ART AND THE GOVERNMENT

  • As you know, there was an election last week, and Barack Obama won it. Thankfully this means that Barry Hessenius’s worst fears about the NEA likely won’t be realized, but Barry does have some useful advocacy advice that is worth a read regardless of the outcome. Ted Johnson has a helpful pre-election analysis of issues relevant to Hollywood in the election. Americans for the Arts has been active too: Jay Dick offers a post-election advocacy to-do list, and the Arts Action Fund offers a thorough roundup of the election results and their implications. Among the lesser-known developments include the fact that many moderate Republican legislators in Kansas who stood up for arts funding in that state lost their primaries to more conservative challengers; similarly, several pro-arts Republicans in Congress have either retired or lost their seats, further polarizing the parties in their orientation toward arts funding. On the plus side, two cities – Portland, OR and Austin, TX – passed pro-arts ballot measures.
  • The final version of the Chicago Cultural Plan has been released – with a new arts education plan for Chicago Public Schools to boot.

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

IN THE FIELD

  • Orchestral musician labor disputes are in the news again, and nowhere is the hotbed hotter than in freezing Minnesota, where both the Minnesota and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras face work stoppages. Eric Nilsson says neither side is fully accepting reality, and even the Minneapolis City Council is getting involved. Both groups have canceled performances through the end of 2012, and musicians are starting to look for jobs elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Spokane (WA) Symphony is on strike and canceling performances.
  • I’m intrigued by this announcement of SphinxCon, a new diversity summit organized by Sphinx, a Detroit-based organization dedicated to cultivating more musicians of color in classical music. Aaron Dworkin and company have managed to pull together a pretty incredible speaker list pairing (mostly white) arts service organization leaders with a largely non-white group of artists, academics, and other perspectives. Who knows if it’ll lead to anything, but it seems like the ingredients for a real conversation are there.

BIG IDEAS

  • I can’t emphasize enough how important this 282-word blog post from Adam Thurman is. Adam has a gift for concision, and his three-part distinction between making art, making money doing art, and making a living from art is essential for artists and policymakers alike. And speaking of Adam’s genius, this post on arts marketing (featuring the memorable quotes, “[Y]ou are probably ok with whatever you did last night.  Maybe you watched TV, maybe you read a book, maybe you got drunk and did lines of cocaine.  Whatever you did, you were ok with it.” and “The reality is that if these [new] audiences never come your way they will be fine.  You, on the other hand, will be in serious trouble.”) is well worth a read too.
  • Stephanie N. Stallings thinks jazz could use some binders full of women and speculates that hip-hop has overtaken it as America’s greatest cultural diplomacy tool.
  • Over at Next American City, Neeraj Mehta considers the “who” of creative placemaking (as in, “who benefits?”).
  • So Google’s getting into the virtual museum business now?
  • Online higher education banned in Minnesota, then reinstated.
  • Chad Bauman writes eloquently on the symbiosis between an arts community and its local newspaper – and what it means that so many of those newspapers seem to be hanging on by a thread.
  • Eric Booth submits a lengthy dispatch from the first international Teaching Artist Conference in Oslo.

RESEARCH CORNER

  • A new report from Emerson College’s Center for the Theater Commons, authored by Diane Ragsdale, examines the relationship between nonprofit and commercial theater.
  • Chorus America has released its Choral Operations Survey Report for 2012.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing the results of what looks like a very strong study being undertaken by the LA Philharmonic, USC, and Heart of Los Angeles to investigate the impact of early childhood music training. Meanwhile, a just-released report from Carnegie Hall and WolfBrown examines the potential for music to make a difference in the juvenile justice system.
  • If you’ve ever doubted me that logic models matter, check out this analysis of the difficulties faced by One Laptop Per Child, a hugely ambitious, billion-dollar initiative to develop and distribute low-cost laptops to schoolchildren in developing countries. The passage below is an eloquent depiction of how failing to think through the details of a strategy can mean its doom:

    Doing an end-run around lousy infrastructure and poorly-trained teachers might actually work with the right support to guide the child’s learning. Unfortunately, Negroponte has also stated that you actually can give a kid a laptop and walk away.

    According to Jeff Patzer, a former OLPC intern, that’s precisely what they did in Peru. Hardware degraded faster than expected, and OLPC allowed Peru to build its own branch of the system software that was incompatible with patches. Interns were not prepared to educate teachers, and teachers were not prepared to use the XO to teach students.

    “The only thing that happens is the laptops get opened, turned on, kids and teachers get frustrated by hardware and software bugs, don’t understand what to do, and promptly box them up to put back in the corner.” Patzer explained.

ETC.

  • Joe Queenan on having read more than 6000 books. My favorite part of this column is the fact that, because it’s in the Wall Street Journal, his offhand mention of Williams Sonoma is accompanied by its latest stock quote.

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