A deadly protest in Charlottesville, VA on August 12 against the removal of a monument to Robert E. Lee fomented an immediate national uproar that only intensified after President Trump’s equivocal statements refusing to concentrate blame for the violence on the white nationalist demonstrators who organized the event. (Angry responses from the arts community included Kennedy Center honorees bowing out from the awards’ festivities, which Trump subsequently cancelled plans to attend, and the mass resignation of the entire President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, which had in recent years promoted national initiatives and research in arts education.) But amid the controversy focusing on the specific people involved, a parallel maelstrom has formed over the broader relationship between Confederate iconography, bigotry, and hate speech. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, both elected officials and vigilante activists in numerous U.S. cities took quick action to remove monuments lauding the Confederacy. Others took a more cautious approach, perhaps concerned that taking down Confederate relics may diminish the role art can play in processing and contextualizing that history. The mayor of Louisville, KY initiated a review of public art in the city to determine which pieces could be interpreted as “honoring racism” in an effort to create a public dialogue around the monuments’ potential removal; this type of citizen-engaged process was strongly favored in a statement from Americans for the Arts. Meanwhile, corporations around the country took steps to distance themselves from white supremacist culture and the organizations at the center of the Charlottesville protest, with Spotify taking action to ban racist music from its platform. Too often, arts advocates speak of the arts as if all that humans create is virtuous; the events of this past month offer a sobering reminder to the contrary.
Disney splits from Netflix in the streaming race. Disney has announced it will not renew its licensing agreement with Netflix in 2019, with plans to launch a new Disney-owned streaming service. Given that Disney owns not just its self-branded properties like Mickey Mouse but also Pixar, ESPN, and the Star Wars and Marvel Comics franchises, this is no small matter. Netflix appears to have braced for the change by continuing to produce original content at a ferocious rate, signing ABC/Disney producer Shonda Rhimes and acquiring the Scottish comic book company Millarworld. Netflix seems to be banking on continued success despite debts tipping the $20 billion mark. Up to now Netflix has outpaced its streaming rivals, anticipating the shift from licensing to original content and growing steadily in subscribers despite an ever-shrinking library of licensed titles. In essence, Netflix is a platform that has become a network; while Disney is late to the streaming game, it’s also the biggest and perhaps most recognizable company to attempt what Netflix has already done, in reverse.
Big News starts competing for nonprofit cash. Yet another one bites the dust: New York City’s famed Village Voice finally ceased its print operations, a trend among struggling alt-weeklies. With advertising revenues failing to keep up across the board, a new dot-org has been created for the U.S. arm of the Guardian to raise money from donors and organizations committed to independent journalism. Others don’t appear to be far behind; The Atlantic’s new majority stakeholder is Emerson Collective (which is run by philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and expected to have full ownership of the publication within five years), and longtime New York Times newsroom manager Janet Elder will be in charge of building a similar philanthropic arm at that media behemoth. While the Times has explored revenue incentives such as limiting online views for non-subscribers to 10 clicks-per-month, the Guardian has resisted a paywall, opting instead for Wikipedia-style box ads requesting donations at the end of each article. These nonprofit inroads by major media outlets will likely place further pressure on the few foundations that already support journalism (many of which support the arts as well), which could be bad news for smaller media sources like the Voice that are already feeling the squeeze.
Hurricane Harvey lashes the Houston arts scene. Catastrophic flooding in the Houston’s major performing arts venues and municipal parking garages throughout the local theater district have brought the city’s major dance, theater and opera companies’ fall season openers to a halt. Arts advocates have quickly banded together to provide aid for Houstonians and fellow arts organizations, some of which had only recently finished multi-million dollar renovations addressing damage from 2001’s Hurricane Allison, and the National Endowment for the Humanities committed $1 million to the effort. As the waters recede from the largest storm Texas has ever recorded, the region faces daunting and costly recovery efforts potentially lasting several years, just as Hurricane Irma barrels toward Miami and the Southeastern United States.
Venezuelan President freezes out Dudamel and the National Youth Orchestra. Superstar Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel, pressured for years to speak up about deteriorating conditions in his native Venezuela, now finds himself ensnared in exactly the sort of political controversy he had hoped to avoid. Dudamel has recently become increasingly vocal about the political strife in his home country, and is rumored to have assisted a musician who was arrested and allegedly beaten for participating in anti-government protests. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro openly criticized Dudamel on television, and shortly after the remarks it was announced that a government-sponsored tour in which Dudamel was to conduct the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela – with stops in Illinois, California and Virginia – would be cancelled. Though it’s likely a move of political retaliation, no official reason has been provided by the government.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS:
- The hunt for a new leader of Grantmakers in the Arts is over: Eddie Torres will be the organization’s new CEO starting this fall. Torres comes to GIA from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, where he has been Deputy Commissioner. And in another twist, GIA is moving its offices from Seattle to New York, likely spurring additional turnover.
- Dianne S. Harris has joined the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a senior program officer in the humanities and higher education division.
- Cinematographer John Bailey is the newly appointed president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
- The Mid-America Arts Alliance has acquired local arts service organization Artists INC; the latter’s head, Lisa Cordes, has joined MAAA as director of artists’ services.
- The arts community has suffered two untimely deaths in recent months: first, Ebony McKinney, program officer at the San Francisco Art Commission, passed away July 29 at age 41; and Dr. James Catterall, author and founder of the Centers for Research on Creativity (CRoC) and professor emeritus at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, passed away August 23 at age 69.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE:
- Ten to 12 minutes of mindfulness is enough to boost creativity, according to an experiment conducted by Erasmus University.
- Employment in the UK culture sector is up 20% in past five years, according to the Creative Industries Federation.
- UK research suggests people who engage with the arts as a participant or observer are more likely to be charitable with their time and dollars. And arts patrons who buy their tickets online are most likely to add a donation, compared to walk-up and phone buyers.
- Dancing rewires the brain, improving multi-tasking ability, says research from the Universities of Houston and Maryland.
- A new report from IFACCA shares key findings on the governance and operation of national arts councils and cultural ministries.
- An article published the Center for Effective Philanthropy points to research debunking myths about differences between “new” and “established” funders.
- Rutgers scientists have created technology that makes art – and study participants prefer these paintings over works shown at Art Basel.
- Atlantic Media Strategies has synthesized research predicting trends in media consumption over the next few years.
- How is print is surviving in the digital age? Just fine. Fine, that is, for current affairs or news publications in the UK.
- TV dramas with diverse characters and storylines have been linked to improved tolerance and changed attitudes among those who watch. A new study suggests this effect holds true specifically for transgender rights.
- The Guardian reports that binge-watching and on-demand television services have all but ended family TV time. Meanwhile 100,000 Canadians cancelled TV service in the first half of 2017 – a figure that’s down 22% from last year’s pace.
- Google queries about suicide rose by 20% in the days after 13 Reasons Why – a show about teen suicide – hit Netflix, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
- An analysis of BBC’s “culture poll” suggests male and female film critics find different things funny in comedies. And a USC study finds that movies are still dominated by men, on- and off-screen.
- A report from a summit co-organized by the National Endowment for the Arts and the International Documentary Association explores issues related to the sustainability of the documentary film industry.
- Arts engagement can ease economic, cultural and political divisions, says research coordinated by the University of Kent based on survey data from more than 20,000 UK respondents.
- Economists say college educations, long thought to be a neutralizer of inequality, do not provide equal access to upward mobility for students from low socioeconomic households.
- Multiple studies cite the varied benefits of snapping photos. Taking pictures can increase enjoyment and enhances memory of certain experiences, provided you’re documenting moments by choice.
- A study on the listening habits of millennials shows they hold high regard for public radio, particularly local coverage, but wish it would go further with reporting.
- A study by Music Reports claims one key to landing a song on the Billboard Top 10 is working with a team of collaborators.
- One in three respondents think classical music is “aloof” and needs to “lighten up” in order to survive, according to a YouGov poll in the UK.
- Economists have evaluated the impact of the European Capital of Culture program on GDP. Various European cities selected to participate in the year-long arts and culture program have seen a boost of nearly 5%, with residual positive effects lasting years.
- A survey commissioned by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation reveals gaps in diversity among professionals holding leadership roles in university libraries.
- The arts are key to building belonging among communities, according to research conducted in Canada, which advocates for improvements to facilities and programs committed to community arts engagement.
- The UK Labour Party conducted an inquiry on class-related gaps in arts participation, citing cost as a barrier, and reporting suggestions and recommendations.
- A new survey reveals details about Russia’s book piracy problems. And books contain far more naughty words than they used to, but some say, “who f*)&ing cares?”