Raising money is tough, and raising money for the arts can be particularly so. And yet, at this moment in New York, sixteen arts institutions in Manhattan alone are in the process of raising a whopping $3.47 billion for ambitious capital projects–from a revamped building for the New York Philharmonic (price tag: $500 million) to the long-awaited new home for the Irish Arts Center (price tag: $60 million). While there’s no one way to raise this kind of dollar, the New York Times has a compelling explanation of the various strategies cultural institutions are using to bring home the bacon. Lurking underneath all the glitz and ambition, however, is an unasked question: is this all a good idea? After all, cultural equity and disparities of wealth among cultural institutions is an issue with increasing resonance both in New York City and nationally, and in many ways the current administration’s proposed cultural plan has been seen as a step towards addressing those issues. Will this giant slate of capital projects claim resources that might otherwise have been available to a broader constituency? And given the dim results of past research on the long-term effects of building projects, are these decisions that even the institutions themselves will come to regret?
Violence Threatens Free Expression in the Internet Age. On October 26, SXSW Interactive, the annual media festival held in Austin, Texas every March, canceled two sessions for its 2016 event, citing threats of violence. The panels–”SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games“– were seen as #Gamergate panels, though the movement was not specifically invoked by either. The decision drew outrage from various corners of the internet world; media heavy-hitters BuzzFeed and Vox threatened to withdraw altogether from the conference if the panels were not reinstated. In response to the backlash, SXSW was forced to develop a full day’s worth of programming, an online harassment summit, which will include a significantly expanded list of panelists such as Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts) and former Texas senator Wendy Davis. Threats of violence are terrible enough, but on the Indian subcontinent this month intellectuals are increasingly victims of the real thing. Two Bangledeshi publishers were stabbed to death purportedly for having printed the work of Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American known for his critical writings on religious extremism. (Roy was himself assassinated in February of this year.) This comes amidst a protest among many of India’s most prominent writers in response to prime minister Narendra Modi’s failure to condemn recent violence by Hindu nationalists in that country.
Colorado’s Small Arts Organizations Lose the Resource Equity Battle. The Denver area’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which oversees the distribution of some $50 million in sales tax subsidies to some 300 arts organizations, is up for a third reauthorization in 2016. In May, the SCFD proposed a plan for the next decade that would keep shares of arts funds close to what they are now. Small arts groups–especially the 270 organizations in “Tier III” who under the proposed plan would split a mere 15.7% of the pie–revolted, arguing the distribution is unfair and biased toward Denver’s big cultural institutions. In response, a group called the Friends of Arts and Cultural Equity presented a plan with a more equitable distribution of resources. This month, the SCFD rejected calls for a redistribution, reaffirming its own funding recommendations to the legislature. The question now becomes: will the legislature send the reauthorization to ballot, or take control of funding measures themselves?
Nonprofits Crowd In On the Crowdfunding Pie. Since it first launched in 2008, Indiegogo–and hundreds of similar crowdfunding platforms–have revolutionized how and for what individuals raise money (Greek bailout, anyone?). This month, Indiegogo launched Generosity, an Indiegogo spinoff where nonprofit organizations can host campaigns–for free. Unlike its competitors, such as Razoo and FirstGiving, the only fees collected on Generosity by Indiegogo will go to the credit card processor. The demand is there: in the last five years, Indiegogo has hosted some 15,000 nonprofit fundraisers. Indiegogo’s main competitor, Kickstarter, doesn’t allow fundraising for charity, but that hasn’t stopped the company from making its own recent moves towards the altruism bandwagon, having announced its reformation as a public benefit corporation and raised money for Syrian refugees at the request of the Obama administration. Crowdfunding won’t replace grants and major individual giving any time soon, but as anyone who’s put in time on the development side of the nonprofit world knows, every little bit counts.
Not All Is Lost: An Alt-Weekly Newspaper Revival. We’ve heard it before: “print is dead” and especially so when it comes to newspaper print. Alt-weeklies, the scrappy punk siblings of the Times and Chronicles of the world, have been hit especially hard, and October witnessed the demise of yet another one: Philadelphia’s much loved City Paper. Yet in an interesting twist, this same month New York City’s storied Village Voice was essentially rescued by Pennsylvania newspaper man, Peter Barbey. Barbey, president of the Reading Eagle Company, a family-owned media company that has published newspapers in Pennsylvania for more than 200 years, bought the paper from Voice Media Group, and has already announced big plans for the sixty-year old circular, including an increase in cultural coverage.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- Poet, essayist, playwright, and scholar Elizabeth Alexander was named director of the Ford Foundation’s Creativity and Free Expression program.
- Terry Carbone has been appointed director of the Henry Luce Foundation’s American Art program. She succeeds Ellen Holtzman, who served in the role for 23 years.
- Veteran art museum curator and director Maxwell Anderson was named Director of Grant Programs for the New Cities Foundation.
- Lynne McCormack, longtime Director of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, is leaving to become the national program director for creative placemaking at LISC.
- Reynold Levy, who was president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts from 2002–2014, has been appointed president of the Robin Hood Foundation in New York.
- After 14 years, Susan Patterson has announced she will retire from her position as director of the Charlotte program at The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation at the end of 2015.
- MK Wegmann has announced she will retire from her position of President and CEO of the New Orleans-based National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network in January 2016. A search for her replacement is underway; deadline December 1, salary $125-130k.
- The Arts Consulting Group, Inc. seeks Vice Presidents for its expanded Canada office. Posted October 5; no closing date.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- A study conducted at the University Hospital Erlangen in Germany and published in journal PLoS One suggests that actively participating in art-making keeps the brain healthy.
- Michigan State University analyzed several data sources, and found that Nobel prize winning scientists are 2.85x more likely than average scientists to have a significant artistic hobby.
- A new report by the University of Maryland’s DeVos Institute of Arts Management, “Diversity in the Arts,” reviews the economic picture of African American and Latino nonprofit museums and performing arts companies and suggests some controversial solutions.
- The Creative Diversity report, published this month by Creative Industries Federation in partnership with Music of Black Origin, suggests that theater is significantly less ethnically diverse than other creative industries.
- Two studies published this month looked into the question of music consumption. The first, by two Irish psychologists, looks at the many reasons why people choose to listen to music. The second, published in the journal Poetics, examines what your musical tastes say about you.
- Columbia Law School program and the Urban Institute released preliminary findings that, despite rapid increase in the number of 501(c)3 organizations–in 2014 the rate of newly formed entities nearly tripled– states are doing little to hire new regulators to police charities.
- A survey conducted in the UK this month reveals that “one in four performing arts careers are halted by parenthood.”