Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence by Flickr user C.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence by Flickr user C.

Many teens around the world look forward to their governments “gifting” them the right to vote and/or permission to drink alcohol, when they reach their 18th birthdays. Others receive absolutely nothing from the state. In Italy, however, teens born in 1998 will hit the jackpot this September. In addition to voting rights, they will receive a €500 “cultural bonus” from the Italian government. The program is intended to foster affinity between the country’s youth and its arts sector by providing Italy’s youngest adults with incentive to consume culture on their own terms. True to our times, the program will be administered largely through an app. Though other nations have experimented with “free money” vouchers, Italy is the only to target culture. Critics of the program question the wisdom of its launch in a struggling economy and its ultimate ability to empower workers in arts and culture. As this is the first program of its kind, we’ll have to wait and see.

Political Artists Feeling the Heat in the Middle East. Ever since the unsuccessful coup attempt to topple the regime of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July, experts have been raising the alarm about Erdoğan’s continued drift toward authoritarianism. Sure enough, soon after he regained power, Erdoğan shut down 29 publishing houses accused of affiliation with the political opposition, along with “a wide swath” of newspapers, magazines, and TV channels. Under Turkish law, the seizure means that all assets of these organizations are permanently transferred to the Turkish government with no possibility of appeal, leaving authors and other third parties in the lurch. It bears remembering that Erdoğan was once seen as a relatively moderate, democratically elected leader—especially in light of recent news coming out of Israel. A group of artists and arts organizations have filed a lawsuit against the country’s culture minister, Miri Regev, who has earned headlines for introducing a “loyalty test” for state-funded arts organizations and threatening cuts to those that refuse to perform in Jewish settlements in disputed territory. Want to help? Artists Rights Justice has a toolkit for you.

The Library is the Place to Be. Not so long ago, the future of public libraries appeared uncertain. What, wondered thousands of (usually digital) think pieces, would happen to those hallowed halls of books in the age of the e-reader, the audio book app, the personal hotspot? Well, it turns out that it wasn’t librarians lacking imagination.  It was all those writers. Public library systems are reinventing themselves as community spaces, where classes and meet-up groups, and special events and makers thrive. Seattle offers its public library cardholders access to free downloads of local music. In Erie, PA, the public library system is experimenting with mobile Wi-Fi hotpots, to help kids without access to broadband at home to keep up with their homework. Believe it or not, in Finland, a public library near Helsinki doubles as a karaoke bar.  The borrowers, it appears, are at the forefront of civic transformation.

Attack of the Short-Fingered Vulgarians. The more things change, the more the so-called alt-right tries to ensure they remain the same (as they were in the antebellum period). Once satisfied to post racist comments on 4chan, this online bastion of the Trump constituency is increasingly engaging in direct action up to and including the outright hijacking of actors’ social media accounts.   Another recent victim, science fiction’s Hugo Awards, opens up a new front in the culture war: vote-based artistic honors. For the second year in a row, nearly all of the shortlisted nominees were hand-picked by a collective known as the “Rabid Puppies,” thanks to a startlingly effective strategy of bloc voting that managed to put a short story called “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” up for an award. The Puppies’ ultimate aim? To ensure that the Hugo winners and nominees reflect themselves (white, male, conservative)—and no, they’re not subtle about this. Science fiction’s more, uh, culturally sensitive constituency has fought back using the same tactics, resulting in a victory for Puppy nemesis NK Jemisin in the Best Novel category and seven wins for “No Award” in the past two years.

Justice for Cultural Heritage. The Islamic State’s ongoing destruction of antiquities in the Middle East has received lots of coverage from Createquity over the past two years (see here, here, here, and here.) Unfortunately, such destruction didn’t start with ISIS; in 2012, fundamentalist group Ansar Dine’s destruction of world-famous heritage sites in Timbuktu made our round-up of the top stories of the year. This month, the International Criminal Court took Malian jihadi leader Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi to trial for the Ansar Dine actions. Mr. Mahdi pleaded guilty, and will now be sentenced. Although the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has handed down war crimes convictions for cultural destruction, this is the first time that war crimes against cultural heritage constituted the main charge of an ICC hearing. Though there is growing resentment among African states that the UN-backed ICC has concentrated its prosecutions on the continent, this case, which comes at a time of heightened international concern about the fate of similar antiquities, could prove useful. Currently, no international court has jurisdiction over crimes in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere; the Malian case could persuade other countries to pursue similar charges.

MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS

  • Two industry veterans recently announced their retirement. Alan W. Cooper, executive director of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, announced his retirement after 23 years with the organization. The search for his successor is underway. Meanwhile, Mary Kennedy resigned her position as CEO of the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Kennedy spent 27 years with the organization, including 14 as CEO, and will remain in a consulting role until her replacement is hired.
  • Tracie D. Hall was named the director of the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation’s Culture Program. In addition to her success as a community arts leader, Hall is a playwright, poet, and fiction writer.
  • Claire Rice is Arts Alliance Illinois’s new Executive Director. She begins her tenure in September, after several years as the National Program Director of Harvard University’s Sustain Arts project.
  • The Nathan Cummings Foundation is hiring for a newly created role: Director, Voice, Creativity & Culture.  No closing date.
  • UC Davis’s Imagine America initiative is hiring a Faculty Director. Posted August 23; closes October 21.
  • American Ballet Theatre is hiring a NYC-based Coordinator, Diversity and Inclusion. No closing date.
  • Helicon is hiring a part-time Junior Research Associate. No closing date.
  • Kickstarter is hiring an Arts Engagement Strategist. No closing date.

NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE