The arts, including painting, sculpture, installation, dance and music, are in part about creating a sensory experience—something for the audience to see, feel or hear. And perhaps more than any other discipline, food has the ability to appeal to all of our senses—a combination of colors, textures, crunches, smells and tastes goes into the making of a meal, and the selection and transformation of those elements is creative. When a creative, sensory form also has the capacity to express philosophies, inspire multiple interpretations, conjure narratives and/or allude to complex meanings, it is art, whether the medium is paint or piano or polenta. Food has not replaced art as high culture; it is art.
—Jacquelyn Strycker, From Palate to Palette: Can Food Be Art? (January 7)
Like the NCRP report, “Fusing” provoked strong and varied reaction across the arts and funding communities (GIA’s online forum on equity in arts funding provides a good sample) when it was originally released. It also provoked a strong and varied reaction in me. Reading it evoked frustration similar to what I feel when I read arts education reports that draw conclusions affirming my fundamental beliefs (i.e. that the arts are a powerful learning tool for children), without providing clear evidence for those conclusions. I understand and support the arguments the reports are trying to make, but wish they did a better job making them.
—Talia Gibas, Arts Policy Library: Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change (January 14)
Every research effort should take into account the expected value of the information it will produce. Consider the risk involved in various types of grants made. What are you trying to achieve by giving out lots of small grants, if that’s what you’re doing? Maybe measure the effectiveness of the overall strategy instead of the success or failure of each grant. This is getting into hypothesis territory, but based on what I’ve seen so far I would guess that research on grant strategy is woefully underfunded, while research on the effectiveness or potential of specific grants is probably overfunded. We probably worry more than we need to about individual grants, but we don’t worry as much as we should about whether the ways in which we’re making decisions about which grants to support are the right ways to do that.
—Ian David Moss, Solving the Underpants Gnomes Problem: Towards an Evidence-Based Arts Policy (February 25)
People intuitively feel artists are attracted to down and out neighborhoods and can invest sweat equity, money, and artist juju into properties. They’ve heard about the SoHo effect and how artists are often victims of processes they set into motion; they get priced out of the very neighborhoods they helped to turn around. Through my work, I’ve learned that it’s not so simple. Since the 1970s, thousands of American and European urban neighborhoods have been gentrified without artists involved, often by developers, often with public funding, chiefly to young professionals and to suburban retirees wishing to live in the city. Ann Markusen points out that gentrification is a function of generalized pressure on urban land markets—i.e. in NYC, every rich person in the world has to have an apartment—and that it does not occur in most small towns and in urban neighborhoods in vast portions of many cites.
—Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, Artists and Gentrification: Sticky Myths, Slippery Realities (April 5)
All in all, reforming the deduction on charitable contributions isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the arts. There are ways of changing the tax code that could actually increase revenues and diversify the sources of income for arts organizations, even while helping to reduce the federal deficit. Since any change creates uncertainty and will likely produce losers as well as winners, I can understand arts administrators and advocates who would rather stick with an imperfect status quo than commit their careers and their organizations to an uncertain future. However, I believe that participating in the discussion and shaping the outcomes to fit our sector’s interests will ultimately prove more productive than trying to block change from the start.
—John Carnwath, The Deduction for Charitable Contributions: The Sacred Cow of the Tax Code? (April 23)
In a Createquity post this May, Tegan Kehoe suggested “making responsible efforts to keep [deaccessioned] objects in public hands” as a reasonable standard that should avoid the worst outcomes of deaccessioning. But the proposed restrictions being placed upon the DIA would forestall even this approach. Let’s say the DIA wanted to invest in the goodwill of Detroit’s citizens by prudently selling or leasing artworks to other nonprofit institutions to help the city recover. According to Elliot Bostwick of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, as quoted in the New York Times, most museums only exhibit between two to four percent of their collection at one time. It’s entirely possible that among the museum’s more than 60,000 works—some of which will never be exhibited—there are items that no longer support the DIA’s vision. If executed carefully, a sale of these holdings could be seen as an act of generosity on the museum’s part and actually benefit the institution over the long term, while ensuring that the deaccessioned works remained accessible to the general populace. Yet with the art authority resolution in place and counties threatening to remove taxpayer support, the DIA could be held hostage by the very laws designed to protect its interests.
—Jena Lee, Detroit Institute of Arts: What’s a Museum to Do? (September 3)
But it’s also not hard to see the transfer in setting from underground movie theater in heady 1970 to establishment art museum in 2013 as a particularly insidious kind of cultural appropriation. It was a striking experience to watch Right On! from the comfort of MoMA, of all places. It was, in fact, like being in a museum, as if there were a glass wall between the movie and me allowing me to appreciate it as a cultural object while preventing me from truly entering its world. The raw, unfiltered power and emotion directed at the camera was boxed in and partially neutered by the time it reached me on the other side of the screen, sitting next to my white college friend and the many white people in the room who could have been my friends if I’d happened to come across them in a different context. As unmistakable as the film’s point of view was, it was easy, too easy, to compartmentalize it as an artifact of a different era, a time when revolution was in the air and the evils of racism were upfront and obvious.
—Ian David Moss, What We Talk About When We Talk About Race (November 19)
Earlier this year teachers in Seattle flat out refused to administer mandated state exams, claiming that the tests were a misuse of precious school resources, unfairly used as part of teacher evaluations, and an inaccurate indication of student learning. And Seattle isn’t alone. The organization United Opt Out National has assembled a state-by-state guide for opting your kids out of testing, claiming, “high-stakes testing is destructive to ALL children, educators, communities…and the democratic principles which underlie the purposes of public education.” Let’s say they’re right and standardized tests have got to go. What would be a scalable alternative? One possible solution percolating amongst education reformers may surprise you: portfolios. The practice of assessing learning with portfolios has deep roots in the arts world, visual arts and creative writing especially. Could portfolios save our public school students from a life of drill-and-kill?
—Lindsey Cosgrove, Portfolios: The Next Wave of Student Assessment? (December 30)
This was the first year that the most popular article on Createquity was not written by me, which I consider to be a mark of success for developing the authors (and editors) of this operation. In fact, I don’t show up until #5 on the list! Here were the most-read posts from 2013, in case you missed them:
- The Deduction for Charitable Contributions: The Sacred Cow of the Tax Code?
- Artists and Gentrification: Sticky Myths, Slippery Realities
- From Palate to Palette: Can Food Be Art?
- What Is a Museum?
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Race
- America’s Top ArtPlaces
- The Cultural Data Project and Its Impact on Arts Organizations
- Looking Beyond Our Borders for National Arts Education Policies
- Artists Shaking Up and Strengthening Communities in Rural America
- The Potential of Partnerships in Arts and Healthcare
In addition, honorable mention goes to 2012 posts Public Art and the Challenge of Evaluation, Creative Placemaking Has an Outcomes Problem, In Defense of Logic Models, Burning Man is Dead; Long Live Burning Man, and Fuzzy Concepts, Proxy Data: Why Indicators Won’t Track Creative Placemaking Success, all of which were still going strong in 2013.