Around the horn: poolside edition

ART AND THE GOVERNMENT

IN THE FIELD

  • The New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts is the anchor attraction for a new residential development in economically challenged Newark called One Theater Square. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is cited as a model.
  • The Pacific Standard Time art festival in Los Angeles, organized by the Getty Foundation, was a big success in terms of drawing national media attention to LA and its 20th-century artists. But in terms of driving attendance to the participating museums? Not so much.
  • The Baltimore Symphony’s “Rusty Musicians” program has become a poster child of sorts for institutional programs that welcome adult audience members as participants. The New York Times‘s Dan Wakin embedded himself among the amateur musicians over the summer, and offers an entertaining account of the experience.
  • Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge CEO Derek Gordon passed away last month at the age of 57.

BIG IDEAS

  • Very interesting: Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok of the Marginal Revolution blog, after talking up the coming sea change in online education, are getting in on the act with their own resource entitled MRUniversity; their first course covers developmental economics. Cowen and Tabarrok are themselves professors at the bricks-and-mortar George Mason University.
  • Is it already backlash time for collective impact? Silicon Valley Community Foundation CEO Emmet Carson plays the devil’s advocate; FSG’s Emily Gorin Malenfant offers a defense.
  • Roberto Bedoya has an important critique of creative placemaking in a new online journal entitled Arts in a Changing America published by former LINC collaborator Maribel Alvarez. Bedoya argues that in their zeal to refashion America’s communities, creative placemaking advocates have ignored “history, critical racial theory, and [the] politics…of belonging and dis-belonging” at the expense of economic development and urban planning technocracy. On the one hand, I think Bedoya’s right to call attention to the creative placemaking movement’s tendency at times to blithely dismiss hot-button cultural tensions like gentrification and social inequality. It’s something I’ve noticed and commented upon here as well, though only in passing so far. At the same time, I don’t want creative placemaking to get bogged down in academic “discourses” that delight in problematizing status-quo practices without, in my estimation, offering much in the way of practical solutions. As much as I agree with aspects of Bedoya’s critique, I found myself wishing by the end of it that I had a better sense for what kinds of arts grantmaking or programming practices promote his desired sense of belonging.

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

  • The Warhol Foundation is planning to sell off its collection of the artist’s work, boosting its endowment by nearly half.
  • David Byrne’s new book offers a “radically transparent” view into the economics of the music industry, through his own experiences.
  • It turns out that one of New York City’s most significant institutional funders of the arts, arguably, is one you’ve likely never heard of. Arts Brookfield is the cultural programming and presentation arm of Brookfield Office Properties, managers of several high-profile buildings including the World Financial Center. Run by Deborah Simon, Arts Brookfield spends $1 million directly presenting performances and exhibitions in the public spaces of its properties each year. The article includes this money quote: “Brookfield executives say that for them art is an investment in the core business that pays off in a better class of tenants and higher rents.” In an ironic twist, Brookfield Office Properties is perhaps better known to artists as the owners of Zuccotti Park, made famous as the staging ground of the Occupy Wall Street protests. OWS and Brookfield tussled in the press and the courts for months last year as the latter tried to evict protesters from their de facto headquarters. Perhaps strangest of all is to see Judd Greenstein, a ringleader of the Occupy Musicians offshoot of OWS (and friend of this blog), quoted in the Times article singing the praises of Brookfield now that he is curating a concert series for them: “’They have been really open-minded and flexible….You can talk to them about the power of an idea, and that’s really liberating.” Sometimes the world is very weird.

RESEARCH CORNER

  • Kudos to the Foundation Center for coming clean about published mistakes in recent research about multiyear giving patterns.
  • One of the tragic consequences of our field’s fragmented funding infrastructure is that support for the arts tends to be concentrated in large urban metros. While especially apparent in funding for art projects themselves, it applies equally to research about the arts, which means that creative activities in rural areas fly even further under the radar than they would otherwise. A new project called the “Rural Arts and Culture Map” aims to do something about this by crowdsourcing stories, media, and video testimonials about art in the boonies.

ETC.

  • A panoply of established leaders in the arts share the wisdom they have learned over the years. A highly personal and at times touching collection of lessons.
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7 Comments

  1. Judd Greenstein
    Posted October 19th, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes the world is very weird, indeed. And this question — of what Brookfield is, or represents, and whether playing or curating there was a hypocritical gesture, given their relationship to Occupy — was one that I deeply considered when this possibility came up. Especially as a performer, it felt bizarre to be playing at the World Financial Center — as I tweeted, I hadn’t been down there since I was occupying, and I certainly meant to highlight the stark contrast in that, which was plain enough for everyone to see. There’s certainly a form of personal hypocrisy in that pairing. How strong a form, I’m not sure. But in the end, it felt no more hypocritical than playing at, say, Carnegie Hall, who has a particularly problematic season sponsor this year. Or you can choose any other major presenter, in New York or elsewhere. Music that relies on sponsorship — classical, new music, etc. — relies on excess capital to support it, and excess capital is often gained in ways that we would never support, were we to see it so gained. That’s not a conversation that we feel comfortable having, as an arts community, I suspect mostly because we fear that the money will go away if we examine it too closely (which might be true).

    In this case, it’s worth clarifying that Brookfield was not the target of Occupy; they were antagonists only insofar as they resisted being our home. While I would love (!) to have a more robust discussion within classical music circles about where money comes from and how artists are implicated in oppressive systems — and have encouraged this discussion wherever possible — there is a difference between this general conversation and a specific one about particular companies that sponsor the arts. In this case, Brookfield Office Properties does not seem to be a problematic company, in any unusual way, the strange coincidence of their Zuccotti Park relationship aside. More to the point, they have given over the reigns of arts management to some extremely sophisticated and forward-thinking presenters, opening up spaces around lower Manhattan and providing significant financial resources toward free public art. This has tremendous value, in my opinion. Furthermore, the conversations that we had with the arts organizers at Brookfield were some of the most open-minded and generous that I’ve encountered in this city. The curators and administrators at Brookfield Arts are truly supportive of new music (and other art) in a broadly-defined way that is rare to find, and their parent organization gives them a wide latitude in which to operate, and is to be commended for so doing — while criticizing them for their handling of Zuccotti or whatever else one wants. This is all to say that while I agree that the world is strange, and complicated, I stand by my comments to the NY Times and don’t feel hypocritical doing so, except insofar as I generally feel hypocritical being part of the broader funding edifice of the classical music industry. Which I do.

    • Posted October 19th, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Judd. It certainly wasn’t my intention to accuse you of hypocrisy, either overtly or not – I figured you, of all people, would have had your reasons and considered this thoughtfully. (And I was right!) That doesn’t make the story, and your involvement in it, any less notable or interesting in my opinion. I hope we can have that discussion about artists and the origins of the money that supports them, as goodness knows there’s a lot to talk about there.

  2. Roberto Bedoya
    Posted October 21st, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Dear Ian,

    Thanks for the mention of the essay. I appreciate your blog and the astute commentaries within it and especially your various posts on Creative Placemaking.

    In response to you “wishing” that you had a better sense of practices that promote a sense of belonging, I incorporated images of projects supported by the Tucson Pima Arts Council’s P.L.A.C. E. (People, Land, Arts, Culture and Engagement) Initiative in the essay aimed to do that. I choose not to write about them in this piece instead I want to address some framing complexities associated Creative Placemaking. I should have been more deliberate in stating how the P.L.A.C. E. projects images in this piece are examples of the ethos of belonging that I write about. I’m working on another piece of writing about the P.L.A.C. E. Initiative, which the arts council launched in 2008, as the platform we developed to support Creative Placemaking activities. To date we have funded 45 projects and next month we will make another 15 awards. Stay tuned for that piece of writing.

    You post did raised a few questions for me: Do you feel that my critique is an academic exercise of problematizing?

    Again thanks for the mention of the essay and continue with your good work.

    Best
    Roberto

    • Posted October 21st, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Roberto. I had an intuition that the P.L.A.C.E. initiative might have been the model you were advocating for, but since you didn’t write much about it in the essay I wasn’t sure what it was about it that excited you or was different from the typical approach. I’ll look forward to your follow-up essay. And good question about whether I felt the critique was too academic. I guess the short answer is that I did, up until you told me that you’re planning on continuing the conversation. I think we can all agree that creative placemaking has various issues and tensions to grapple with. At the same time, I think there’s a lot that’s positive about creative placemaking as it’s been operationalized in policy over the past couple of years, and I want to figure out how we can improve it without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Thus, it’s the practical alternatives and solutions that I’m most interested in.

      (I’ll also say that, and I’m sure this is your experience as well, it’s easy to sit back and throw stones at initiatives that are very much in the public eye. Much harder to come up with ways to do them better, and harder still to actually do it when given the opportunity. All the more reason why I’m eager to hear more about P.L.A.C.E.)

      • Roberto
        Posted October 22nd, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for pointing out the deficiency in the piece. Look for the new piece on the P.L.A.C.E. initiative in a couple of months.

        As to your response to my question about “academic exercise of problematizing” yes I agree with you that its easier to throw stones than present operational alternative to what one is criticizing and I try not to do that.

        Lately I’ve been thinking on writing as critical witnessing and it’s place in the arena of cultural commentaries that exist on the web. I define critical witnessing, which is different than problematization, as a writing that uses stories and experiences as a springboard for critical engagement with the issues being addressed. Anyway… that’s another conversation.

        Again let me thank for your post and thoughts. Abrazos R

  3. Posted November 2nd, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I am thrilled to see the Rural Arts Map mentioned on your site, and particularly gratified to see you mention the fact that not only are rural arts organization underfunded, but rural arts research as well. One of the contributors to the rural arts week on HowlRound made such a statement in his essay, and he was instructed to remove it unless he could provide data to prove it — a Herculean undertaking that wold have been impossible in a short deadline. Do you have any suggestions about how we might go about documenting the disparity you and he mention?

    • Posted November 2nd, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Great question, Scott. This is something I encounter and deal with on a daily basis through my work with Fractured Atlas’s cultural asset mapping software, Archipelago. Archipelago relies on the aggregation of secondary data sources, many of which are specific to the arts community. Look at the list of TRG Community Databases, or Arts Space Solutions Network members, for example, and you’ll see that they are primarily centered on metro regions. Even the CDP, which is state-based, is tilted toward densely populated states such as New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York. The same is true, for the most part, of Americans for the Arts’s economic impact study partners. The reason for this is simple, and has nothing to do with any overt bias against rural regions on the part of the organizations that maintain these resources (including my own). It’s that these initiatives require infrastructure to implement and maintain, usually in the form of local arts service organizations. Since most private funding and local government support (obviously) is tied to a specific geographic region, usually a metropolitan area or smaller, these arts service organizations tend to be concentrated in larger metros, and this is especially true of the ones that have full-time staff and the capacity to undertake and oversee professional research projects. That leaves state arts councils and the NEA to serve as the de facto arts councils for rural areas. But these entities are perpetually underfunded and are not set up to serve nor have fully embraced their role in the rural arts ecosystem, in my opinion. So to get back to your question, you could probably document it by assessing (a) the proportion of research studies produced by local arts councils vs. state arts councils, the NEA, and national service organizations; and (b) the proportion of local arts councils that exclusively serve rural areas.

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