Around the Horn: Sochi edition

ART AND THE GOVERNMENT

  • Joan Mondale, wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale and known to many as “Joan of Art” for her arts advocacy efforts, passed away February 3.
  • After April 6, cracking jokes in the UK will become a little easier. A new UK regulation allows for the use of parts of original copyrighted material if used for parody, caricature, or pastiche.
  • Over at ARTSblog, Ciara McKeown argues municipalities are commissioning too many permanent public art pieces, and suggests public art programs “generate goals that are not defined as permanent or temporary, but that are about people and experiences.”
  • Well, this is one way to make it as a DIY band: Canadian electro-industrial rockers Skinny Puppy have invoiced the Pentagon for $666,000 for the unauthorized use of their music during interrogations at Guantanamo.
  • Confused about the ins and outs of all those visual art lawsuits of the past few years? Daniel Grant has a detailed overview over at Hyperallergic.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

  • Geoffrey Canada, the charismatic face of one of the most ambitious and widely watched education and anti-poverty initiatives in the country, is leaving the Harlem Children’s Zone after two decades at its helm. He will be succeeded by Anne Williams-Isom, the organization’s current Chief Operating Officer.
  • The William Penn Foundation has found its new leader: Peter J. Degnan, Vice Dean of Finance and Administration at the Wharton School. The foundation’s new structure (his title is “managing director”) will allow him to “focus on aligning interconnected organizational functions, including strategic grantmaking, knowledge-building, and community engagement.”
  • Ron Ragin will jump coasts from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to become the first arts program officer for the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
  • The National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University recently appointed Kate D. Levin, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, as its first fellow. As part of role, Levin will be responsible for raising the center’s visibility and providing input on its research. Levin will continue in her new position with Bloomberg Associates, a consulting firm founded by the former Mayor that advises local governments around the world.

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

IN THE FIELD

BIG IDEAS

  • We’ve mulled whether computers can generate art, but a related question is whether computer programmers are artists when they dabble in code. A novelist makes an eloquent case that they are.
  • Been a while since your last nerdgasm? Read up on social physics, which explores how ideas flow, evolve, and (we hope!) improve within communities — and asks whether “our hyperconnected world may be moving toward a state in which there is too much idea flow.”

RESEARCH CORNER

  • Following up on the first-ever official count of the arts’ contribution to the GDP, the NEA has released more detailed estimates for individual industries, including a breakout of performing arts groups by tax-exempt status. (Most of the $526 million added by dance comes from non-profits; most of $407 million from circuses is pure capitalism.)
  • Southern Methodist University’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) released a study claiming that, contrary to the insinuations of Republican lawmakers, NEA doesn’t simply represent a “wealth transfer” from poorer to wealthier citizens. Michael Rushton, however, argues that the study doesn’t succeed in the argument because it looks at wealth at the level of the community, preventing firm conclusions about the wealth of individual attendees of NEA-sponsored arts. The comments on Rushton’s article contain a lively methodological debate if you like that sort of thing. In other news, NCAR officially launched its inaugural report (originally reported by Createquity back in December) on the health of U.S. arts and cultural organizations; the event was webcast by HowlRound TV.
  • A new study from the College Art Association shows that visual arts professionals – scholars, curators, publishers – don’t understand fair use, and they avoid or abandon projects because of it. The CAA is working toward a Code of Best Practices for Fair Use to assuage the anxiety; such a code proved helpful to documentary filmmakers.
  • Anyone who works with schools should carve out a few hours to play with this: DonorsChoose.org, which in 13 years has allowed teachers to raise more than $220 million in funding for their classrooms, is making its 20+ million project records on proposed and successful projects available via a free, interactive data analysis tool.
  • Are too many of our research and evaluation efforts in the arts theoretical rather than directly applicable to practice? Nina Simon thinks so, and the comments from Peter Linett, Jay Greene, Carlos Manjarrez and others are worth checking out as well.
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Public arts funding update: February

FEDERAL

On Thursday, President Obama announced his intention to nominate Jane Chu for the position of Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Chu, the president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, MO, brings big-institution arts industry experience and a middle-America background to the job. If confirmed, she will become the first Asian American permanent chair of the NEA, although Joan Shigekawa has served that role in an interim capacity for the past year and a half. Reaction from the field has been one of pleasant surprise, but she’s getting rave reviews from back home.

Meanwhile, two of Chu’s predecessors warn that her task will be all about money, money, money. Earlier, in yet another down-to-the-wire process, the United States Congress authorized a spending bill in January covering the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2014. The NEA and other federal cultural agencies were essentially level-funded compared to last year’s appropriations, which is effectively a (small) raise from the amounts each agency had to work with after the so-called sequester kicked in last year. However, the NEA’s budget is still down from its recent peak of $167.5 million from fiscal year 2010, and far below its inflation-adjusted peak from the Carter years.

The budget friction is affecting the arts in other ways, too: for example, the Department of Transportation has failed to meet a deadline to require airlines to accommodate musicians’ instruments on flights because it says Congress didn’t provide it with enough funding to hire the people necessary to write the guidelines. A group of Congressional representatives led by Jim Cooper (D-TN), for its part, is calling BS and asking the DOT to get its act together. Meanwhile, the European Union is moving toward a uniform policy for instruments brought on airplanes.

It’s been a rough 2014 so far for net neutrality. Last month’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals means that cable and telephone companies could privilege certain kinds of content, which could endanger the wealth of artistic innovation on the web. AT&T, for its part, says nothing is about to change – possibly because the decision leaves open other means of regulation that could be worse for internet service providers. In fact, Wired seems to think that the court order has given the FCC carte blanche to regulate the entire internet. Yet if you thought the invisible hand of the market would help secure net neutrality on its own, you might be concerned that America’s largest cable company is buying its second-largest. Time Warner Cable’s proposed merger with Comcast seems to bode ill for open Internet advocates, given that Comcast already has a monthly cap on bandwidth in place; if things continue down this road, a former FCC Commissioner warns of scenarios like cable companies bundling internet content the way that cable channels currently are, and censoring stories about their own terrible customer service. All eyes are on the FCC as it considers its next steps.

STATE AND LOCAL

While Los Angeles awaits the appointment of a head of its department of cultural affairs, new mayor Eric Garcetti met with arts leaders to drop hints on “a more cohesive arts policy” — which apparently does not include any increase in city funding. Meanwhile, alleging mismanagement, Fairfax County in Northern Virginia will pay $30 million to take control of the Lorton Arts Center and avoid foreclosure.

INTERNATIONAL

The UK’s Building a Creative Nation has been launched to create 50,000 creative sector jobs for young people ages 16 to 24 by 2016. Part of the initiative aims to combat unpaid internships in the arts industry by subsidizing 6,500 training positions. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg claims the program is “paving the way for a new wave of young British talent,” who will contribute “billions to the economy” in the fastest-growing employment sector of the British economy in 2011-2012. Nearly 1.7 billion Britons (5.6% of the workforce) are employed in the creative industries, more than half of them in squarely cultural areas like the performing and visual arts, film, photography, and publishing.

Not all is rosy in the UK, though: Parliament is investigating the fairness of grants made by Arts Council England, which a report found gives five times as much per capita to London organizations vs. others. Philanthropic dollars are similarly concentrated. (By way of comparison, 82% of private UK arts giving went to London; in the US, according to the Foundation Center’s database, 20% of major grants go to New York State.) That might be part of the reason that space for art in London is now at such a premium. Meanwhile, the Council will require new grantees to capture, report, and share information about audience size and composition and has called on the BBC to collaborate with arts organizations.

Elsewhere in the British Isles, Creative Scotland has announced a new 10-year strategic plan; Wales’s capital city is trying to transfer responsibility for two arts venues to the private sector; Newcastle hasn’t been able to raise any money for a matching fund campaign aimed at private donors; and Irish arts funding is down 7% after having been cut for the sixth consecutive year.

In Spain, four years of funding cuts to the cultural infrastructure by that country’s right-wing and debt-ridden government have increasingly spurred protest, and now the Spanish film community is starting to fight back, claiming political conspiracy. Even Pedro Admodóvar is speaking out against what he calls Spain’s “awful cultural policy.” Elsewhere in Europe, Iceland’s state broadcaster has cut almost half its music staff. But in a bit of good news, regulators in France have decided to reverse a decision that would have raised the import tax on artworks from 7% to 10%, instead reducing it to 5.5%.

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Join us for a special event featuring the Createquity Arts Policy Library

Next Thursday, the Cultural Research Network will host a Virtual Study Group featuring Createquity’s Arts Policy Library. Part book club, part shop talk, these virtual study group sessions offer cultural researchers and the people who love them an opportunity to engage in discussion with fellow practitioners. Each session is devoted to a specific study, report, journal article, or in this case, methodological process, and the author and/or sponsor of the research will be on hand to offer framing remarks and answer questions.

The fourth meeting of the Cultural Research Network Virtual Study Group will take place on Thursday, February 20 from 2-3:30pm EST. Createquity readers are invited to participate in this live session, which will take a look at two resources that were established to help folks sort through (and evaluate) current arts and culture research: Createquity’s own Arts Policy Library and the Arts Education Partnership’s ArtsEdSearch. You will find a brief description of each resource below. If you are not already familiar with these sites, and ArtsEdSearch in particular, please take some time to explore them before the webinar, as the speakers will start from the assumption that attendees already have some familiarity with each resource.

This is also a reminder that if you self-identify as a cultural researcher, you’re welcome to join the CRN. It’s easy and free! In addition to Virtual Study Group sessions like these every month or two, we trade calls for papers/proposals, job listings, and advice about methodological issues on a regular basis.

Createquity Arts Policy Library

Every year, dozens of research studies, books, evaluation reports, and other texts examining the impact of the arts on individuals and communities are published. In many instances, this literature is the product of an exhaustive investment of time and dollars from foundations, universities, or the authors themselves. Yet many busy arts professionals, to say nothing of casual observers, don’t have time to make it all the way through even one of these documents, much less evaluate its soundness and put it into context with other research. Enter the Createquity Arts Policy Library, which has two important goals: first, to bring greater attention to the important ongoing work in the field of arts research; and second, to synthesize (not just summarize) it for a lay audience. To do this, each text is analyzed in three parts: first, a succinct summary of what it says; second, an analysis of the strength of its arguments, looking at everything from methodological details to the relevance of the questions it seeks to answer; and finally, an attempt to deduce what new information the text gives us in light of the other work we’ve already read, picking out broad themes or trends that may be of interest.

ArtsEdSearch

ArtsEdSearch, a project of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), is the nation’s first online research and policy clearinghouse focused entirely on student and educator outcomes associated with arts learning in and out of school. ArtsEdSearch focuses on research examining how education in the arts—in both discrete arts classes and integrated arts lessons—affects students’ cognitive, personal, social and civic development, as well as how the integration of the arts into the school curriculum affects educators’ instructional practice and engagement in the teaching profession. To be included, all studies must meet a set of criteria for excellent research developed in consultation with the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Evaluation Association (AEA). Launched in April 2012, ArtsEdSearch currently includes summaries of over 200 research studies, syntheses of the major findings of these studies, and implications of the collected research for educational policy.

Click here to register for this event. Hope to see you there!

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Cool jobs of the month

President and CEO, Center for Cultural Innovation

The CCI Board seeks a visionary President/CEO to raise and invest funds for innovative projects that support individual artists in California, working in all disciplines. For more than 10 years, the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI) has been helping artists with business training and grants to help them achieve financial self‐reliance. Founded in 2001 as a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, with annual revenues ranging from $1.2 to $1.8 million and a core staff of 5, it has been doing this by awarding artist grants, providing business training, creating networking opportunities that connect artists to each other and arts supporters, and incubating untested projects that have the innovative promise of transforming the field.

This is an exciting time to be at the helm of CCI. A trusted intermediary organization in the arts, CCI is the only nonprofit throughout California with the sole focus of supporting individual artists and creative entrepreneurs. The new leader will be building on a rich legacy of successful projects as well as stepping in as experimental projects are underway. Furthermore, the CCI board of directors is in the midst of strategic planning for the organization, which will be concluded under the leadership of the new director. Presently, the new strategic plan asserts a bolder focus on treating artists as creative entrepreneurs who need both business training and financing/funding opportunities, with the details of the plan to be concluded under the new President and CEO.

Deadline: February 15.

Research & Development Manager, Creative Placemaking Lab, Artscape

Artscape is currently seeking a full time Research & Development Manager to join our team. The Creative Placemaking Lab (CPL) at Artscape undertakes research, community consultation and partner engagement to develop the vision and advance pre-development planning for major new Artscape projects. The CPL also delivers a range of free and fee-for service capacity building tools, resources and programs designed to support the capacity of communities outside Toronto to develop cultural space and creative placemaking projects. We undertake strategic research, project evaluation and are committed to advancing Artscape’s role as a thought leader in Creative Placemaking. The successful candidate will join a small team working in a fast moving, entrepreneurial and collaborative environment. This new post will significantly enhance our capacity to deliver on the goals and strategic directions set out in Vision 2017, Artscape’s Strategic Plan. Reporting to the Director, Creative Placemaking Lab, the post-holder will be required to work collaboratively with the Program Manager, Creative Placemaking Lab, to coordinate the department’s work, and will contribute to cross department teams and participate in and support multi-partner initiatives as directed.

Deadline: February 14.

Vice President, Learning and Leadership Development, League of American Orchestras

As American orchestras lean into the dramatic changes of the 21st Century the Vice President for Learning and Leadership Development has a unique opportunity to help League members develop the leadership and organizational practices required for resilience, vibrancy and adaptive change. The Vice President will develop a strategy for achieving field wide impact and leverage resources through strategic partnerships and technology. The Vice President for Learning and Leadership Development is responsible for creating, implementing and measuring the results of a cohesive body of programs intended to equip orchestra workers in all roles at entry, middle, and senior career stages with strategic, leadership, and functional skills.

Deadline: March 14.

Arts Grants Administrator (two positions), California Arts Council

The California Arts Council will be hiring individuals to fill program administrator positions for the first time in over ten years. Currently there are two vacancies to be filled. This is a rare opportunity to join a hard working agency during an exciting time of growth.

No deadline, but candidates are encouraged to complete the qualifying exam as soon as possible.

Various positions, Centre for Effective Altruism

Effective altruism is all about combining empathy, reason and evidence. By carefully considering what we value, and by working together to find the best ways of achieving that, we can each do an amazing amount of good. The Centre for Effective Altruism is a collection of organisations which have come together to explore these core ideas; with each organisation pursuing different ways of putting the ideas into practice. CEA is the umbrella organisation to which 80,000 Hours and Giving What We Can belong. We’re also starting to branch out into global prioritisation research (e.g. comparing the value of work on AI risk and on helping the global poor) and pure promotion of effective altruist ideas. We’re based in the centre of Oxford [UK], where we share offices with the Future of Humanity Institute, and which is a global hub for the effective altruist community.

Deadline: February 21. Positions include Director of Community at Giving What We Can, Lead Developer at 80,000 Hours, and several program-related internships, among others.

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To save Detroit Institute of Arts, no cost too great?

Diego_Ryan Griffis

A group of onlookers tours the plant in a detail of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry, the centerpiece of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The mural was completed during the city’s heyday as auto capital of the world. Photo credit: grifray

Since last May, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has been at the center of bankruptcy negotiations between the beleaguered City of Detroit and a myriad of creditors and pensioners to whom a staggering $18 billion is owed. When Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager, included the museum’s art collection among city assets available for possible liquidation, the suggestion that the artwork might be sold to satisfy creditors sent shudders through the art community. Could a world-class art museum, part of America’s cultural foundation, be raided, its cultural treasures sold off to pay the debts of its city? And what would that mean for other art institutions around the country?

The story has captured the attention of the powerful and common alike, with many weighing in on the whether the collection should or would be sold. But even before Emergency Manager Orr brought in Christie’s auction house in August to evaluate the art, a group of influential and deep-pocketed DIA supporters had begun to assemble. Federal bankruptcy mediator U.S. Chief District Judge Gerald Rosen gathered a group of national and local charitable foundations in November to brainstorm and discuss “out of the box” ways to prevent the DIA from being gutted, while still protecting city pensions. The result of Judge Rosen’s roundtable has been nothing short of extraordinary and could have long-term implications for the role of charitable foundations in the future.

Last month, a group of ten foundations with close ties to the city joined ranks to develop an unprecedented rescue plan. Led largely by the Ford Foundation, the consortium has pledged to give $370 million to the city pensioners’ fund under the condition that ownership of the DIA’s collection is transferred to a separate nonprofit organization, thus protecting it from the city’s creditors. With the foundations’ commitment in place, the State of Michigan has also stepped in with its own pledge of $350 million, pending approval by the Legislature. Governor Rick Snyder described the offer as a “settlement” rather than a city bailout and it comes with another caveat: pensioners must drop all lawsuits against the city.

The amount of money flowing in to save the DIA, largely from sources outside of Detroit, is breathtaking in its grandeur. The Ford Foundation’s pledge of $125 million is more than a quarter of its entire grantmaking budget in fiscal year 2012. In second and third place are the Kresge Foundation with $100 million (a whopping 70% of its 2012 giving) and the Kellogg Foundation at $40 million. These developments make for quite a story and may provide comfort to those who feel the 139-year old art museum should be left intact. And yet this sudden infusion of cash raises a number of important questions for the arts field and for the institution of private philanthropy alike.

For example, is the foundations’ commitment to the DIA a distraction from other, possibly better giving opportunities, whether in Detroit or elsewhere? Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM), reported receiving concerned calls from cultural organizations worried their usual grant funds would be diminished as a result of the foundation’s pledge. However, CFSEM and the other foundations claim they are working to ensure this does not happen, either by stretching their contribution payments out over 10-20 years or tapping into their own endowments – another questionable move. Several of the foundation leaders involved – Noland, the Kresge Foundation’s Rip Rapson, the Knight Foundation’s Alberto Ibargüen, and the Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker – wrote an op-ed for the Chronicle of Philanthropy defending their decision, writing, ”our support…aims to accomplish something even larger: helping a great city get back on its feet quickly and on course toward a better future.”

So just how far will the coalition go to protect the DIA from any long-term financial burden Orr tries to impose on it? Historically, charitable foundations like to avoid quick-fix approaches when it comes to supporting public institutions, favoring innovative policy reforms that promote social change instead. However, here, they are bargaining with Detroit’s pensioners, taking a risk, and potentially opening themselves up to a future of wheel-and-deal funding schemes. Indeed, some in the grantmaking world are already voicing concerns about the precedence of conditional giving being set and whether it “amounts to philanthropic coercion rather than generosity.”

Between the foundations and the state, the total amount put forward now surpasses the $500 million contribution requirement Emergency Manager Orr had originally placed on the DIA. And the museum just recently agreed to raise an additional $100 million itself over the next 20 years, bringing the grand total to $820 million – all of which would be disbursed to the pensioners’ fund. If all parties accept this amount and Orr’s plan, then the City of Detroit would immediately transfer ownership of the entire art collection and building to the DIA, the private non-profit that has actively managed it for decades, thereby bringing a swift end to an at times harrowing situation.

But how much danger was the DIA ever in, really? All of the drama of the past year notwithstanding, the DIA hasn’t had any ultimatums placed upon its collection by Judge Steven W. Rhodes, who is presiding over Detroit’s case in federal bankruptcy court. In December, Christie’s auction house completed its appraisal of roughly 2,800 artworks – comprised solely of pieces purchased with city funds so as to avoid any legal action by donors and their heirs. Christie’s estimated the art to be worth between $452-866 million, with a couple of standout pieces valued at nearly $150 million apiece. The assessment was not music to the ears of creditors, who—their hopes no doubt bolstered by multi-billion dollar speculations made in the media early on—accused the city and auction house of purposefully undervaluing the artwork. The consortium of European banks, bond insurers, Detroit retirees, and labor unions requested that an independent committee conduct a separate review of the museum’s full collection – approximately 66,000 pieces, 95% of which were donated or purchased with private funds. Judge Rhodes has since refused the creditors’ request, ruling that he doesn’t have the authority to permit an independent evaluation of the DIA’s entire holdings.

Rhodes has furthermore said he is seriously considering the formal opinion issued by Attorney General Schuette back in June, which declared that the DIA’s collection, though technically owned by the city, is held in a “public trust” and therefore off limits to creditors. If he does agree that the collection is held in a public trust, it would mean the artwork is legally off the negotiation table.

Diego_Lars

A couple poses in front of the south wall of Detroit Industry. To the left, images of fertility preside over the larger frescos depicting the auto assembly line. Photo credit: Lars K. Christensen

In the final days of 2013, I took a quick trip to Detroit to visit the museum in question, a reconnaissance mission to experience the day-to-day reality of the institution under threat. It was heartening to see that the DIA was absolutely packed with people on the Friday after Christmas. The clerk at the ticket desk informed me that there would be a live concert that evening in Rivera Court, the large atrium home to Diego Rivera’s masterful work Detroit Industry. Executed from 1932-33, the mural was gifted to the DIA by Edsel B. Ford himself. Unanticipated by Ford, however, was the artwork’s socialist overtones, which caused quite a stir at the time it was created. Sited right at the core of the sprawling museum, the mural depicts the auto industry and its workers as the “indigenous culture of Detroit,” using the literal representation of manufacturing to achieve metaphors of power and growth. From floor to ceiling, assembly line workers dominate the scene in numbers and fortitude, while images of fertility—fruits, grain, mothers, and infants—preside overhead. Standing there dwarfed and surrounded by its twenty-seven boldly painted fresco panels, Detroit Industry makes palpable the heart and soul of the once-thriving metropolis whose influence has extended far beyond its city limits.

Despite the very real concerns that have arisen over the philanthropic “rescue mission” to save the DIA, private donations, both large and small, continue to come in from around the world. It seems that, through its ordeal, the DIA has unexpectedly become the public face of the city of Detroit. Its recent plight is a symbol of the gradual destruction of a cultural and economic legacy rooted in the early years of the 20th century, the so-called American century. As the city painfully negotiates the resolution of the narrative at play in Rivera’s masterpiece, the rest of us are provided with an opportunity to reflect on that legacy – not just the art collection, but how an important American city came to be. It seems that by preserving one, the hope is we save the other.

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Fractured Atlas as a Learning Organization: You’re Not as Smart as You Think

(This is the second post in a series on Fractured Atlas’s capacity-building pilot initiative, Fractured Atlas as a Learning Organization. To read more about it, please check out Fractured Atlas as a Learning Organization: An Introduction.)

Last fall, we put together a group of six people (henceforth referred to as the Data-Driven D.O.G. Force) to collectively develop a set of decision-making frameworks to help us resolve so-called decisions of consequence – situations for which the level of uncertainty and the cost of being wrong are both high. To do this, we’ve been taking inspiration from Doug Hubbard’s book How to Measure Anything, which introduces a concept he invented called “applied information economics,” or AIE. AIE is a formalized method of building a quantitative model around a decision and analyzing how information can play a role in making that decision. You can read much more about it in Luke Muehlhauser’s excellent summary of How to Measure Anything for Less Wrong.

One of the central tenets of AIE is that we can only judge the value of a measurement in relation to how much it reduces our uncertainty about something that matters. (More on that in a future post!) In order to know that, though, we have to have some sense of how much uncertainty we have now.

This concept of uncertainty is one that we understand on an intuitive level – I might be much more confident, say, predicting that I’ll be hungry at dinner-time tonight than predicting what I’ll be doing with my life 10 years from now. But most people don’t have a lot of experience quantifying their uncertainty. And yet, as forecasting experts from Hubbard to Nate Silver tell us, the secret to successful predictions (or at least less terrible predictions) is thinking probabilistically.

What does this mean in practice? Picture yourself at Tuesday trivia night at your favorite local pub. There you are with your teammates, you’ve come up with some ridiculous name for yourselves (like, I don’t know, the “Data-Driven D.O.G. Force”), and the round is about to begin. The emcee calls out the question: “the actor Tom Cruise had his breakout role in what 1983 movie?” Your friend leans over and says, “It’s Risky Business. I’m like 99% sure.”

Anyone who’s done time at trivia night will probably recognize something like that sequence. What I can virtually guarantee you, though, is that your friend in this situation hasn’t thought very hard about that 99% figure. Is it really 99%? That’s awfully confident – it implies that if your friend were to answer 100 questions and was as confident about every one of the answers as she was about this one, she would be right 99 times.

I’d be willing to bet that if you recorded the number of times people said they were “99% sure” about something and kept track of how often they were actually right, it would be significantly less than 99% of the time. That’s because as human beings, we tend to be overconfident in our knowledge in all sorts of ways, and this exact effect has been documented by psychologists and behavioral economists in experiment after experiment for decades.

This is why any AIE process involves something called calibration training. Overconfidence is an endemic and hard-to-escape problem, but if you practice making predictions and confront yourself with feedback about the results of those predictions, you can get better. In How to Measure Anything, Hubbard provides a number of calibration tests essentially consisting of trivia questions like the one above – except that instead of naming a specific movie or person, we’re asked to provide a ranged estimate (for numbers) or a confidence rating in the truth or falsehood of a statement. So for example, you might find yourself guessing what year Risky Business came out, or whether it’s true or false that it was Tom Cruise’s first leading role.

The six of us on the D.O.G. Force took a number of these calibration tests, and I’m gonna be honest with you – we were pretty awful. We got the hang of the binary (true/false) predictions relatively quickly, but the ranged estimates proved exceedingly difficult for us. In four iterations of the latter test across six individuals, only one of us ever managed to be right more often than we said we would be. You can see this in the results below (red colors and negative numbers mean that we were overconfident, green colors and positive numbers underconfident, and yellow/zero right on the money).

calibration-tests1We were able to make good progress in the last round of the test (“Range supplemental 2″), though, primarily by focusing on making our ranges wide enough when we really had no idea what the right answer was. What’s the maximum range of a Minuteman missile? Well, if you don’t even know what a Minuteman missile is, your range should be wide enough to cover everything from a kid’s toy to an ICBM. It can feel incredibly unsatisfying to admit that the range of possibilities is so wide, but in order to construct an accurate model of the state of your knowledge, right now, you need to be able to articulate what “I have no idea” really means.

So why spend valuable company time working through a bunch of trivia questions? Because when we find ourselves needing to make estimates about, say, how much a new software feature might cost, or the number of people who might be reached when we speak at a conference, we suffer from the same disease of overconfidence if we don’t do something about it. What happens as a result is that we make predictions that are reassuringly precise in the moment, but might well end up far off from reality down the road. And when we use those inaccurate assumptions and predictions in our decision-making, there’s a good chance – so to speak – that we’re setting ourselves up for later regret.

Next up: how this all fits in with grand strategy!

[UPDATE: If you want to try a range test for yourself, Fractured Atlas's rockstar Community Engagement Specialist and D.O.G. Force member Jason Tseng has created an arts-specific one! Here are the questions and here are the answers (don't peek!).]

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Around the horn: Philip Seymour Hoffman edition

A couple of items of personal interest for Createquity followers: first, Fractured Atlas has released two new research studies, both co-authored by Createquity’s Ian David Moss; and second, our superstar Createquity Fellow Alicia Akins is leaving her job at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in Laos soon to come back to the United States and has a posting for her replacement.

ART AND THE GOVERNMENT

  • The International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies concluded its sixth World Summit on Arts and Culture in Chile earlier this month. Nearly 400 arts leaders and policymakers from 67 countries gathered to address shared challenges facing the arts world.  The summit coincided with the launch of IFACCA’s report detailing arts advocacy campaigns and best practices.
  • The NEA’s Director of Design, Jason Schupbach, talks about the agency’s next steps in creative placemaking “in the spirit of openness and oversharing,” and telegraphs a gradual shift in Our Town’s focus from local case studies to national initiatives.
  • New Jersey is the first state in the country to include data on student enrollment in the visual and performing arts in its annual report on school performance. Slightly less than half of Garden State high school students are enrolled in a course in one of the four art forms.
  • The New York Times provides a glimpse into the capricious process used by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs to review and approve applications from prospective residents seeking to live in lofts legally reserved for artists.
  • A proposed noise ordinance in New Orleans drew a musical protest outside of city hall when musicians gathered to ensure their political voices, and their music, are not only heard, but heard at a proper volume.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

  • More good news for Gibney Dance: Director Gina Gibney’s dreams of turning their new space previously occupied by Dance New Amersterdam into a resource for emerging artists are $3 million closer to becoming a reality thanks to a  gift from the Agnes Varis Trust to make repairs to the facilities.
  • Can an accounting change by SoundExchange impact the ability of middle-class performers and indie labels to create more music? The Future of Music Coalition thinks so.  A frequently disbursed stream of income that pays performers on a monthly, rather than quarterly, basis can help free up musicians to concentrate on their work rather than wonder how they’ll pay next month’s bills.
  • Internet radio service Pandora pays nearly half its revenue to performing artists and labels, while only 4.3 percent goes to songwriters and publishers. Think that’s unfair? So does the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) which represents the latter. But it was Pandora that brought suit to lower the royalty rate paid to ASCAP members. At the heart of the issue is whether music publishers can remove their catalogs from digital transmissions, while still using professional recording organizations like ASCAP to represent their work on issues such as collecting money from terrestrial AM/FM radio stations.
  • Meanwhile, back in the world of terrestrial radio, this is what happens when you leave cultural taste-making to the whims of the commercial marketplace. More than ever before, radio stations are playing the same damn songs over and over. The article is interesting throughout, including such tidbits as the fact that the top 10 songs last year were played twice as much as the top 10 songs a decade ago, the fact that this trend is an example of data-driven decision-making on the part of radio stations, and this quote:

    In the new intensely scrutinized world of radio, said Mr. Darden, “taking risks is not rewarded, so we have to be more careful than ever before.”

IN THE FIELD

BIG IDEAS

RESEARCH CORNER

  • What does the cultural data landscape look like? Get a bird’s eye view from the report New Data for the Cultural Landscape: Towards a Better Informed Stronger Future just published by the Cultural Data Project. Barry Hessenius pulls out key highlights and probes the persistent challenge of educating leaders in our field to make strategic decisions using data.
  • AFTA’s Randy Cohen digs deep into the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s recent report on the contributions of the arts to GDP. Turns out, it omits a lot of architecture, design and creative writing at the college level, and many arts grantmakers. Fortunately, the BEA is open to suggestions for improving its strong first cut. Follow the link to contribute your thoughts.
  • The University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center is out with the second issue of The Digest, which summarizes academic research on the cultural sector from the around the world, which is often inaccessible to a broad audience. The issue examines “creative cities in theory and practice.”
  • A new Pew report finds that, although the typical American read five books last year, nearly a quarter of us read none at all. In related news, libraries continue to draw patrons in innovative ways, such as installing 3D printers, shifting collections from the academic to the popular, and offering hog-butchering seminars.
  • Big Data may be a boon for marketers, but when does segmentation cross over the line into discrimination? A research fellow at MIT argues that this is the central ethical dilemma of today’s data analysts.
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Come be nerdy with Ian and Nina Simon in Santa Cruz!

Have you ever wondered what all this impact assessment and evaluation stuff is all about, but haven’t been sure how to get started? I bet you’re not alone! That’s why I’m psyched to be involved with a great and affordable professional development event happening this summer in gorgeous Santa Cruz, CA, called Museum Camp 2014: Social Impact Assessment.

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Museum Camp is a creation of Nina Simon and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. Createquity readers might recognize Nina and her fantastic work at Santa Cruz MAH from such Top 10 Arts Policy Stories posts as 2012‘s, not to mention many shout-outs before and since in blog posts here and there. Nina used to be a rockstar experience design consultant in the museum field and earned a measure of fame at the beginning of this decade as the author of The Participatory Museum, which you can read online for free. A couple of years ago, she decided to take the job as director of the Santa Cruz MAH, and she and her team have been up to amazing things since then, including a previous version of Museum Camp that sounded like pretty much the most fun anyone has had in a museum ever.

All that fun ultimately adds up to something significant, though, and it’s important to be able to describe what’s meaningful about what we do effectively and convincingly to people who weren’t there – not to mention ourselves. So my colleagues at Fractured Atlas and I are happy to be helping Nina bring a new edition of Museum Camp to life focused on social impact assessment, a three-day event in which small teams of people will develop creative ways to evaluate the work that diverse organizations are doing to transform communities. Our focus is on social impact in communities, and we will encourage teams to look at complex outcomes–like safety, cohesion, compassion, and identity–that are not commonly covered in standard evaluative practices. This is a learning experience with a heavy focus on actual doing throughout the event. In addition to representatives from Fractured Atlas and MAH, we’ll have “camp counselors” from the United Way, WolfBrown, Harder & Co., Animating Democracy, and more on hand to help attendees navigate the conceptual and practical issues associated with measuring what matters.

If you are interested in attending, you can fill out an application through February 28. Space is extremely limited, so the sooner the better. We look forward to seeing you!

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Around the horn: Amiri Baraka edition

ART AND THE GOVERNMENT

  • A Federal court has overturned the FCC’s “net neutrality” regulations, which have required internet service providers to treat all content equally. Legal details here; implications for artists and ways to get involved here. Meanwhile, AT&T has announced a plan to exempt selected content from wireless data caps; artists are expressing concern.
  • How many foundations does it take to keep Detroit’s art in Detroit? Nine and counting: the ad-hoc alliance of funders has pledged to give $330m to reduce the city’s unfunded pension liability if the city’s creditors will agree to allow the Detroit Institute of Art to become a separate non-profit with its collection intact. In a nod to its origins, the Ford Foundation is the largest single contributor. It’s unclear whether this will fly with the creditors, so additional donors are being sought. (This could be part of an alarming trend: the Annenberg Foundation recently had to spend more than $500k to return sacred Hopi artifacts home.)
  • Thinking of applying for nonprofit status? You may need to brace yourself for a longer wait time than usual. The recent federal budget agreement gives the IRS $526 million less than last year and mandates the agency spend more time reporting to Congress.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

  • With Bill de Blasio having taken office, speculation builds around the next NYC Commissioner for Cultural Affairs, with names such as actress Cynthia Nixon, former Alliance for the Arts head Randy Bourscheidt, and Tom Finklepearl being floated as potential candidates to run what may be the nation’s largest arts funder. Meanwhile, Michael Kaiser praises outgoing Commissioner Kate Levin – and says we need her at the NEA.
  • Karen Hanan, Executive Director of Arts Northwest, is transitioning to lead the Washington State Arts Commission effective March 1.

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

IN THE FIELD

  • After winning hearts and minds across the nation with its making-it-big-in-Idaho story, come this July, the Trey McIntyre Project will disband as a dance company, focusing instead on “other enterprises involving dance, film production, and photography.” Despite TMP’s throwing in the towel, Sydney Skybetter sees a triumph and not a failure.
  • In other dance news, choreographer Gina Gibney’s company will take over the former home of Dance New Amsterdam in downtown Manhattan, preserving the space as a hub for dancers from commercial and non-profit companies at a time when space is scarce.
  • After a three year lockout (and, as we reported a few weeks ago, an attempt to form their own nonprofit), musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra will return to their orchestra hall next month thanks to a contract settlement that cuts their pay and benefits by roughly 15 percent.
  • A painting by Glenn Brown replicating the cover of Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi novel “The Stars Like Dust” has sold for almost $6 million, causing many techies to suddenly find themselves in the unfamiliar position of advocating for copyright enforcement.
  • Nonprofit theater makes way for film and television: Atlanta’s Woodruff Art Center has sold its three-stage 14th Street Playhouse to the Savannah College of Art and Design, which will use the space to house TV and film degree programs. Woodruff, in turn, donated $1.9 million of sale proceeds to the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta to establish a new grant fund to support local performing arts organizations.

BIG IDEAS

  • We nearly missed this end-of-year roundup of “10 trends and 10 predictions” for the nonprofit sector from NonProfit Quarterly. You’ll recognize several of the items, like the emerging national security state and general government incompetence, from our list of the top 10 arts policy stories, but NPQ adds several others to the table (including an emerging progressive agenda at the local government level) and gives arts organizations a special shout-out – for their “struggl[ing]…business models.” Woohoo.
  • Over at Barry’s Blog, social media guru and recent Arts Dinner-Vention participant Devon Smith delves into the potential roles of user experience designers, Google glass, and 3D printers in arts organizations, and offers some insights on the need for think tanks (including ours) in the arts.

RESEARCH CORNER

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Please welcome the Spring 2014 Createquity Fellows

I’m excited to announce what has got to be the most unorthodox – not to mention international – slate of Createquity Fellows we’ve had yet. Between the two of them, Christy Fisher and Alicia Akins bring experience as programs director for an ethnology museum in Laos, extra on House of Cards, assistant to MIT electrical engineering professors, English teachers in Japan and China (respectively), and counsel to the Supreme Court of the tiny island republic of Palau. We can’t wait to see what their fresh perspectives will bring to our all-too-often-siloed arts policy discussions. Welcome, Alicia and Christy!

Alicia Akins - photo by Chris BuchmanAlicia Akins works at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC), a private ethnology museum in Luang Prabang, Laos. As Programs Director, Alicia manages the museum’s school outreach, adult education, and advocacy programs. Since her arrival in 2012, Alicia has been actively involved in the regional culture and heritage sector. This past November, she was selected as the sole delegate from Laos to the World Culture Forum in Bali and attended the inaugural Asia Society Arts + Museum Summit in Hong Kong. Alicia’s interest in ethnic diversity first took her to China between 2005 and 2008. Alicia holds an M.A.I.S. in China Studies at the University of Washington – Seattle and a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers. She was a violist in the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, and since college she has also studied Punjabi folk dance, West African dance, lindy hop and the guzheng (a Chinese zither). Although she has studied eight languages, she has reached at least conversational proficiency in just five: Chinese (near native fluency), Japanese, Korean, Lao (professional working proficiency), and Thai. (This note about reaching conversational proficiency in “just” five languages is my second-favorite part of Alicia’s bio. My favorite part is that she listed “street battles” among her personal interests.)

Christy Fisher

Christy Fisher is proud to have had a career that stretches across three continents.  After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Georgia, Christy taught English in Japan for two years before returning to the U.S. to attend the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Shortly thereafter, Christy accepted a position with the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland, where she helped represent U.S. interests before the World Health Organization. She subsequently earned her J.D. at Georgetown University Law Center, where she was recognized as a Global Law Scholar, and served as Court Counsel to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Palau. Christy currently serves as a career law clerk to Judge John Eldridge of the Maryland Court of Appeals. She is a member of the Maryland, DC, and Palau Bar Associations and serves on the steering committee for the Maryland Chapter of the American Constitution Society. Despite her ostensibly non-arts background, Christy tells us that she has an undying love for musical theater and is proud to have played a Congressional aide in the Netflix series House of Cards.

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