as I think this goes to the heart of what my detractors have been harping on -- and perhaps why some people don't want me to leave this blogging biz. Even though this report is from the U.K. (you can download it here), I think there is much application for the American creative mind and spirit:

Artists who accept the relevance of leading through practice seem to have an ambivalent relationship with power. The leadership discourse in business is becoming more self-critical but still favours heroic or celebrity models:

“Leaders have been referred to as idols (The Economist, 2002), heroes (Bennis, 1997; Collins, 2000; Raelin, 2003; Shelton, 1996); saviours (Khurana 2002); warriors and magicians (Tallman, 2003) and omnipotent and omniscient demi-gods (Gabriel, 1997; Noer, 1994)” (Morris, Brotheridge and Urbanski, 2005).

These models stand in stark contrast to the qualities that Linda Frye Burnham has discovered over thirty-five years of writing and publishing community art practice. A good artist-leader is “a cultural animator building and participating in community life”. He or she is an analyst able to “read situations rapidly and accurately” (Arlene Goldbard) thereby acknowledging expertise in people about their lives. He or she is a collaborator who “motivates others to share a vision” (Lee Ann Norman), a connector, an organiser, a revolutionary, a good negotiator, an entrepreneur and a lover (John Malpede). Such approaches are consistent with emerging perspectives on leadership, particularly associated with the Lancaster Leadership Centre15, which stress that followership is an indispensable part of the leadership equation, and which questions many traditional top down practices.

New York in Bulgaria
Sofia Echo (Bulgaria), 12/4/2007
Nu Boyana Film Studios in Sofia, Bulgaria, is creating a film set "designed to mimic the architectural style and layout of New York's Lower Manhattan neighbourhoods." Movies set in New York could then be filmed in Sofia for a fraction of the cost -- even taking into account New York City's "Made in NY initiative" that offers "15 per cent tax credits to productions that would complete at least 75 per cent of their stage work within New York."
Which streets? That's my first question. My second question is, Are there the same homeless people? Does the N train still suck? Does that apple still cost $4 at the Korean deli? Does that maccalaccachica coffee at Starbucks still cost $37 and your first-born?

Cuyahoga Arts and Culture prepares to distribute cigarette-tax money
Cleveland Plain Dealer (OH), 12/4/2007
In Ohio, "Cuyahoga Arts and Culture will distribute $15 million to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in each of the next three years. . . . That's a bit short of the $20 million that had been touted during the campaign for the tax, but executive director Catherine Boyle said a recent state law banning smoking in public places already has lowered cigarette sales. The agency is predicting about a 7 percent annual decline in revenues from the tax, levied at 1.5 cents per cigarette, for the foreseeable future."
Seems to me we're going to have to find a new bad habit to parasitically hijack for the good of the arts. Transfats, maybe? The value of the commercials sold during episodes of "I Love New York." Speaking of which, if I had a kid, I could name her 14th Street. Then we could have "I Love 14th Street," in which you'd have to find the best $5 sandals possible.

NEA and Arts Education Funding Stalled
TCG Bulletin, December 2007
"Potential historic increases in funding for the NEA ($35 million, approved by the House in June) and Arts Education within the U.S. Department of Education ($3 million, approved by both Houses in their Conference Report) are in jeopardy as Congress and the White House face off over total spending for the current fiscal year."
In my earlier post I listed many of the companies receiving grants.

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Awards $15.1 Million for Arts Initiative
Philanthropy News Digest, 11/29/2007
The largest performing arts grant in the history of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is a new $15 million grant to launch a national initiative called Leading for the Future: Innovative Support for Artistic Excellence. "The initiative will support up to ten leading dance, jazz, theater, and presenting organizations with grants of $800,000 to $1.8 million, plus technical and advisory assistance, in support of new programmatic, financial, and operational approaches designed to enhance their effectiveness, adapt to complex trends affecting the performing arts, and demonstrate what works to the broader performing arts field." It is part of new foundation efforts "to increase the flexibility of how its funds are used and will focus on bold new strategies and a holistic approach to how arts organizations operate."
Bravo. Sign me up.

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