ART AND THE GOVERNMENT
- Really scary stuff about political meddling in editorial content at the Alabama public television network. Seems like one of the underreported stories of the year.
- Congratulations to Randy Engstrom on his appointment as interim director of the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, replacing Vincent Kitch who left abruptly in August. Engstrom won the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Award a few years back for his pioneering work with the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Seattle.
IN THE FIELD
- Victor Kuo offers a good overview of FSG Social Impact Advisors’ work in Cincinnati to develop shared outcomes across a range of funders and help build “backbone organizations” in the region. Kuo will be presenting with ArtsWave’s Mary McCullough-Hudson and me at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference later this month.
- Is crowdfunding a good fit for museums? The recent experience of the Hirshhorn and Contemporary Art Museum Houston suggest not. On the other hand, with the help of superstar web cartoonist The Oatmeal, a campaign to build a museum honoring the inventor Nikola Tesla has raised over $1.35 million on Indiegogo.
- What it’s like to (not) make a living as a poet.
THE MYSTIQUE OF CITIES
- Diana Lind on the revitalization of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood: “It becomes harder to complain about gentrification when investment returns to the community the benefits of street lights, restored facades, new trees and eyes on the street.”
- Burning Man is not just an inspiration for artists – according to this article by burner Jessica Reeder in Utne Reader, it also could be a model for city planners. A well-written, thought-provoking piece.
THE (NOT SO?) DISMAL SCIENCE
- Interesting list of economists who support, or are practitioners of, the arts. Be sure to read the comments too.
- Check out this super fascinating interview with young economists about the future of their field. Some quotes of note:
Although we have accumulated considerable evidence showing that people do not always behave rationally, we do not have as good a sense of how they actually do behave and what this means for policy.
[W]e are far from a unified, versatile, believable alternative to the rational-actor model. I am hopeful, though, that this might be overcome—in part because of progress in the sister disciplines (psychology and neuroscience) and basic modeling, and also because empirical anomalies are forcing the economic profession to be more open-minded. Contributions by computer scientists and physicists will help inject new perspectives into economics.
In his famous 1945 article, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” F. A. Hayek argued that despite their inequity and inefficiency, free markets were necessary in order to allow the incorporation of information held by dispersed individuals into social decisions. No central planner could hope to collect and process all the information necessary for social decisions; only markets allowed and provided the incentives for disaggregated information processing. Yet, increasingly, information technology is leading individuals to delegate their most “private” decisions to automated processing systems.
Economics is in the midst of a massive and radical change. It used to be that we had little data, and no computing power, so the role of economic theory was to “fill in” for where facts were missing. Today, every interaction we have in our lives leaves behind a trail of data….The tools of economics will continue to evolve and become more empirical. Economic theory will become a tool we use to structure our investigation of the data.
- Cool visualization of the top-selling artworks from the past four years. I recommend checking out the “men / women” view.
- Lots of people are talking about Walk Score, but some users (including me) find its ratings a bit unreliable in practice. Urbanist Steve Mouzon thinks it’s because Walk Score misses the crucial point that some places are simply much more pleasant to look at than others, and that affects how far people are willing to walk. Two adjacent suburban strip malls might have lots of amenities clustered in one place, but no one wants to walk from one to the other, because walking through parking lots is soul-destroying. So Mouzon has developed the interesting concept of Walk Appeal as a potential next-generation index of walkability/livability.
- Amazon releases its book sales data in the context of an interesting political “heat map,” which suggests that GOP voters buy more politically tinged books, proportionally speaking, than their Democratic counterparts do.
- Michael Hickey is examining the details of nonprofit arts organization budgets in New York City in a multipart series for his new blog, Man About Town. In his first post, he finds that four institutions (which he doesn’t name, but I’m guessing are the Met Museum, the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall) received nearly half of all the dollars granted by the city to arts organizations in 2010. His next entry discusses the mysterious “Other Earned Revenue” budget category that accounts for more than 20% of earned income across all organizations. A third includes testimony to the NY City Council on the impact of the arts on small businesses and community vitality. And finally, Hickey makes a passionate argument for data aggregation tools for New York City (hmm, that sounds familiar). The Municipal Arts Society of New York (which absorbed the research functions of the Alliance for the Arts after the latter organization dissolved last year, and for which Hickey has done some consulting) has a new report out exploring some of these topics in more depth.
- Cool story from Michael Kaiser about getting fathers involved in their kids’ ballet dancing.
- Great, hilarious taxonomy of jazz musician career archetypes. One of the categories is simply called “The Industry,” which includes this definition of the “arts administrator”: “This well-fed, parasitic middleman—typically a jealous amateur musician formally trained in non-profit business administration—may work either directly for the government or for a government-funded non- profit presenting agency. Either way, he or she enjoys a salary and accompanying benefits unthinkable for a working jazz artist.”