Income inequality, slow economic growth and wage stagnation have been hot button issues in recent years. Last month, the Obama administration did something significant about the latter, announcing an updated overtime rule that would make millions more eligible for overtime pay. Effective December 1, 2016, the new rule doubles the salary threshold—from $23,660 to $47,476 per year—under which most salaried workers are guaranteed overtime. The rule is expected to affect some 4.2 million workers, though whether it will benefit these workers (through increased wages) or possibly harm some of them (through lower base salaries and reduced benefits) remains to be seen. The implications for industry, however, are likely to be dramatic no matter what, especially for firms like publishing, fashion, media, consulting and yes, nonprofit arts organizations that have long relied on the willingness of young, ambitious employees to work long hours for little pay in exchange for a shot at the big time down the line. The shift might not be such a bad thing for the arts more generally, however. If nonprofits and businesses have less incentive to overwork low-paid employees, those employees will likely have more time for leisure activities, which could lead to a (further) boom in amateur arts participation and entrepreneurial arts ventures once this rule goes into effect.
Brazil Dumps, Then Reinstates its Cultural Ministry. Brazil has become a familiar character in the twenty-four hour news cycle in recent months, what with the impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff and a faltering economy, along with concerns about the zika virus in light of the upcoming Olympics (which is plagued with its own corruption and other scandals). The cultural sector had its fair share of drama this month after interim president Michel Temer, who replaced Rousseff in what many are calling a coup, announced a plan to subsume the Brazilian cultural ministry into the education ministry on May 12 as part of a broader effort to streamline the government. The plan immediately met with fierce opposition from Brazil’s cultural community. Artists staged occupations of government buildings across 11 cities and even music legends Erasmo Carlos and Caetano Veloso lent their support, giving a concert at a Rio de Janeiro protest on May 20. The pressure clearly worked; many credit artists with Temer’s reversal.
LISC Tries a New Model to Fight Gentrification. Adaptive reuse of abandoned spaces has long been a tried-and-true move in creative placemaking playbook, but concern has been growing about the gentrification effects of such policies in an era of increasing income inequality. The Local Initiatives Support Corp., a national nonprofit organization that has been investing in neighborhoods since 1982, has decided to try something different, committing $50 million to help prevent the gentrification many fear will be a byproduct of the redevelopment of Washington, DC’s 11th Street Bridge. The new park development along the Anacostia River–which has been likened to New York City’s High Line–is expected to increase adjacent property values, pricing out poorer residents who have long called the area home. LISC funding will support groups providing affordable housing, early childhood education, medical care, food support, arts education and other services near park site, in an attempt to preemptively ensure that poorer residents are able to remain in their communities. The park is slated to open in mid-2019, but LISC says it is committed to the project and to the price tag no matter the timeline.
Big Shifts in British Public Broadcasting. Last August, we reported on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC’s) financial struggles–compounded by a trend towards internet media consumption–and noted that the government had appointed a committee to review the BBC’s Royal Charter. That charter expires at the end of 2017, and all agree the 94-year old company finds itself at a critical juncture. Much has changed in the decade since its charter was last renewed, and the BBC–which receives an outsize £5 billion in licensing fees, commercial and other income–is under close scrutiny. This month, culture secretary John Whittingdal unveiled the government’s plans for the BBC in a white paper. The main takeaways? An emphasis on greater transparency and fiscal responsibility, and a new board with government appointees (which some critics worry compromises the BBC’s journalistic independence from the government). The white paper also notes that it “welcomes the BBC’s commitment to develop and test some form of additional subscription services,” giving the corporation the green light to launch a Netflix-like paid subscription service. The uncertainty facing the BBC comes as the UK’s state-owned, commercially funded broadcaster Channel 4 held off a threat to sell off the government’s stake to the highest bidder, which was called off after outcry from channel representatives and the wider public. In many ways the BBC and Channel 4 will serve as a harbinger of other government-sponsored news organizations’ fates in the digital economy.
Kresge Pairs Health and Art & Culture Programs for Neighborhood Revitalization. Food and culture have always been closely aligned; this month, the Kresge Foundation took that relationship a few daring steps further by pairing up its Arts & Culture and Health Programs to launch Fresh, Local & Equitable: Food as a Creative Platform for Neighborhood Revitalization, or, FreshLo. This unprecedented program, which aims to strengthen economic vitality, cultural expression and health in low-income communities, will distribute nearly $2 million in grant funding in support of neighborhood-scale projects demonstrating creative, cross-sector visions of food-oriented development. The foundation seems to be onto something with the food+art thing: more than 500 organizations applied for FreshLo funding, and Kresge ultimately decided to fund six more grants than initially planned. Though the Kresge Foundation has a long history of tackling food deserts, this is the first time a national funder has intentionally integrated food, art and community to drive neighborhood revitalization at this scale.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- Melanca Clark has been named president and CEO of the Hudson-Webber Foundation.
- Loren Harris has been appointed Vice President of Programs at the Nathan Cummings Foundation.
- Susan Delvalle has been named president and executive director of Creative Capital.
- Shannon Daut is the new Cultural Affairs Manager of the City of Santa Monica Community and Cultural Services Department.
- The Field Foundation of Illinois has appointed former Joyce Foundation culture director Angelique Power its new President.
- After a decade working with the Future of Music Coalition, CEO Casey Rae leaving to become SiriusXM’s director of music licensing.
- After seventeen years with The Association of Independent Music, Alison Denham is taking on a new, global role at Worldwide Independent Network.
- Artstor President James Schulman has joined the Mellon Foundation as a Senior Fellow in Residence at the Mellon Foundation.
- Acclaimed music and culture writer Sasha Frere-Jones has abruptly exited the L.A. Times after less than a year at the paper due to “ethical issues.”
- Local Initiatives Support Corporation seeks a Program Officer. Posted May 6; no closing date.
- Slover Linett Audience Research seeks a Vice President. Posted May 12; no closing date.
- Arts Consulting Group, Inc. seeks an Associate Vice President. Posted May 26; no closing date.
- Nina Simon’s Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History is hiring a Director of Development and Community Relations. No closing date.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- Out west, a survey commissioned by the Oregon Community Foundation and the Oregon Arts Commission provides a snapshot of the state of arts education in Oregon. In Boston, the Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion released a case study on the successes of its work. And across the pond, a UK study reveals deep concerns about the future of arts education among those in the theater industry.
- A report from Lifetime Arts looks at arts education for the aging in America’s libraries.
- Diversity continues to dominate conversation the field. The Americans for Arts and National Endowment for the Arts (following up on the former’s cultural equity statement) released the results of their 2015 Local Arts Agency Census, revealing that taken a whole, the field could do a much better job of diversifying board and staffs. The website CNTRST calculated the total percentage of ‘whiteness’ in mainstream films, and found that white men take up twice as much space on the silver screen than they do in real life. A study commissioned by the professional association Directors UK shows that women make up just 13.6% of film directors in the UK; a percentage that has barely changed in the past decade. In more encouraging news, a study released by Asian American Performers Action Coalition show gains for minority actors in New York City: in the 2014-15 season, 30% of theater roles in NYC went to black, Latino and Asian-Americans. Related, Richard Florida shared the results of his research on the racial divide within the already-advantaged creative class.
- A new evaluation assesses the successes and impact of the New York Community Trust’s Edward and Sally Van Lier Fellowship over 25 years.
- Two interesting papers from Bridgespan this month. The first finds that funders’ reluctance to fully fund overhead costs prevents many nonprofits from maximizing their impact. The second argues that billion-dollar philanthropic investments in key areas could improve social mobility and revive “the American dream” for low-income families.
- A report on the first three years of the Taking Part survey’s longitudinal study (which has been conducting annual interviews about arts engagement with a group of 4,600 adults in England) reveals statistics on who attends the arts most often and why people stop engaging.
- A study commissioned by Intermedia Arts assesses the demand and availability of arts-based community development training and investigate how the benefits of Intermedia Arts’ Creative Community Leadership Institute could be made accessible for a broader range of communities.
- A report from the February 2016 Salzburg Global Seminar looks the role of the arts in advancing environmental sustainability.
- A study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences suggests that creative individuals share more personality traits with psychopaths than their less creative peers do.
- A report from the UK calls for stricter rules for primary ticket selling sites, rather than harsher punishments for secondary sites. And it turns out, according to a survey of 18,000 people in 15 countries, that Shakespeare is far more popular in Brazil, India, China, Mexico and Turkey than he is in the UK.