Seward Johnson, "A Reason to Smile," installed at Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ. (Photo by Flickr user Wally Gobetz)

Seward Johnson, “A Reason to Smile,” installed at Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ. (Photo by Flickr user Wally Gobetz)

On November 13, gunmen opened fire on approximately 1,500 unsuspecting audience members at an Eagles of Death Metal concert at Paris’s historic Le Bataclan music hall, killing 89. The Bataclan was the deadliest site in a cluster of coordinated terrorist attacks throughout the city that evening for which ISIS claimed responsibility. While U2 frontman Bono described the Bataclan massacre as “the first direct hit on music in this so-called war on terror,” the scale and locations of these attacks only solidified an unsettling new direction in terrorism: concert halls, stadiums, cafes, museums, and other cultural institutions (not just local or politically symbolic international sites) have all been targets this year. Indeed, ISIS’s statement of responsibility indicated that the attack sites were carefully chosen as symbols of “abominations and perversion.”

Leaders have responded by bolstering both physical and financial security for cultural venues. In addition to new safety measures, French cultural minister Fleur Pellerin established a “solidarity fund” of approximately $6 million to protect music groups from “expected declines in business and other financial hardships.” President François Hollande revealed a proposal for France’s museums to temporarily house Syrian cultural objects “at risk” of ISIS looting. Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has pledged 1 billion euros to spend equally on culture and security, which has raised concerns among Italy’s business leaders that a corporate tax cut could be postponed as a result. How to protect concert halls and stadiums, and who will ultimately pay, have likewise come up in New York City: Ray Waddell, a senior editor at Billboard, suggested that more metal detectors and bag checks may mean higher ticket prices.

While questions remain about how best to allocate resources, protecting culture now seems especially urgent in “fighting back against a group that is notorious for destroying cultural symbols and objects it deems idolatrous.”

STEM education just got a little STEAMier: In what arts education advocates considered a “huge win,” the joint House-Senate Conference Committee unanimously accepted a bipartisan amendment to the rewrite of the nation’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (aka “No Child Left Behind”) that will integrate the arts into STEM education. Introduced by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), the amendment sets the stage for new K-12 education policy by acknowledging that arts integration can “improve attainment of STEM-related skills” (science, technology, engineering and math). Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that reauthorizes ESEA and includes additional language about the importance of the arts to a “well-rounded education.” ESSA’s more flexible math/reading test requirements and emphasis on state-level decision-making may also be friendly to arts education strategies, according to a detailed analysis by the National Art Education Association. This victory for arts ed advocates comes just after the Arts Education Partnership launched a five-year Action Agenda for Advancing the Arts in Education. It similarly emphasizes the importance of arts integration especially in underperforming and impoverished schools, and recommends incorporating the arts into training for teachers and academic leaders.

A new day in Canada: In a November letter to Minister of Culture Melanie Joly, new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demonstrated his intentions to make good on campaign promises to double the Canada Arts Council budget, provide $150M to CBC/Radio Canada, reinvest in Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board, and provide increased support for indigenous culture and youth initiatives. This is welcome news to arts groups after nine years of arts funding cuts under former conservative PM Stephen Harper. According to the Globe and Mail, Joly’s youth and relative inexperience in government will hopefully be an asset rather than liability in achieving this ambitious agenda while also redefining the ministry with “symbols of progressiveness.” Trudeau also gained popularity with social scientists when he announced in early November the reinstatement of a mandatory national census, which serves as the bedrock of all government data collection.

Ford Foundation’s new inequality-focused agenda will include the arts: In June we reported on Ford’s announcement that the foundation will shift its entire focus to fighting inequality. Three months later, president Darren Walker has revealed more detail on the specifics of the new strategy, which will involve consolidating 35 program areas into 15. While detailed arts funding guidelines have yet to be announced, Ford’s website lists a reframed creativity and free expression program encompassing “social justice storytelling” and “21st century arts infrastructure.” Walker’s “New Gospel of Wealth” essay suggests that the foundation’s ultimate goal is a reformed capitalist system, and creative expression is considered a piece of the puzzle. Ford will privilege initiatives for broader structural change over those providing direct assistance to the poor; discontinued programs include direct cash transfers in Latin America and microfinance, as well as causes like LGBT rights that have gained philanthropic support from other sources in recent years.While Ford’s program to construct new art spaces will also be cut, the foundation will increase its general operating support–with a new BUILD initiative to specifically strengthen the operations of social justice-oriented institutions and partnerships.

Cleveland arts organizations light up on election day as cigarette tax for the arts is renewed: An overwhelming majority of voters passed Issue 8, which will renew Cuyahoga County’s 10-year, 30-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes to support arts and culture. The original approval of this tax in 2006 turned a region with scant arts funding into “one of the most highly ranked metro areas in the country in local public support for the arts.” More than 300 large and small arts organizations have depended on the $125 million in cigarette tax proceeds distributed since 2008 for both general operating support and special projects. The campaign to renew the levy was propelled by an Arts and Culture Action Committee that raised over $1 million for advertising, but the renewal faced very little visible opposition.



  • Prince Charitable Trusts welcomes Carolynn Brunette, who will head its Washington, D.C. office as Managing Director and also co-direct the Rhode Island program, beginning on January 1. Carolyn succeeds retiring Managing Director Kristin Pauly, who has been with Prince Charitable Trusts since 1998.
  • New Orleans Arts Council CEO Kim Cook announced her departure at the end of 2015; Acting Director Nick Stillman will oversee the organization in the interim. Cook is moving to the Bay Area to serve as Burning Man’s Director of Art & Civic Engagement, a newly created position.
  • Longtime theater critic Steven Leigh Morris will assume the role of LA Stage Alliance’s new executive director.
  • UC Davis Law professor and international human rights scholar Karima Bennoune has been appointed special rapporteur on cultural rights to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
  • The nonprofit sector mourned the sudden November 17 death of Rick Cohen, nonprofit advocate and national correspondent for Nonprofit Quarterly. Cohen previously led the led the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a foundation watchdog, and was known for focusing on the needs of low-income and underrepresented populations.
  • CERF+, a national nonprofit that “provides a safety net to artists through readiness, education and relief programs,” seeks a Director of Programs. Deadline 12/18.
  • The Newark Arts Council seeks a new Executive Director. Deadline January 1.