Comings, Goings, and Mergers
  • The nation’s three largest composer-focused arts service organizations have announced a major realignment. The American Music Center and Meet The Composer will merge into a new entity called New Music USA, while AMC’s membership and professional development programs will be transferred to the American Composers Forum. This is the legacy of outgoing AMC CEO Joanne Hubbard Cossa, who had already announced her plans to retire at the end of 2011. Having worked for AMC for nearly four years during the past decade, I can report that merger plans of this kind had been under discussion for a very long time (somewhere in Italy Cathy Maciariello is rejoicing), but the political stars necessary to make it happen had never aligned until now. I’m not in love with the new name, but I definitely think having fewer organizations with less service duplication is for the best in this case.
  • Guidestar has “acquired” two innovative new philanthropy startups, Philanthropedia and Social Actions. (Disclosure: I was asked to be an “expert” for Philanthropedia’s national report on arts and culture.) Guidestar CEO Bob Ottenhoff talks about the new direction here.
  • Two arts groups in Michigan, the Saugatuck Center for the Arts and the Mason Street Warehouse, have announced tentative plans to merge by October 1.
  • Interesting collaboration announced between Carnegie Hall and Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music that will bring the curriculum and educational materials used by 100,000 Canadian students a year to the United States, forming a new joint venture for the purpose. This is a much more “top-down” style of musical assessment than we’ve seen in the past in this country. Will it bring a welcome centralization of curatorial acumen, or teaching to the test in the arts?
  • Sandra Gibson, President and CEO of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters for the past 11 years, will step down as of June 30.
  • The awesome Deepa Gupta, youthful program officer for the MacArthur Foundation, has been nominated for a spot on the National Council for the Arts (the body that oversees the NEA).
  • Congratulations to Queen of the Internet Devon Smith, who has found a new job building out a social media practice for the consulting firm Threespot. Thankfully, she will continue to write for her wonderful blog, 24 Usable Hours. Check out her recent notes from the South by Southwest Festival.
  • Meanwhile, another representative of bloggerdom has also found a real job, but in this case will have to leave the blogosphere. Leonard Jacobs, indefatigable editor of the Clyde Fitch Report and master of the rhetorical question, has joined the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs as Director of the Cultural Institutions unit. While Jacobs will no longer write for or edit the CFR, he says the enterprise will continue under a new “Curator” (interesting choice of title), who will be chosen by a newly-formed board of directors.
Politics, Policy, and the Law
  • If you haven’t been following this story about the Wisconsin Republican Party’s efforts to intimidate University of Wisconsin professor Bill Cronon (and now other university professors in other states), you should be. If this keeps up, state universities are going to face a huge disadvantage attracting both students and faculty, since no one can be assured that their private emails (even about grades, personal issues, and such) won’t be exposed by Big Brother in the course of some political vendetta. But then, maybe that’s the point – one less thing to pay for, after all. (To Wisconsin’s credit, the school administration has mounted a strong and fair response.)
  • Shannon Litzenberger, who is something like my Canadian counterpart (she is writing a blog about arts policy for the Toronto Arts Fondation), has written a great three-part series on United States arts policy (covering public investment, advocacy, and the role of the private sector). Even though it’s aimed at a Canadian audience, it should still be educational for American readers – and it’s always interesting to see how we’re viewed by others. (For an update on Canadian arts policy, try this recent post.)
  • One of the issues under discussion these days is the budget for public broadcasting. The House recently passed a bill (not expected to reach the President’s desk) that would eliminate funding for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, which in turn funds NPR and PBS. In response, CNN commissioned a poll that asked Americans what percentage of federal funding is taken up by broadcasting. Turns out the median response overestimated the actual number by a factor of over 400, and — get this — the majority of Americans are just fine with that amount!
  • Lots of people are talking about the Google Books decision and its implications for creators’ rights. Meanwhile, a new working paper argues that copyright may only be minimally effective at its original purpose of incentivizing creative production, using evidence from the post-MP3 era. Michael Rushton has more commentary here.

Collective Economic Action

  • The long-lost Collective Arts Think Tank is back, more than a year and a half later, with a massive follow-up to their original manifesto that you can read here. In it, they continue to advocate for rank-and-file artists and small presenters taking the initiative to reduce supply themselves. Linda Essig comments.
  • Tina Rosenberg provides a good overview of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding models here and here. Much of this will be familiar to Createquity regulars, but odds are you’ll learn something new.
  • Even music union members think it’s time for the union to change.
  • Project Streamline is making a comeback: the Grants Managers Network and the Center for Effective Philanthropy have announced an assessment tool aimed at helping funders determine if their paperwork requirements are too onerous. CEP’s Amber Bradley provides some analysis of the survey results so far. Given all this, Christopher Madden’s estimate of the deadweight loss (essentially from transaction costs) associated with grantseeking among arts groups in Australia, pegged at $3.6 million, is especially timely.
  • Umm….

    A quick search through’s database tells me that you can buy as many 100 comments, a single tweet to 25,000 Twitter followers, a negative or positive review in English and Spanish, and unlimited number of blog comments for a full week all for $5 apiece. For a few hundred dollars, you can guarantee a crazy amount of comment traffic and new media attention that would rival culture blogging’s biggest superstars.

The Arts and Urban Life

  • “It would be sad indeed if Dallas, having imported some of the world’s best architects, wound up creating the dullest arts district money can buy.” Great reflection on the pitfalls of institution-centric arts-led development.
  • Gary Steuer connects the dots between the arts and Philadelphia’s reversal of a longstanding trend toward population decline.
  • More on Detroit’s bid for an arts-led renaissance.

Reactions and Pre-reactions

Research Corner

  • Looks like one of the casualties of the budget fight could be the closure of, which had been a promising attempt to make government data more accessible to researchers and others. The Sunlight Foundation is leading an effort to save it.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, the Institute for Culture in the Service of Community Sustainability (ICSCS) is taking on the hard challenge of counting up NYC’s artist population.
  • Nancy Duxbury writes that she has co-edited an issue of the journal “Culture and Local Governance” focused entirely on “culture and sustainable communities” from an international perspective. Check it out here.
  • Munira Khapra reports on a survey of students and teachers about education priorities, and the intriguing finding that more than twice the proportion of students as compared to teachers “consider the arts absolutely essential to gaining an understanding of other nations and cultures.”
  • Michael Rushton examines the recent NEA report on arts education research by Nick Rabkin, and (shocker alert), doesn’t buy it. I heart Michael Rushton, but think there’s such a thing as being too skeptical when it comes to interpreting research. The comment section on that post has some additional back-and-forth between us on the subject.