Stephen Colbert is ready for the Olympics…are YOU?

  • Did you know the Olympics used to award medals to artists between 1912 and 1948? Germany led with 24 in all.
  • Holy moly data gold mine ahead: PeteSearch has been writing a program to scrape the public Facebook profiles off the web and analyze their connections and fan pages. Read about his findings here and entertain yourself for hours with the interactive maps over here.
  • Rocco (Let’s just ditch the last name entirely from now on, don’t you think?) scores a fawning interview in Newsweek, and manages to piss off Scott Walters even more royally this time. (For the record, in Scott’s defense, one of the things I’m finding during my BACAM work is that there really are arts organizations and arts activities everywhere.) For more Rocco, check out his interview with Barry Hessenius from last week. Encouraging sign: they’re holding staff meetings at the NEA to discuss the ideas and proposals that were put forth as part of Barry’s six-week megablogasm last fall.
  • The NEA has also released an update to its study on unemployment rates for artists in the recession. Seems architects and designers are getting hit particularly hard due to halted and canceled construction projects, and actors’ unemployment is through the roof (as it always is). Overall, artists face higher unemployment than the overall population, though the difference, about a percentage point, is not as drastic as one might expect.
  • Don’t look now, but it sounds like the BAM Cultural District in Brooklyn might finally be getting off the ground.
  • Createquity contributor Guy Yedwab (did you catch his latest?) has an interesting idea: adapt Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto to diversity initiatives in the arts. (I think such things are actually fairly commonplace in the corporate world, but less so among the nonexistent HR departments of nonprofit and informal arts orgs.)
  • Video of an event at Duke with the President of the Knight Foundation.
  • A customer service orientation for funders? Perish the thought!
  • Hear, hear!

    Since the publication of the Hewlett study, there has been a groundswell of activity in directing resources and energies at providing services, infrastructure, guidance and counsel to the next generation of arts leadership – all across the country. But I don’t yet see much energy, resources and thinking directed at educating the current leadership as to how they might better and more effectively manage the generational divide in the workplace of the average arts organization.

    Managing subordinates is a skill, a specialized one, and it’s high time we start treating it that way. It’s not the sort of thing anyone can just “pick up” on the fly.

  • GiveWell, ever the tough evaluator of charitable impact, takes a look in the mirror and declares itself not (yet) a success. Speaking of evaluation, Mark Kramer’s most significant contribution of the week at the Intrepid Philanthropist was this essay on the inadequacy of linear logic models for describing the change that foundations want to achieve. I agree, even though I’m a big fan of those logic models – describing the process of “contributing incrementally to the possibility of change that may or may not ultimately take place,” which is really what we mean almost every time we talk about “impact,” remains one of the hardest challenges for the sector.
  • There’s something called the Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy? Sign me up!
  • Pictures worth a thousand words, etc.
  • Via Chris Ashworth, a nice video about the Baltimore Symphony’s Rusty Musicians program (interesting how none of the pro musicians are interviewed, however).
  • Arts marketers may want to take note of Wolf Trap Opera’s rollout strategy for their new season. It demonstrates a much more astute understanding of how the blogosphere works than I usually see from institutional presenters (no surprise, then, that the idea is borrowed from Seth Godin). You can read an interview with WTO director Kim Witman about the concept at the Technology in the Arts blog.
  • I have some issues with the piece, but I will say that it’s nice to see the Gray Lady sending her classical music critics to West Village clubs on a seemingly regular basis. This is maybe the fourth time in the last couple of months that LPR has gotten the NYT treatment. Also on the subject of “it’s nice they’re finally paying attention,” I enjoyed this paean to the art of video games in the Boston Globe. I haven’t played computer/video games on a regular basis in about a decade, but during my teenage years when I was an avid gamer I could have told you that some of them rose to the level of art. Hell, moral dilemmas and complex narrative in computer games are at least as old as Ultima and the original Infocom text adventures, respectively.
  • Check out this great list of financial resources for artists from Arwen Lowbridge. You may need them, if the Atlantic‘s apocalyptic vision of the recession’s impact on this country is to be believed.
  • If you’re interested in happiness economics, as I am, don’t miss this interview with Wharton School professor Betsey Stevenson in my alma mater’s quarterly magazine. She basically gives a five-minute lit review on topline findings from the field, including that:
    • Happiness is correlated with wealth, both on a personal and societal level, but it’s correlated with the log of income rather than on a per-dollar basis. So in other words, an extra twenty bucks will make a poor person much happier than it will make a rich person, but an extra 10% of income will affect both the same.
    • Self-reported happiness turns out to be a fairly robust indicator, but there’s lots of debate over whether it’s the same as utility or total life satisfaction.
    • People have been getting happier as wealth has been rising in every country in the world except the United States, where despite massive aggregate growth in the last 40 years we haven’t gotten any happier.
    • Since the 1970s, what had been a huge gap between the happiness of whites and African Americans has closed by two-thirds. On the other hand, women have become less happy than they used to be both on an absolute basis and relative to men. Stevenson throws out a couple of theories for this (which both involve some form of higher expectations than previous generations).
  • Are you a nonprofit executive who’s ready to (figuratively) slit your wrists in this tough economy? Don’t do it! Call up the New York Community Trust’s emergency hotline! (yes, seriously.)