In 1986, Thomas Krens, with an MBA in hand from Yale University and new to his consultancy for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, suggested turning a shuttered electrical plant in North Adams, Massachusetts into the world’s largest contemporary art museum. He had spent six years in North Adams as the director of the Williams College Museum of Art, and the plant had been in his backyard. It was a big, wild idea, and it came to fruition thirteen years later, when the site became the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in 1999. Now, nearly thirty years later, Krens is back with a newer, bigger idea for North Adams: a 160,000-square-foot art gallery on the city’s Harriman-West Airport grounds. This new museum is designed to complement, rather than compete, with the “old” one: it would only show its contemporary-art collection, and there would be no exhibition programming. The idea is unusual in structure, as well; unlike most museums, Krens’ idea is for this one to be privately owned by a for-profit group of investors, and they’re only seeking a twenty-year lease. Not much has been heard of from Krens following the end of his twenty-year tenure as director of the Guggenheim Museum, but this new idea–five years in the making and originally planned for China–is sure to push him back into the limelight. The North Adams Airport Commission is on board. Next up: the Federal Aviation Administration.
Chula Vista Schools Invest Heavily in Arts Education. Chula Vista Elementary School District, which lies just south of San Diego, California, serves some 30,000 students. The last time the district had an arts coordinator was the 1970s, and last school year, the district had just four full-time art teachers. All this is about to change: this summer, the district has undertaken a massive expansion of its arts education program, hiring 60 new art teachers, with 16 spots still left to fill. This unprecedented investment in arts education, spearheaded by Lauren Shelton, has been made possible by $15 million in funding approved by the Chula Vista school board in June. The money comes from from Governor Jerry Brown’s state local control funding formula, which shifted education spending decisions to the local level and targets disadvantaged students. Chula Vista is not the only district to benefit from Governor Brown’s formula, but it’s the first to focus the entire pool of funds–$5 million a year for the next three years–on aggressively expanding arts education. The District’s goal is simple, if ambitious: to raise student engagement, boost attendance and improve academic performance among low-performing students, and of course, implement a long-term plan to restore arts instruction in the district.
Social Sciences Scrutinized, Found Lacking. The social sciences have found themselves in the Createquity limelight recently, and not necessarily for good reason. In March, we reported that the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology had banned testing for statistical significance and related procedures in papers published in its pages. In May we covered Michael LaCour’s study on the impact of gay canvassers on voters’ behavior, which was retracted when its data was found to be falsified. And this past month, the journal Science released the findings of a yearslong effort to faithfully reproduce 100 studies, in most cases using original data. These studies, published in the leading journals Psychological Science, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, are considered some of the most important work published on personality, relationships, learning and memory. In the case of more than half of the studies, the replication project found that “the evidence for most published findings was not nearly as strong as originally claimed.” While the study of the studies itself could stand some further investigation, the shocking numbers are just the latest warning not to take research results at face value. Is increased competition for academic jobs and research funding to blame, or is the Internet merely making it easier than before to spot crimes against science? Either way, social science is not doomed–but it sure is harder than we give it credit for.
China Lifts 14-Year Old Ban on Video Gaming. In 2000, the Chinese government banned the production and sale of video game consoles, citing concerns that games could have “adverse effects” on Chinese youth. Last year, China eased those restrictions, letting game console-makers operate in the Shanghai free trade zone (though even then they had to enter into contracts to build new manufacturing facilities, secure approval for console sales from regulators, and allow every console to be individually inspected.) This month, the Ministry of Culture lifted the ban altogether, opening the door to Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft to manufacture and sell their Xboxes, Playstations and Wii. Although China is expected to overtake the US as the world’s largest mobile gaming market by 2016, it’s not immediately clear what impact the lifting of the ban will have on Chinese gamers, or on the bottom line of the big three. In the absence of consoles, PC and web based games have eaten up the lion’s share of the market, leaving little room for new products, especially new consoles, which have, despite it all, long been available on the grey market.
Art School Profits off of Student Dreams. Remember when the entire first year MFA class at USC Roski School of Art and Design in Los Angeles dropped out in May on account of their funding and teaching opportunities being curtailed? If that story made you mad, have we got a tale of student exploitation for you. The for-profit Academy of Art University, based in San Francisco, was by founded by Richard S. and Clara Stephens in the 1920s. Under the watch of granddaughter Elisa Stephens, who became president in 1992, the school has become the largest private art university in the United States, with 16,000 students (35% of which are online-only) generating an estimated $300 million in annual revenues. The Stephenses are purportedly worth some $800 million, which they spend–lavishly and visibly–on prime San Francisco real estate, summer homes, yachts, jets, and cars. According to a Forbes exposé this month, it seems that fortune has been built on the selling of false hope. The Academy accepts any applicant with a high school diploma and the willingness to spend $22,000 a year on tuition–no art portfolio required. Only 32% of full-time students and 3% of part-time students graduate, and it takes most full-time students six years to do so. (The school keeps a full semester’s tuition if the student is enrolled for at least four weeks.) Add to this a caginess around job placement statistics and numerous building violations, and regulators are finally taking notice. It’s worth reconsidering the white-hot controversy surrounding Roski dean Erica Muhl in this light: shady as the university’s dealings might have been, they affected a grand total of seven students.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- At long last, the National Endowment for the Arts has a new theater director: Greg Reiner.
- Charlotte Cohen has been appointed executive director of the Brooklyn Arts Council, succeeding Ella J. Weiss who is retiring after serving 16 years as president of the organization.
- The Tucson Pima Arts Council announced a leadership shift this month: Debi Chess Mabie was appointed CEO, with current executive director Roberto Bedoya transitioning to the new role of Director of Civic Engagement.
- Angie Kim was named president and CEO of California’s Center for Cultural Innovation.
- Jennifer Coleman has been appointed Senior Program Officer for the Arts at the George Gund Foundation in Cleveland.
- After fifteen years with the Walton Family Foundation, Buddy Philpot will step down as its executive director.
- Sarah Martínez-Helfman has been named president of Philadelphia’s Samuel S. Fels Fund.
- Former Microsoft executive Michael Thatcher was named president and CEO of Charity Navigator.
- Scott Cantrell, long time staff music critic at the Dallas Morning, is the latest writer to accept a buyout at the paper.
- The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation seeks an arts program officer. Posted July 27; no closing date.
- The David and Lura Lovell Foundation seeks an executive director. Posted July 31; no closing date.
- The Krupp Family Foundation is hiring a part-time Foundation Grants and Program Director. Posted August 4; no closing date.
- The Prince Charitable Trusts is hiring a managing director. Posted August 5; no closing date.
- The California Arts Council is hiring a deputy director. Posted August 19; closing date September 18.
- The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is hiring a Program Fellow for the three-year Hewlett Fellowship. Posted August 28; no closing date.
- The South Jersey Cultural Alliance seeks an executive director. Closing date September 11.
- Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts is hiring an Assistant Director for the Arts Research Institute. Closing date September 30.
- The New Jersey Council for the Humanities seeks a Director of Programs. Applications will be reviewed beginning October 15.
- ArtsEnging/a2ru_News has openings for a Research Director and Research Fellow. No closing date.
- AEA Consulting is recruiting a research analysts and consultants. No closing date.
- The Oklahoma Arts Council is hiring a Director of Art in Public Places. No closing date.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- A recent analysis of the Mellon Foundation’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute has found that the program has “no significant effect” on Ph.D. completion rates among minority students.
- The University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism examined the 700 top-grossing films between 2007 and 2014 and released a report revealing, in no uncertain terms, Hollywood’s bias against women, people of color and LGBT characters.
- A new study suggests that educational television programs such as Sesame Street have not been successful in reducing kids’ prejudices.
- The U.S. Department of Education released two reports assessing the qualifications of middle & high school instructors across arts disciplines. Spoiler alert: they’re not all qualified.
- How do you get to Carnegie Hall? A new study published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that individuals underestimate the value of persistence for creative performance. Another report from the same journal indicates that money does matter, and what’s more, that low-income individuals are less happy in places with greater income inequality.
- A public study of Chicago residents commissioned by Arts Alliance Illinois last year reveals that while Chicagoans are united in wanting access to arts, not all have access: 28 of 77 of the city’s neighborhoods are home to zero arts organizations.
- A report published by Gulf Labor, a coalition of artists and activists, reveals that underpayment and harsh working conditions have persisted for migrant workers building new Guggenheim, Louvre and Zayed National museum branches in Abu Dhabi.
- A survey of professional dancers in UK revealed that more than half of them earn less than £5,000 a year from their performing engagements (and other bleak statistics).
- And in more lighthearted news: baristas rejoice! A new study reveals that people are willing to pay more–13% more!–for latte art.