"Variations on a windows theme," near the Ford Foundation in New York City | photo: O Palsson via Flikr (Creative Commons)

“Variations on a windows theme,” near the Ford Foundation in New York City | Photo: O Palsson via Flikr (Creative Commons)

Among major foundations, impact investment is gathering new steam. The Ford Foundation announced it will commit up to $1 billion over the next ten years toward mission-related investments, the biggest commitment of its kind by a private foundation, in an effort to use part of its $12 billion endowment to impact social conditions. Initial investments will focus on poverty-reduction goals such as affordable housing and access to financial services in emerging markets. Ford is the highest-profile of a number of recent wins for impact investing advocates; in the last several months, the F.B. Heron Foundation achieved 100 percent of its mission goal for anti-poverty investments and is now committed to more “connective investing”; and the Nathan Cummings Foundation has brought in two new experts to guide its own impact investing. Though these developments are in alignment with data showing a steady rise in impact investing, it remains to be seen whether other big foundations will follow Ford’s lead. The arts have been relative latecomers to the impact investing party (perhaps because of slow returns on investments in the arts sector), but the heretofore lonely efforts of UpStart Co-Lab and Artspace have recently been joined by Fractured Atlas, whose CEO Adam Huttler recently announced a don’t-call-it-a-sabbatical to focus on the Exponential Creativity Fund, a $10–20 million venture capital initiative funding entrepreneurs who are using exponential technologies to enhance human creativity.

Culture UK extends arts participation to the small screen. The United Kingdom’s four arts councils – Arts Council England, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Arts Council of Wales, and Creative Scotland – have partnered with the BBC for a $4 million initiative to commission and broadcast arts events on the network and online. The partnership will also produce three live arts festivals per year, each based on a common theme. This year highlights poetry and opera, with a TV adaptation of the Brexit-themed “My Country; a Work in Progress” at the forefront, and works celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage planned for 2018. It may be a strategic move for Culture UK to focus on British themes while pushing equal representation across the four countries; the BBC faces new regulatory oversight from the UK government in response to complaints among pro-Brexit conservatives about the network’s alleged impartiality and commercial interests. Meanwhile arts organizations – who were predominantly opposed to Brexit last summer – laud Culture UK’s increased channels of access to arts participation for folks who may not otherwise have opportunities to take part.

European museums pressured to present nationalist versions of history. This spring, the highly anticipated opening of Poland’s Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk was closely followed by news that courts had given a green light to the right-wing government to take control of the museum, which culture minister Piotr Glinski claims will be merged with a not-yet-built museum focused on the Polish perspective of the war. Many see the merger, which included the ousting of director Pawel Machcewicz, as an attempt to shape the historical narrative to center on Polish citizens under the nationalist Law and Justice Party. Meanwhile in nearby Turkey, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan plans a museum dedicated to the failed 2016 coup that resulted in at least 240 deaths. The focus of the proposed $2.7 million museum: the “martyrs and warriors” who defended the attempted overthrow of Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian regime. The move coincides with Erdoğan’s recent (and contested) narrow victory in a national referendum granting the president new, sweeping constitutional powers.

Amazon grows its translation business. AmazonCrossing, an arm of the online behemoth, was responsible for 10 percent of English prose translations in 2016 – with an announced infusion of $10 million over five years – marking a spike in translation services since the initiative launched in 2010. Relying on the huge amazon.com database, the service targets titles that are most likely to appeal to general readers than those generated by smaller high-end publishers, helping to fill a niche that many find too expensive to pursue. Thus AmazonCrossing has sparked less criticism than did Amazon’s ventures in brick and mortar bookstores – and in other physical storefronts, further threatening already-weakened department stores and malls. On the flip side of that trend, vacant storefronts and lower rent might represent opportunities for arts organizations to infuse retail therapy with cultural activities above and beyond the mall cineplex.

Tax breaks to boost music and film industries move through the legislative process. A bill supporting Georgia’s music industry has sailed through the state’s legislature with bipartisan support and now awaits Governor Nathan Deal’s signature. The Georgia Music Investment Act aims to generate jobs, attract musicians to the state and keep them there by providing tax breaks for professionals recording albums and film scores, as well as bands who kick off tours in the state; it’s modeled after a similar bill credited with boosting Georgia’s now-booming film industry. In other states, a Montana bill awarding tax credits to filmmakers passed the state’s House of Representatives despite doubts it would make it to the floor, and New York’s statewide Film Production Tax Credit program received a three-year extension, in an effort to ensure that the uptick in TV and movies produced in New York City and across the state continue. Yet for creators, the news is not all positive. Minimum spending limits and increased income tax rates may edge out local artists working on small budgets. And as Createquity reported in February, movie producers chasing incentives are straining Hollywood, with an increasing number of competing locales drawing production out of the U.S. altogether.

MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS:

  • Rene Rodriguez – the Miami Herald’s last remaining full-time film critic, having covered the genre for the paper since 1995 – recently moved to the paper’s real estate beat.
  • Creative placemaking industry leader Jason Schupbach departs the National Endowment for the Arts to head the Design School at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.
  • The Utah Division of Arts & Museums has named a new director, Victoria Panella Bourns, who for 12 years directed arts programming at the Salt Lake County Zoo.
  • Australia’s International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies (IFACCA) is seeking a new executive director to replace Sarah Gardner, who has filled the seat since the agency’s founding in 2001.
  • The William Penn Foundation is in search of a program director for Creative Communities, responsible for leading a grantmaking team focused on arts and cultural organizations, arts education, and public spaces in the city of Philadelphia.

NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE: