Around the horn: 2012 edition

Happy New Year, everybody!

ART AND THE GOVERNMENT

  • Congress has agreed to put aside consideration of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) through the end of the year, but the bill isn’t necessarily dead. Arts and technology commentators have begun to be more vocal in their criticism of the bill, which would, among other things, sanction pre-emptive takedown requests for intellectual property infringement, create an “intermediary liability” for website hosts, and essentially hand over enforcement for all of this to the entertainment industry. It’s that last provision which creeps me out the most; I’m not a copyright anarchist, but I am most definitely against the foxes running the henhouse.
  • More on droit de suite legislation, which took effect in the UK on January 1. The policy compensates artists whose works are sold by future owners. As reported last month, similar legislation is under consideration by the United States Congress.
  • Interesting interview with the head of the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, an intermediary organization based in Lebanon that is funded by the Ford and Open Society Foundations as well as donors in Kuwait and the Netherlands.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

  • Leveraging Investments in Creativity has hired Candace Jackson, an arts consultant, as its managing director. LINC is heading into its final phase of operation, and its concluding work will focus on evaluating its grants and putting out additional research publications.
  • The Urban Institute (which has a notable track record of research in the arts) has a new president, Sarah Rosen Wartell.
  • Arena Stage’s New Play Institute is splitting up, with two key staff members leaving the organization and taking the program’s media and technology projects to Boston’s Emerson College. More on the transition from David Dower.
  • Some strange staffing shenanigans are afoot at the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, but if the article is to be believed, they will be hiring a deputy commissioner and five program directors among other positions.

IN THE FIELD

  • An heir to the Walmart fortune has opened the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, a community of 35,000 people located two hours away from the nearest large city. The museum apparently has amassed nearly a billion dollars in assets in just five years, mostly funded by the Walton Family Foundation. It offers free admission to the public and is located within walking distance of downtown Bentonville, which happens to be the location of the world headquarters of Walmart. The museum has raised eyebrows on the east coast for buying up hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of art for its collection and getting into a legal battle with the Georgia O’Keefe Museum over its attempts to purchase a 50% stake in a collection at the financially troubled Fisk University in Tennessee. But from where I sit, it’s a gigantic infusion of money for the arts in an extremely underserved part of the country…hard to argue too much with that.
  • Opera Boston, the second-largest opera company in the region, is shutting down due to a $500,000 funding gap, mere months after it won a Pulitzer Prize with composer Zhou Long.
  • Ballet San Jose has announced a unusual partnership with American Ballet Theatre that involves implementing ABT’s training curriculum in the local ballet school and performing works from ABT’s repertoire. Officials claim the arrangement is “not a merger,” however.

RESEARCH CORNER

  • Blair Benjamin has published the results of his self-evaluation of the Assets for Artists program in Massachusetts. Speaking of Blair, his second annual “headlines you missed” feature is worth a laugh. My favorite: “Alice Walton’s Plan to Demolish and Replace Her Brand-New Museum with a ‘Super Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’ Promises Wider Selection and an Even More Unbeatable Admission Price”
  • Robert Flanagan, a Stanford professor who wrote a report on the economic health of symphony orchestras back in 2008, has expanded that research into a book. Sarah Lutman has the details.
  • I’ll sign on to this: “We need a national consensus policy to guide our research efforts into the decade.  As good as our research is, and as capable as our researchers are – it is basically piecemeal.  We need an over-arching policy as to what we need to know, on what timeline and to what purpose.  And we need at least some modicum of cooperation so we can pursue research in some linear pattern.  Somebody please convene a national summit to deal with our currently all over the map research efforts.  At least create ways  researchers (can and will) talk to each other on some regular basis.”

ON GIVING

  • PhilanTopic has a thought-provoking roundup of predictions for 2012. A couple that stuck out for me:

    In fact, we’d be surprised if there isn’t at least one [Occupy Wall Street]-related protest at a high-profile philanthropic conference or event in 2012. (And the folks in Davos can pretty much count on it.)

    [E]xpect to see calls for greater accountability in philanthropy emerge as a movement in its own right in 2012. Adopting the slogan “private dollars for public good,” a social media-empowered generation of young Americans will use the cheap and ubiquitous tools at their disposal to push for more diversity on foundation boards, more transparency in foundation decision-making, and more democracy in the allocation of tax-advantaged philanthropic resources.

    I hope they’re right.

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