It’s widely reported that able-bodied young men, without college degrees are underemployed and unemployed in record numbers. Despite this hardship, one recent study has found that these young men are actually happier than their equivalents were 10 years ago. The source of their pleasure? Much of it may come from playing video games instead of working. The “real-world” jobs available to them do not provide the sense of achievement or community that can be found through gaming, so many of these young men are choosing to live at home, in a virtual reality (nearly three quarters of the drop in work hours for this group is accounted for by increased time spent playing video games). It seems like bad news, but perhaps the implications of this retreat from the workforce are not as dire as they seem: inventive researchers are working with gamers to find cures for disease.
Can the Quality of Art be Quantified? Arts Council England is betting on it. The government agency recently announced a plan to have all of its National Portfolio Organizations (NPO) that receive over £250k per year must adopt and adhere to the Quality Metrics program, a standardized measurement approach designed to consistently and meaningfully measure artistic quality. These grantees are required to participate in a number of annual evaluations and engage in regular peer review, regardless of art form and organizational structure. Despite significant concerns raised in a post-pilot evaluation of the platform, the program is moving forward – for now. The news has sparked quite a row from UK artists on Twitter, and even incoming ACE Chair Nicholas Serota has expressed skepticism. In other quantification news, a new algorithm predicts the likelihood that a book will become a bestseller and, thanks to Apple’s iBeacon, many of the world’s major museums are using big data in their attempts to improve their visitors’ experiences.
High Culture and Pop Culture Converge. BBC2 is dropping an unorthodox bomb in this autumn’s rating wars: high culture. The British television station will shelve its usual schedule of repeats, to air poetry, dance, and documentaries on Saturday evenings. This new focus on culture will feature contemporary programming rooted in traditional forms and narrative (for example, a twist on WH Auden and a production by a performance artist who merges hip-hop, poetry and theatre). Through the creation of a “cultural destination” for its viewers, BBC2 may well provide the UK’s artists and arts organizations with invaluable opportunities and exposure.
The Connected Future of Fine Art? We suppose it was only a matter of time before “hacking” would come for classical art forms. In August, the Dutch National Ballet premiered Night Fall, a new ballet choreographed by Peter Leung – not for the stage, but for virtual reality (VR). Viewers need only a VR-compatible device to experience the “goose bump-worthy” performance, the first of its kind, as technology enables the performers to embark on an instant global tour. Meanwhile, the Tate Britain launched the IK Prize-winning online initiative Recognition. The program employs artificial intelligence to match the Tate Britain’s iconic collection with photojournalism from the contemporary 24-hour news cycle. It is designed to provoke new questions about art and life.
Culture vs. Terrorism. In September, France’s President François Hollande stood in the Egyptian Galleries at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and announced the formation of a $100 million fund to combat terrorist attacks on cultural sites in the Middle East. (He did not say how much his own government would be contributing to this “public-private partnership,” but did express hope that the Met’s donors would pitch in.) Hollande also referenced an upcoming (December 2016) conference hosted by the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which will focus on culture and terrorism. Although the preservation of cultural artifacts is integral to global human culture, it is interesting that France’s president advocated for the asylum of art works while its Prime Minister expressed reluctance to grant asylum to people.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- Laura Sparks begins her term as the Cooper Union’s first female president in January. Currently, she’s finishing her term as executive director of the William Penn Foundation; her replacement will be the foundation’s fifth head so far this decade.
- Heather Kim brings over 20 years of experience in higher education research to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in the newly created role Director of Institutional Research.
- Sir Nicholas Serota will leave the Tate, after 28 years (!), to become the next chairman of Arts Council England. Will significant government cuts to the arts prove challenging for the “virtuoso fundraiser”?
- Just four months after being reappointed by David Cameron, BBC chair Rona Fairhead will step down. Her successor has not been named.
- The Center for Arts Education is hiring a Director of Advocacy and Engagement.
- The Center for Artistic Activism is hiring a part-time Non-Profit Manager.
- The New York Public Library’s Library of the Performing Arts is hiring a Deputy Director of Research and Collections Services.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- The National Endowment for the Arts and the Center for Cultural Innovation released a long-awaited report on trends and conditions affecting U.S. artists, an update of a major, decade-old study and a centerpiece of Chairman Jane Chu’s “Creativity Connects” program. Meanwhile, new arts data profiles published by the NEA offer state-by-state perspectives on Americans arts participation. The data highlights a north-south divide in American creativity, and reveals that the percentage of American adults who read literature fell to at least a three-decade low last year, after a “long, steady decline.”
- A Los Angeles County Arts Commission literature review on public engagement in the arts, and reports from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Our Museum program provide resources on cultural equity and inclusion in museums and beyond.
- Research commissioned by the UK’s Association of Independent Museums, Arts Council England and the Welsh Government shows that introducing admissions fees does not affect diversity, but may cause attendance to fall.
- The latest annual report from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project focuses on institutional connections, resources, and working across disciplines for arts alumni. And a recent study from artnet suggests that the institution from which an artist receives an MFA has implications for career “success.”
- The National Center for Arts Research released its most comprehensive report to date on national fundraising trends. Meanwhile, a new study published in the Public Performance and Management Review suggests that arts donors aren’t influenced by high attendance.
- Partners for Sacred Places has released the results of an evaluation of its pilot program to match artists to historic sacred spaces.
- John Sedgwick and Mike Pokorny’s research on financial risk in the film industry challenges conventional wisdom on the peripatetic nature of box office predictions. And new research from the Journal of Political Economy investigates movies as a shared experience. Unfortunately, the latest report from the University of California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism reveals that Hollywood is all talk and no action when it comes to advancing diversity.
- A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance suggests a link between ballet and sensitivity to others. On the other hand, new research from Psychology, Public Policy, and Law reports that more people find lyrics threatening if they believe they are from a rap song, as opposed to a country ballad.
- Income inequality isn’t the only kind of inequality: using information from the National Center for Education Statistics, the New York Times reports that the educational inequality gap is narrowing for children entering kindergarten. And results of a new study published in the Review of Income and Wealth indicate that happiness inequality is on the decline.
- The Center for Effective Philanthropy released a comprehensive report on evaluation practices at foundations.
- A new study from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis – Center on Philanthropy explores thirty years of nonprofit research.
- Research from Australia’s Art Gallery of New South Wales found that viewing art relieves anxiety in dementia patients and helps them to “stay in the moment.”
- A new book from Eric Booth and Tricia Tunstall chronicles the growth of El Sistema-inspired music education programs around the world. Not everyone, however, is convinced.