A bitter and divisive 2016 Presidential election is finally over, and Donald J. Trump’s seat in the Oval Office awaits him, with Republicans holding their grip on both houses of Congress. Trump’s views on the arts are vague; the Irish Times reported that, when asked his position on the arts, Trump spoke of decorating his promised border wall with Mexico so that it “looks real nice.” His main connection to the arts is through architecture, although he has a contemptuous relationship with the critics and an American Institute of Architects letter congratulating his victory left many of the organization’s members reeling. (For whatever reason, a similarly congratulatory message from Americans for the Arts escaped an analogous public backlash.) As with nearly every other sector, questions abound about what a Trump presidency will look like. The litany of artists’ concerns include the future of public arts funding, the fate of the Affordable Care Act (which provides insurance for many independent artists), the possibility of a rollback of the tax incentive for charitable giving, and fear of moving backward after decades of work to ensure equity for all Americans. Trump’s authoritarian impulses could have a major impact on freedom of expression, including in the arts: while the likelihood of overturning a mountain of precedent favoring the first amendment, be it flag burning or lecturing Mike Pence at a Hamilton curtain call, is relatively slim, Trump has many legal and quasi-legal means at his disposal to intimidate policymakers, journalists, and artists. The bizarre contours of the election likewise have “provided significant thought-fuel for cultural organizations” and called into question the role of truth and evidence in public dialogue. On the plus side, several pro-arts ballot measures passed electoral muster on November 8 (the most significant of these being the reauthorization of a $50+ million public funding stream in the Denver area through 2030), several museums publicly affirmed that they will continue to provide safe spaces and work to ensure the arts and culture are available to all, and healthcare robber baron Martin Shkreli is keeping at least the first part of his promise to release the only known copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album in the event of a Trump victory.
Yet more regulations in the rapidly growing Chinese film market. A new law further promotes nationalism in Chinese films. According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, the law imposes massive fines against companies that fabricate box-office earnings or other data, and further states that films should “serve the people and socialism, prioritizing social benefits and bringing about harmony of economic returns and contribution to society.” The growing film industry in China is second only to the United States, and may soon take over the top spot with plans to build a new $2 billion studio in Chongqing. Anxious to join the Chinese market, U.S. studios have been able to avoid the country’s quota to release just 34 foreign films per year by incorporating Chinese characters and plot lines. China appears equally anxious to find a grip in the U.S. market, with the Chinese firm Dalian Wanda picking up big swaths of the entertainment industry, buying AMC Theatres in 2012, and more recently adding Legendary Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions for $3.5 billion and $1 billion, respectively. As the world’s largest media conglomerate, Dalian Wanda’s recent moves made Congress sit up straighter, raising concerns about the potential influence of Chinese nationalism and socialist propaganda infusing the American entertainment industry.
Is impact investing finally hitting its stride? The arts could benefit from an emerging trend among wealthy donors. Of those surveyed in the 2016 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy and the First National Benchmark Survey of Family Foundations, the Denver Post reported that a third are interested in impact investing, or taking a financial stake in ventures designed to create social, economic, cultural or environmental impact. The arts are a little late to the game, because it’s tricky to create a competitive return on investment in many areas of the arts sector. So despite corporate donations of $2.4 billion annually toward impact investing, the arts’ best chance for joining the trend may be with individuals. At least that’s what the folks at Upstart Co-Lab believe; the startup headed by former NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Laura Callanan has forged an agreement with Calvert Foundation to create a Community Investment Note for opportunities like low-income artist housing developments. For corporations and foundations, impact investing is partly about who they give to, and partly about who they don’t. The Brooklyn Community Foundation is leading the charge in this area, committing to divest all its interests in corporations or initiatives that harm communities of color.
Equity is the newest Indiegogo perk. The crowdfunding platform Indiegogo announced a new partnership with Microventures, joining the lesser-known Crowdfunder, OurCrowd, and EquityNet as vehicles for regular folks who want to invest in new companies. Budding entrepreneurs can now offer potential investors a financial stake in their companies (think Shark Tank on the Internet) instead of the traditional crowdfunding model that trades products and other perks for donations. Equity crowdfunding became possible in 2012 due in part to President Obama’s Jumpstart our Startups (JOBS) Act lifting regulations on capital investments that kept average Americans from seeking a financial stake in new companies. Rival crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, whose main difference from Indiegogo is its “all-or-nothing” model, remains committed to project-based funding over entrepreneurial pursuits, and does not currently have plans to implement equity crowdfunding.
Philly parks and libraries get a facelift. The William Penn Foundation announced it will give up to $100 million to the city of Philadelphia’s Rebuild initiative to enhance community parks, libraries, and recreation centers. The gift, which is the largest in the foundation’s history by a factor of four, covers more than 80% of the city’s fundraising goal for foundations and private donors. Penn intends not only revitalize Philadelphia’s infrastructure but also make a significant social and economic impact by creating jobs and promoting community engagement. The big news follows on the heels of executive director Laura Sparks’s departure from the foundation, the latest in a series of such transitions for Penn that has prompted a renewed call from the author of a previously published critical report to diversify its board and delegate greater authority to staff leadership.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- University of Iowa Museum of Art names former Congressman and National Endowment for the Humanities head Jim Leach as its interim director.
- Former Colorado Business Committee for the Arts head Deborah Jordy has been appointed as the new executive director of Denver’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.
- Ken Tabachnick will be the new executive director of the Merce Cunningham Trust.
- A tenure-track Assistant Professor position is available at the University of Arizona in the Division of Art and Visual Culture Education
- University of Oklahoma’s School of Visual Arts seeks a tenure-track Assistant Professor in Art, Technology & Culture.
- Queens Museum seeks a full-time Director of Education, supervising in-school and community programs and New New Yorkers, an arts and literacy initiative for and with adult immigrants.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE:
- A new study on tax filings by the Institute for Policy Studies found that U.S. giving is top-heavy, with more than half of donations coming from the top 10%. Market Watch summarized the report, noting that the middle class is giving less to charity compared to 10 years ago while those earning at least $100,000 annually have increased donations by 40%.
- GLAAD reported record-high representation of LGBTQ, black, and disabled characters on broadcast television series this season.
- New evidence further links viewing of reality TV to narcissism. And a study out of Michigan State University explains why we gravitate toward ideological bubbles, surrounding ourselves with those who agree with us. The short version: it’s more comfortable.
- U.S. orchestras fare relying more on donations than ticket sales, according to a report by League of American Orchestras. With subscriptions down and donations up, the shift is forcing organizations to revisit funding models and mission statements. Similarly, the Arts Council of England reports that UK nonprofits are increasingly relying on private funds, with revenues dropping despite an uptick in charitable giving.
- The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s data dashboard reveals online giving trends to arts and culture, among other causes, using data from the Network for Good platform.
- The MacArthur Foundation released an evaluation of a loan fund program designed for small and mid-size arts and culture organizations.
- Women in the arts are not exempt from the wage gap between genders, according to a study in the journal Social Currents. And men are the most creative of the sexes…and the least, says Pacific Standard’s Tom Jacobs in a review of the literature.
- New research at the University of Waterloo makes the case that arts experiences should be accessible to all because they are tied to wellbeing.
- European researchers may have found the heart of creativity, locating structures in the brain that form novel connections between known and new information. Meanwhile, a new study funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China suggests that the brain responds differently to classical music compared to popular music. And Keith Sawyer discusses interesting new research on musical improvisation and the influence improvisers have on each other’s contributions in a jam session.
- A study from Fort Collins, CO yields promising results about music’s positive effects on delaying and perhaps preventing dementia. Sadly, though, a survey of 2,200 musicians conducted by the charitable organization Help Musicians UK found high rates of anxiety and depression.
- Belgian researchers find that even experts have a difficult time discerning between fake art and real art.
- The New England Foundation for the Arts published “Moving Dance Forward,” an in-depth report analyzing the dance field’s pressing needs and the impact of the National Dance Project.
- Theater is a more popular leisure activity than sports for Brits, according to a survey by Birmingham’s Town Hall Symphony Hall. The results suggest that younger generations are even more likely to attend a show, with nearly two-thirds of respondents under age 25 saying they enjoy live performance across all genres.
- A new Slover Linett report highlights the changemaking potential of the Levitt chain of music venues (disclosure: Createquity founder Ian David Moss was an advisor to the project).
- Chicago-based Ingenuity’s report on “State of the Arts” in Chicago Public Schools indicates that access to arts education during the school day is on the rise.
- UNESCO’s Culture for Sustainable Urban Development initiative aims to become a policy framework to support governments in promoting arts and culture as a means of sustainability.
- A meta-analysis published in EPJ Data Science claims that most fiction falls into one of six core story lines.
- Tim Robbins’ “Improv for Inmates” expands to 10 California correctional facilities next year, as promising data from a preliminary study by the California Department of Corrections suggests that the program reduces recidivism.
- A study from the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that robots will eventually take over nearly a third of our jobs.