On the morning of January 7, two masked gunmen – now known to be brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi – attacked the offices of the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve, including the paper’s editor, Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier. In the wake of the attack, which was apparently a retaliation for the magazine’s repeated depictions of the prophet Muhammad, the surviving editorial staff decided to publish a subsequent issue, with a cover featuring a weeping Muhammad framed by “I am Charlie” and “all is forgiven.” The issue sold millions of copies, a far cry from the weekly’s usual 60,000-piece circulation, and further incensed the Muslim world — with protests in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, and Niger. Other cities rallied instead in support of free speech; a solidarity march held on the Sunday after the attack drew almost four million citizens and some forty world leaders. (The U.S. presence was notably lacking.)
This is by no means the first time that art in general and satire in particular have become targets for Islamic fundamentalists. (Createquity has covered several such incidents in the past, notably in September and November of 2012.) Still, the scope of the attack prompted an avalanche of news coverage and reactions exploring all sides of the issue, including the growing backlash across Europe against Muslim immigrants, Islamist terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, and importantly for this forum, freedom of expression. Artists around the world responded most immediately, many drawing up their own cartoons in support of the magazine specifically, and of the role cartoonists play in moments of conflict. Jordan Weissman cautioned against an either-or-approach, suggesting in Slate that Charlie Hebdo’s work is both “heroic and racist.” Oliver Tonneau, a radical French leftist, made a case for freedom of speech by noting that the considerable body of work put forth by the magazine was squarely within the French satirical tradition and, crucially, intended for an audience with the cultural context to see it as so. Others, like Marguerite Debaie, Maz Jobrani, and Karl Sharro, amplified the conversation by shining a light on the tradition of cartooning and satire in the Middle East and in Islam. Back in Paris, new editor-in-chief Gérard Biard has made it clear that Charlie Hebdo will continue on, albeit with a delay of the magazine’s 1,179th issue.
Net Neutrality’s Chances Suddenly Looking a Lot Better: The net neutrality battle, which landed at No. 3 on our Top Ten Arts Policy Stories of 2014, is kicking into high gear, and for the first time in quite a while things are looking pretty good for those in the “pro” camp. On January 7, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler hinted in an interview that new net neutrality rules would in fact be crafted under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, a move President Obama himself called for in November (and which he reiterated in his State of the Union address.) Net neutrality supporters welcomed the announcement – a reversal of Wheeler’s previous stance – as such a classification would provide the greatest degree of protection for content producers within the strongest legal framework. Piggybacking on Wheeler’s announcement, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) reintroduced the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act, which would unambiguously authorize the FCC to issue net neutrality rules under whatever framework it deemed appropriate. (In response, Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich) along with Senator John Thune (R-S.D), the head of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, released their own draft legislation contesting the FCC’s legal authority to enforce online competition.) The biggest win for the pro camp in January, however, came from an unexpected ally: mobile telecommunications provider Sprint circulated a letter to the FCC in which the company argued that “light-touch” regulation under a Title II framework would not harm investment or deployment, and that the open Internet has benefited consumers and businesses alike. On January 29, the FCC voted to change the definition of “broadband internet” in the hopes of expanding access in the rural United States. This vote is but a prelude to the final one, which is set for February 26 (though a draft of the proposed rules should be available as beginning February 5.)
Uncle Sam Busts the Overhead Myth: The nonprofit starvation cycle got some much-needed disruption in January in the form of new Office of Management and Budget rules on overhead spending in federal grants. The new rules include many benefits for nonprofits, such as broadening “direct cost” allocations and increasing the single audit threshold. The most welcome, however, is the rule regarding reimbursements for “indirect costs.” The guidance states that “when governments hire nonprofits to provide services, those nonprofits legitimately need to incur and be paid for their ‘indirect costs’,” i.e. their overhead and administrative expenses. In concrete terms, this means that nonprofits are now able to apply at least 10% of a grant or contract to pay indirect costs; the percentage increases for those organizations following new cost allocation rules. The federal adoption of these rules is only the beginning. The real work lies in communicating and consistently applying its tenets to the tens of thousands of organizations that stand to benefit. This will require a bit of advocacy work on behalf of the field which is sure to pay off.
Film and Theater Industries Continue to Struggle with Diversity: Hollywood’s diversity problem reared its (ugly) head again this month when the coveted Oscar nominations were announced: the twenty contenders for lead and supporting actor and actress were all white, the director category was dominated by white men, and not a single woman was nominated in either of the screenwriting categories. Worse yet, a recent study from the Directors Guild of America revealed that in the past five years, from the 2009-10 season through the 2013-14 season, 87% of first-time TV directors were white, and 82% of them were male. However bleak it may look on screen, in other corners of the arts world people are starting to take action. In December, Arts Council England announced an aggressive plan to engender diversity among its grantees – so aggressive that those who fail to meet the agency’s (as yet unspecified) standards risk losing their funding. This month, New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs announced an initiative to measure the diversity of the city’s cultural organizations on the staff and leadership side. While there’s no penalty (yet) for those who come up short in this case, the initiative is seen as the first step in developing a plan to address diversity more broadly. Back in LA, a coalition of Southern Californian theater companies, led by Tim Dang of the East West Players, has proposed an initiative that calls for at least 51% of those employed by SoCal theater companies by 2019 to be people of color, women or those younger than 35. Though the initiative has encountered some concern that it runs afoul of anti-discrimination laws, supporters argue that finally doing something about diversity necessitates starting somewhere.
FAA to Enforce Instrument Carry-On Legislation: In a big win for touring musicians, a full three years after congress formally ordered airlines to allow passengers to carry on their instruments without charging them additional fees, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finally taken action to implement these rules consistently across all airlines. There are caveats, of course: the instrument has to fit in the overhead bin (looks like tubas and upright basses are out of luck), and there has to be room in said bins for said instruments at the time one boards (no longer a given in the era of charging-for-checked-luggage.) Still, the rules are welcome news. They go into effect on March 6 – plenty of time to figure out your personal boarding-with-an-instrument game plan.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- ArtPride New Jersey has named Adam Perle as its new president & CEO. Ann Marie Miller, who has served ArtPride as executive director since 1995, will assume the new position of director of advocacy and public policy.
- Christa Blatchford is the new CEO of The Joan Mitchell Foundation.
- Sofia Klatzker will assume the role of executive director of Arts for LA in March.
- Detroit Institute of Arts director Graham Beal has announced he will formally retire when his contract ends in June, following an eventful sixteen-year tenure that culminated in securing the institution’s art collection from the bankrupt City of Detroit.
- After twelve years with the Ford Foundation, Roberta Uno is moving on to become the director of Arts in a Changing America, a new national project based at the California Institute of the Arts.
- Creative Scotland, the national body that supports the development of arts, screen and creative industries across Scotland, has appointed Richard Findlay as its new chair.
- China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress, has appointed Luo Shugang its new minister of culture.
- Julie Fry, program officer with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program since 2007, will join Cal Humanities, California’s statewide humanities council, as president and CEO. Fry’s old position has been posted as of January 6 with no closing date.
- TurnaroundArts California seeks a Program Coordinator. Posted January 6, no closing date.
- The Center for Effective Philanthropy is hiring a Research Analyst for its San Francisco office. Posted January 21; no closing date.
- National Endowment for the Arts is hiring for two positions: Theater and Music Director and Media Arts Director. Both are for two year terms with the possibility to extend. Posted January 29; deadline March 7.
- And across the pond, Creative Scotland seeks a Director of Creative Industries. Deadline February 8.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- The National Endowment for the Arts released three new studies last month looking at arts engagement and its economic impact in the United States. One study looks specifically at motivations for and barriers to arts attendance (and is the focus of Createquity’s recent Research Spotlight); a second study looks at public participation over twenty years (which reveals that three quarters of Americans use electronic media to view or listen to art); and the third looks at the cultural sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP. The reports touched off a flurry of responses, some which called out the NEA for suggesting insufficient next steps.
- Two reports from Wallace Foundation, “Road to Results,” and “Thriving Arts Organizations, Thriving Arts,” released this month look at effective strategies for developing arts audiences and plans for the foundation’s next phase of research and funding in this area.
- A recent survey of arts attendance in Hong Kong shows only modest growth, though interestingly, Xiqu, Chinese opera, shows the most dramatic increase.
- The Community Development Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco published a review of research and best practices in providing capital to low- and moderate-income communities through creative placemaking approaches.
- Local Initiatives Support Corporation released an evaluation of its own work in 63 communities nationwide, and suggests that the best strategy for improving low-income communities is long-term investment across multiple needs, such as affordable housing, safety, education, employment, and other basic services.
- An article in Urban Studies has found a wide (and concerning) gap in the definition and application of the term “gentrification” between the New York Times, census data and major academic studies over the past three decades.
- The OMG Center for Collaborative Learning released a report outlining eight strategies for facilitating diversity, equity, & inclusion among foundations, their grantees and the communities in which they work.
- A new report from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation looks at arts business training programs across the United States.
- A report from the Wyncote Foundation tracks how 40 legacy cultural organizations in the United States are successfully embracing digital media in their work.
- A recently released Independent Library Report for England, commissioned by the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, includes a series of recommendations for how libraries can attract a younger, digitally-savvy crowd.
- Two recent reports look at the effects of the arts on children. Northwestern University released a study that suggests that the cognitive benefits of music are most significant when children actively engage with music, and a study from the children’s book publisher Scholastic shows that being read aloud to as young child correlates strongly with being an avid reader later in life.
- Culture at Kings, the Cultural Institute at King’s College in London, released a review of arts education policy in the UK over the past seventy years, and urges policy makers to look more closely at lessons learned over time.
- A survey by the industry group Stage Directors UK found the average salary for UK directors is £10,000, less than half average national wage.
- And finally, a rather bizarre study out of DePaul University finds evidence to suggest that surrealist art is more emotionally reassuring than non-surrealist art to individuals contemplating their own mortality.