As part of its 50th anniversary, the National Endowment for the Arts has launched Creativity Connects, a threefold leadership initiative designed to show “how the arts contribute to the nation’s creative ecosystem, investigate the ways in which the support systems for the artists are changing, and explore how the arts can connect with other sectors that want and utilize creativity.” As part of Creativity Connects, the Center for Cultural Innovation and Helicon Collaborative are working on an infrastructure report that will examine the changes artists have experienced in the last decade and how to strengthen the landscape of support. The initiative will also produce an interactive digital graphic that maps how the arts intersects with other industries. Finally, the NEA has set up a pilot grant program to support partnerships with organizations from outside the arts. Creativity Connects is likely to be the major contribution of Jane Chu’s term as Chairman as the nation prepares for a change of administrations next year. To get involved, join the conversation at creativz.us, a new online platform to house the initiative that is currently making a push to ask what artists in the United States need to sustain and strengthen their careers. (If you’re feeling in the survey-taking or -distributing mood, the Mellon Foundation also has a survey out seeking “a better understanding of the current health and well-being among artists living and working in the United States.”)
New directions for the Barr Foundation. In May 2014, Jim Canales, former president and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation in California, moved East to join Boston’s Barr Foundation as its first ever president. Canales was tasked with developing a new strategic direction of the foundation, which was established in 1987 by Amos and Barbara Hostetter and is the largest funder in Boston, having given out some $710 million to date. Earlier this year, the foundation announced its new strategy, which doesn’t look like much of a departure on the surface: Barr remains committed to its three core issue areas—education, arts, and climate change, and plans to continue its concentration on the Boston area. At the edges, however, the signs of a funder that has vastly increased the scope of its ambition are apparent. With a fast-growing endowment and staff, Barr plans to increase its regional funding presence throughout Massachusetts and even make targeted grants nationally. Under the leadership of San San Wong, the foundation’s renamed Arts & Creativity program has been given a sharper focus, that of “elevating the arts and enabling creative expression to engage and inspire a dynamic, thriving Commonwealth.“ The foundation plans to pursue this goal through three strategies: advancing the field’s capacity to adapt, take risks, and engage changing audiences in new ways; fostering opportunities to connect the arts to other disciplines and sectors; and activating public support for the arts. The Barr Foundation is at the forefront of an exciting period of growth for the arts in Boston, what with Mayor Walsh’s Boston Creates, the Barr Klarman Arts Capacity Building Initiative, ArtPlace America initiatives and a new artist-in-residence program announced this month which will embed local artists inside city departments to promote creative thinking about municipal government.
Cannes and Ford Foundation tackle inequity. The Cannes Film Market, the business counterpart of the Cannes Film Festival launched in 1959, and the Ford Foundation’s five-year old JustFilms, a film financing, social awareness and education program, announced a two-year partnership this month to boost the profile, market networking and distribution of social justice documentary features at Cannes. The partnership will play out in several ways. First, Cannes Film Market’s “Doc Corner” will be significantly scaled up for the upcoming May 2016 festival, and both parties will increase their efforts to bring docu filmmakers, especially those from the world’s global south, to Cannes. Second, for the first time ever, Cannes Film Festival marquee events will focus on the docu-feature sector. For Cannes, this partnership is yet another example of the festival’s diversifying its offerings. For Ford, which announced last year that it would direct all of its resources to curbing global inequity, the partnership is a significant step towards this goal, and a logical next step for JustFilms, which has already supported some 80 films since its inception.
A Bechdel Test for race? In the years since Alison Bechdel coined the Bechdel-Wallace test in a 1985 comic strip from her comic Dykes to Watch Out For, “The Test” has become a yardstick for measuring gender equality in a work of fiction. For a work to pass, it must 1) have at least two women in it, who 2) talk to each other, about 3) something other than a man. (Some add that the female characters need be named.) Although some argue that the test is too simple to accurately assess gender parity, its widespread adoption is important. Having a quantitative metric for narrative diversity has proven useful, especially when so many works fail the test. This month, Manohla Dargis, chief film critic for The New York Times, took the Bechdel test one step further, proposing what she calls the “DuVernay test,” in honor of Ava DuVernay, the celebrated director of Selma. The racial analogue to the Bechdel test, the DuVernay test seeks to offer a simple, widely-applicable metric for examining the way we treat characters of color in film and media. While the proposal might need some further definition (Dargis’s metric of “fully realized lives” is quite a bit harder to implement in practice than Bechdel’s simple checklist), the idea has been well received, including by DuVernay herself. Though it has yet to be applied extensively, at least one channel is set up to pass with flying colors: the All Nations Network—a cable channel featuring TV programming created for and by native peoples–is set to launch soon in the United States.
And the nominee (for Librarian of Congress) is…President Obama nominated Carla Hayden to be the next Librarian of Congress this month. If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Hayden would be the 14th Librarian of Congress in the institution’s 214-year history. She would also be the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position, milestones that Obama has called “long overdue.” Hayden, who has led the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore since 1993, would also be just the third professional librarian to serve in the position. Hayden would succeed James Billington, who was appointed by President Reagan and served as Librarian of Congress for nearly three decades. Billington stepped down from his post on January 1 of this year amid criticism of library mismanagement and “digital neglect”. In response, last year President Obama signed into a law a ten year term limit for Librarians of Congress–though there is the option for renewal. The next Librarian of Congress will assume some serious responsibility, such as modernizing the Library’s digital infrastructure, and in her position overseeing the Copyright Office, could significantly shift the copyright conversation.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- Channing Dungey has been named president of ABC Entertainment Group, becoming the first African American to lead a major broadcast network.
- Betsy Fader, a leader in the philanthropic and social enterprise sectors, has been named Vice President of Programs at the Surdna Foundation.
- Dan Cardinali, currently president of Communities in Schools, has been appointed CEO of Independent Sector, a coalition of charities and foundations.
- In a surprise cabinet reshuffle, Audrey Azoulay, currently President François Hollande’s cultural advisor, has replaced Fleur Pellerin as France’s culture minister.
- Kelly Lee has been appointed Philadelphia’s Chief Cultural Officer, joining an office that was re-established by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2008.
- After working at Creative Time for eight years, Katie Hollander has been promoted to Executive Director.
- Lisa Lucas has been named executive director of the National Book Foundation.
- Two long-serving vice presidents were promoted at Slover Linett this month. Sarah Lee has been named president, taking over from the firm’s founder, Cheryl Slover-Linett, and Chloe Chittick Patton has been named chief operating officer, a newly created position.
- Malcolm White, who was executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission from 2005-2012, will return as executive director this year after three years as the state’s tourism chief.
- Gimlet Media is hiring an Associate Producer, Family History Show. Posted February 16; no closing date.
- Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is hiring a Center Specialist in the visual arts. Posted February 24; no closing date.
- DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project) is hiring a Senior Research Advisor. No closing date.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- In light of this month’s contested Academy Awards, two new studies shed some light on the issue of diversity in the film industry. While a review from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found a significant rise in the number of women featured as protagonists in films in 2015, a wide-ranging study from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism gave a failing diversity grade to every movie studio and most TV makers.
- Several reports out this month looked at philanthropic trends. One study looked at 24 countries and found there is no significant correlation between charitable giving, levels of taxation & government spending within a given country. Another report from the Atlas of Giving found that US charitable giving increased 4.6% in 2015, and is expected to grow 2.6% in 2016. A third suggested that US nonprofits missed out on some $6.5 billion due to mobile incompatibility in 2015. Related, a report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy finds that grantees think information about the substance of a foundation’s work is more important than disclosures about its finances or governance.
- “Art Under Threat,” released this month by Freemuse, shows that wordlwide attacks on artistic freedom almost doubled in 2015, and that most attacks were either politically or religiously motivated.
- Research out of Johns Hopkins University suggests that it’s not how much your practice, but how you practice that makes all the difference.
- The National Endowment for the Arts brought seventy experts together to talk about the role of the arts in healthy aging.
- The US and Britain released several studies looking at the economic impact of the arts. One study conducted a detailed empirical examination of the connection between arts organizations and key measures of neighborhood diversity and economic advantage or disadvantage in NYC. Britain commissioned a study of the arts’ contributions to the national GDP. And looking ahead, beginning on 2016, the US Dept of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis will being to “produce statistics showing the role of arts and culture in the economies of all 50 states.” Related, a report out of Australia finds that producers struggle to find affordable venues as the Sydney’s expensive theaters remain underutilized, and a report from England found that London organizations receive almost twice as much arts funding as the rest of England combined, despite accounting for just a third of the country’s cultural offering.
- Researcher Orian Brook looked at the extent to which living near a cultural venue influences whether or not one attends, and found that indeed, proximity was very strongly positively associated with the likelihood of attendance.
- How happy is your state? A report released this month by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranks wellbeing in the USA by state.