Britain stunned the world last month when it voted to leave the European Union, some forty-three years after first joining the now 27-nation bloc. The move sent shock waves throughout the world, sending global markets plummeting (media stocks in particular fared poorly), spurring concerns about trade, immigration, alliances, and security, and raising questions about freedom and identity in our interconnected times (not to mention destroying many a political career in the aftermath). Though the details of the “divorce” will take time to settle, its impact on the arts is sure to be significant. Many artists are angry and dismayed, especially given how the arts were firmly in the Remain camp prior to the vote. In May, some 300 British cultural luminaries across several creative industries signed a letter of support to keep Britain in the European Union. Damien Hirst deployed his signature butterflies against Brexit on Instagram. A survey of artists and arts leaders by The Guardian found an overwhelming majority were against the UK leaving Europe. Another survey, conducted by the Creative Industries Federation, found that 96% of its members backed Remain. Now, these same artists and arts leaders are calling for their institutions to continue to nurture relationships with their European colleagues, as concerns grow over the potential loss of free movement of labor (due to increased restrictions on artist and travel visas), loss of access to EU arts funding (which is currently quite significant), the real possibility funding cuts should Britain face a recession (and related, the loss of wealthy art collectors, with this week’s art auctions already feeling the chill), and less tangible but just as important, the spirit of collaboration and collective identity that informs much work across borders. It’s all hands on deck: the British Council released a statement saying it will continue to work with its EU colleagues to “create opportunities, build connections and engender trust,” and the Creative Industries Federation and the National Campaign for the Arts have pledged to support and safeguard the arts sector as the UK negotiates its exit from the European Union.
Gun Violence Sweeps Up the Arts. Two singers were assassinated last month for their art. On June 11, Christina Grimmie, the 22-year-old finalist on “The Voice,” was fatally shot at close range while signing autographs after performing at a concert in Orlando. Police say the killer’s motive stemmed from fan obsession. Ten days later, Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s most famous and respected musicians, was shot and killed by by Taliban gunmen in Karachi. Sabri was considered one of the leading performers of Qawwalis, a Sufi tradition dating back to the 13th century criticized by religious conservatives who shun all forms of music. A faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. And while the June 12 massacre that killed 49 and injured 53 at Pulse, a gay nightclub also in Orlando, might not immediately seem like an arts story, the victims had been at Pulse to dance together at its popular “Upscale Latin Saturdays” party. There have been other attacks in recent weeks–Baghdad, Istanbul, Bangladesh–all horrific. These three, however, coming on the heels of Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan, illustrate how the arts are increasingly becoming enmeshed in the broader debates about gun violence and terrorism around the world, with artists and audiences becoming explicit targets for killers.
The One Hundred Million Dollar Question. Last August, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s newly appointed president Julia Stasch announced a major overhaul of the foundation’s funding strategy, moving from small grants to “big bets” in an effort to better catalyze transformative change. This month, Stasch bet (really) big, announcing 100&Change, a competition for a single, $100 million dollar grant to a nonprofit or for-profit entity that offers the best idea for real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time. It’s a risky move for a foundation to invest so many resources into essentially an unknown quantity, and the strategy has spurred a hearty debate. Still, the two-year, three-stage application process is thoughtfully structured, and includes aid to ensure that nonprofits with big ideas but not enough resources to immediately absorb a $100 million grant can still participate. What’s more, the foundation is betting on others joining the charge: the application process will be transparent, in the hopes that proposals that do not win the MacArthur award might still attract backing or other forms of support.
Virtual Reality Gets Real. The arts have often turned to technology to enhance the experience of existing and new live performance (cue the Los Angeles Philharmonic virtual reality tour last October.) This month, London’s National Theatre upped the ante when it announced the launch of a new “Immersive Storytelling Studio” that will commission new work specifically to be experienced through virtual reality or 360 technologies. Its first project, HOME: AAMIR, tells the story of a refugee living at the Calais migrant camp and is set to premiere at the Sheffield Doc/Fest later this year. Commissioning is just the beginning: as part of the new initiative, the National Theatre will also partner with the National Film Board Canada, one of the world’s leading documentary, animation and interactive producers, on a research and development lab for non-fiction VR. Between new initiatives such as this, the New York Times experiments with Google Cardboard, and the buzz that VR experiences stole the show at Sundance this February, it’s looking more and more like virtual reality could radically change how stories are told, with significant implications for theater, Hollywood, journalism, and more.
Hamilton for a Hamilton. In February, the Rockefeller Foundation announced a $1.46 million grant to provide some 20,000 NYC public school 11th grade students with tickets to a certain award-winning Broadway musical for the price of a single Hamilton (ahem, $10), and to integrate the show into classroom studies. Last month, the foundation quadrupled this commitment, adding an addition $6 million to expand the program to LA, Chicago and other cities where the musical plans to tour. Rockefeller president Judith Rodin, who announced this month she will step down from her position once a replacement is identified, has called the Hamilton partnership “one of the foundation’s most impactful.” Unfortunately for the rest of us, however, our Hamilton-seeing prospects are looking slim. You’d need to add two zeros to that $10 price tag to get to the average price resellers have been able to command for tickets in recent months, even though creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the end of ticket bots, the musical’s producers have taken measures to limit resellers, and the New York State Assembly passed legislation to criminalize companies that use the illegal automated ticketing software known as “ticket bots.” Hamilton producers themselves have raised 2017 ticket prices to as much as $849 a pop (some argue they’d be better off employing dynamic pricing instead). Still, there’s hope: the online video service BroadwayHD, billed the Netflix of Broadway, is testing out the idea of live streaming a Broadway show–for $10 a view.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- After nearly twelve years, Judith Rodin, the first female president of The Rockefeller Foundation, has announced her decision to depart the institution once a new president takes office.
- Robert Smith has been appointed chairman of Carnegie Hall. He is the first African-American to hold the position in the Hall’s history.
- The Alliance of Artists Communities has named Lisa Hoffman its next Executive Director. She succeeds former Caitlin Strokosch who led the Alliance for nearly a decade.
- Maurice Jones, Virginia’s commerce secretary & former HUD official, has been named president & CEO of LISC.
- Kyle Peterson has been appointed executive director of the Walton Family Foundation.
- Theresa Sweetland has been named executive director of Forecast Public Art.
- Jessica Solomon has assumed the role of Interim Director of Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District, Inc. in Downtown Baltimore.
- Two arts critics had their jobs eliminated this month: Timothy Mangan from the Orange County Register and Jeremy Gerard from Deadline.com.
- The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies is recruiting a Research Associate. No closing date, though it is recommended to apply by July 1.
- The Kresge Foundation is hiring a Senior Program Officer. Posted on June 15; closing date July 10.
- The Hauser Institute for Civil Society at the Harvard Kennedy School seeks a Program/Research Assistant, Global Philanthropy. Posted June 17; no closing date.
- The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is hiring a Cultural Plan Coordinator and a Special Projects Manager. Posted on June 1; closing date July 31.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- Two studies from the UK this month looked to arts and accessibility. The first, on outdoor arts, finds that outdoor arts consistently attract an audience that is representative of the population as a whole. The second suggests that live cinema events can act as a gateway to arts performances with less populist appeal.
- Two reports this month looked at creativity. In the first, more than 800 individuals across eight countries were interviewed in an attempt to understand what creativity looks like across countries and cultures. The second, produced by a campaign group of 64 million artists with funding from Arts Council England, calls for the council to create a new small grants fund to ensure ‘everyday creativity’ is embedded across society. Related, a small scale study found that making art–even for just a few minutes each day–reduces stress levels.
- A report published by UK Music looks at the significant impact of live music and music tourism on the UK economy.
- A review of incoming college students in the UK finds a significant drop in those studying arts subjects, with design and technology the most affected.
- New research published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, suggests that art appreciation isn’t necessarily a matter of individual taste.
- A review of 686 institutional libraries across the world forecasts growth across the sector, with a particular increase in the use of electronic resources.
- A new paper looks at the role of the National Endowment for the Arts in shaping the arts and cultural sector.
- A report from Transparify finds that think tanks, advocacy groups, and foundations around the world are becoming more transparent about their funding sources.
- The US Department of Justice published a literature review this month of research on the impact of arts-based programs and arts therapies for at risk youth.
- The National Endowment for the Arts published a summary this month of their Arts Readiness and Resilience Convening.
- New research from the Luxembourg School of Finance of the University of Luxembourg finds returns of fine art have been significantly overestimated.
- Not just the 1%: research published this month by economist Stephen Rose of the Urban Institute finds that the upper middle class in the U.S. is larger and richer than it’s ever been.
- In a helpful move for further new research, ArtsWave launched Arts Atlas this month, an online tool that integrates data on arts organizations and their programming with community demographic data.
- And further afield, a report out of Morocco highlights the important role that the creative economy plays in that country.