The picture of Detroit painted by the media often conveys a city in peril. Its dramatic story – the decline of the auto industry, population loss, high crime and drug-infested neighborhoods – has made the Motor City an easy target for sensational journalism and “ruin porn.” But the flip side of the tale is Detroit’s ongoing re-emergence from its 2014 Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history. Against this backdrop, mayor Mike Duggan has appointed journalist Aaron Foley as Detroit’s “chief storyteller,” the first position of its kind in the United States. Foley and other local journalists have noted that those who aren’t wallowing in Detroit’s past woes have made the mistake of overcompensating, painting the city as a beacon – a burgeoning, tech-savvy, foodie town saved by hipsters. The chief storyteller’s job is to redirect the media to stories that more fully capture the city’s complex soul, often with a tinge of self-deprecation and a focus on its more than 200 local neighborhoods in which some 80 percent of residents are African American. Getting in on the storytelling act, local museums are marking the 50-year anniversary of Detroit’s 1967 race riots with widely divergent exhibits, reflecting the complexities of a rebellion that erupted after three black men were beaten, shot, and killed by white police officers. On the silver screen, director Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit has been accused of taking undue creative license for political and marketing reasons in depicting the riots. Foley’s appointment comes at an auspicious time for Mayor Duggan, who is up for re-election in November and opposed by, among others, arts advocate Ingrid LaFleur, who announced her bid in February.
Murdoch Wins Some, Loses Some. New legislation introduced by Australia’s Liberal party would make it easier for the country’s big media conglomerates to get even bigger. The bill, expected before parliament this month and widely anticipated to pass, would likely most benefit media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of broadcasting giant 21st Century Fox as well as News Corporation, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of Australia’s newspaper circulation. If passed, the law would lift current restrictions on a single owner controlling both broadcast and print media outlets in a given market. Proponents see the bill as a way for Australian traditional media to compete with Internet titans like Google and Facebook; opponents point to the potential consolidation of power as a political move that favors the conservative, Murdoch-backed Liberal party. Meanwhile in the UK, Murdoch’s attempt to buy up the remaining 61% of Sky plc seems to have hit a wall, with Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley launching an investigation into whether Fox meets the country’s broadcasting standards.
Whose Art Is It, Anyway? Outcry from animal rights’ activists resulted in the Guggenheim pulling three works using live animals from an exhibition highlighting modern Chinese art. The museum cited safety as the primary reason for pulling the provocative artwork, which includes video depictions of pigs fornicating to an audience and dogs strapped on treadmills charging each other, citing “explicit and repeated threats of violence,” while artists and free speech advocates are blasting the museum’s choice to relent to the pressure. The Guggenheim episode comes just months after Minnesota’s Walker Art Center came under fire for displaying Sam Durant’s “Scaffold,” which depicted the site of a mass hanging of Native American warriors on land formerly held by the Dakota Indians. The pieces of the sculpture are set to be buried in a secret location determined by Dakota elders, but the museum is still dealing with the fallout. Museums are not the only institutions facing challenges from activists; in Berlin, a group of left-wing protesters occupied the Volksbühne Theater with the goal of converting it into a community-driven public theater.
New Museum Aims for Increased Representation of Africa – by Africa. The long-awaited Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa opened this month in Cape Town, South Africa. Housed in a 102,000-square-foot converted grain silo dating from 1912, the museum highlights contemporary art from Africa, and its diasporas, in an effort to reclaim the legacies of African countries and of Africans living in other countries throughout the world. It’s an approach that contrasts with another massive museum set to open in November: the Louvre Abu Dhabi – created through bilateral deals between France and United Arab Emirates – will feature 620 works from the national collection of Abu Dhabi; the other half will be works on loan from the Louvre in Paris. The international museum will host an eclectic blend of artifacts including Roman columns, Egyptian statues, nymphs commissioned for the Palace of Versailles, African figures, and Byzantine coins.
Declining Lottery Fund is Bad News for British Museums. Since 1994, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has played a key role in supporting capital campaigns that create new museums in the United Kingdom or maintain and refurbish existing ones. But the fund relies on sales of lottery tickets, which have steadily declined. The HLF has predicted a lottery contribution of £300 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year, down £85 million from 2015-16. The slump in sales is thought to be a result of a 25% increase to the cost of tickets combined with a change to the odds which sharply impacts players’ chances of winning. And it’s not just museums that rely on the lottery; funds also support artists, Olympic athletes, education, and other charitable causes. On the upside, Camelot, the company that operates the National Lottery, has pledged an in-depth review to explore ways to “re-engage players” after an 8.8% decline in sales from last year. The probe will be led by Nigel Railton, the CEO of Camelot Global and acting chief executive at Camelot UK after Andy Duncan stepped down in April.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS:
- Johnnetta Betsch Cole, recently retired director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, was named a senior consulting fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, from which president Earl Lewis announced he will step down in March 2018.
- Helen Gayle has been appointed president and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust.
- After a national search, Santa Cruz local Susan True has been named CEO of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.
- Kathy Halbreich, associate director of MoMA, has taken a new position as executive director at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
- Philip Horn, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, has announced his retirement.
- Houston Arts Alliance has named John Abodeely, who was acting executive director for the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities prior to the committee’s disbanding, as its new CEO.
- Peter Herrndorf will step down after nearly 20 years as the head of Canada’s National Arts Centre.
- Former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and current VP Patrick Gaspard will take over as acting president of Open Society Foundations.
- Judilee Reed, former director of Surdna Foundation in New York City, has been appointed to lead the Creative Communities Program at the William Penn Foundation.
- The Cincinnati Enquirer has laid off its sole arts critic, Janelle Gelfand.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE:
- Visual Capitalist used data from the University of Oxford to create a chart outlining how many jobs will eventually give way to automation. Fields requiring social skills and creativity at at the least risk, while entry-level jobs face a great probability of automation.
- Spektrix used data from its pool of more than 300 arts organizations to look for trends in marketing, sales and fundraising in the UK and Ireland.
- The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking has released the Commission’s final report and recommendations in a free download on “how to increase the availability and use of data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality.”
- Philanthropy is on the rise among Chinese and Chinese-American donors, according to a report by the Global Chinese Philanthropy Initiative.
- A report from GuideStar indicates that nonprofit CEO compensation has nearly recovered from the recession, but a gender gap remains.
- The transportation sector takes a look at challenges in creative placemaking, and identifies ways to participate in a new report called Arts, Culture and Transportation: A Creative Placemaking Field Scan.
- While conducting research for her a book, on tax incentives, Sigrid Hemels uncovered information about free ports, where art can be stored – sometimes indefinitely – tax-free.
- A new paper outlines potential consequences resulting from reductions to arts education.
- Belgian researchers say blindness creates “empty real estate” in the brain’s visual areas, which could be taken up for use by language.
- Different cultures have varied numbers of words for colors. Scientists say that people developed words for the things they most wanted to talk about, using colors as descriptive terms.
- A report from the National Endowment for the Arts supports the large body of evidence suggesting arts participation (making and doing) among older adults leads to better health outcomes.
- The first of a series of reports connecting heritage and cultural practice to well-being is a case-study on issues affecting the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.
- A report ranking European countries on cultural engagement and creativity gives Edinburgh the top spot for cities of a similar size.
- The first installment of the “Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations” has been released, investigating barriers and opportunities for arts groups in civic engagement.
- A report commissioned by the Wallace Foundation indicates that forming partnerships is a successful strategy for nonprofits to increase their impact and effectiveness.
- Data analysis by IMPACTS shows that time is more valuable than money when it comes to visiting cultural organizations.
- A Nesta literature review yields four key findings on the integration of digital technology in the arts.
- The U.K.-based Creative People and Places has published a comprehensive report on the approaches, methods and models aimed at evaluating the agencies programs and developed over a three-year period.
- An article published by Journal of Cultural Economics reveals that cultural heritage can play a role in determining where highly skilled individuals live.
- An Ofcom report warns British TV broadcasters they are “failing to represent society” through lack of representation from women, ethnic minorities, and differently abled people.
- A report commissioned by the E.U couldn’t establish a link between piracy and displaced sales of copyrighted film, literature, or video game content, with the exception of recently released top films.
- A recent study argues that foundation-funded nonprofit publications are not the answer to the decline of commercial journalism.
- Publishers are claiming that the Trump era has shifted Americans’ reading habits, but a new HuffPost/YouGov poll suggests otherwise.
- New data from publishers suggests audiobooks are here to stay.
- American Theatre selected the top 10 most-produced plays and top 20 most-produced playwrights for the 2017-18 Season.
- According to a TripAdvisor survey of museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the world’s favorite, capping the site’s top 25.
- Some new research suggests the public still favors artwork created by humans over robot-generated works, ranking those they perceived as computer-generated to be less visually appealing.
- Medical students at the University of Philadelphia who interacted with visual art improved their observational skills.
- An RBC survey confirms substantial losses in paid cable TV, and indicates that the trend is likely to accelerate.
- Pianist and scientist Elaine Chew is creating music made from ECG data, hoping to understanding to patients with arrhythmia diagnoses.
- Austrian researchers are testing technology that facilitates direct brain-to-page music composition.
- Music lessons assist with cognition and decision making, but a new study suggests the effects are greater for those who started training after age 8.
- Classical music is believed to stimulate creativity; a new study points specifically to the baroque era.
- A research study headed by the University of Vienna unveiled “the Bach effect,” which claims that playing classical music in the background can result in women finding men more attractive. BBC Music Magazine recommends Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, voted the greatest opera of all time by a pool of 172 opera singers.
- New York University discovered some unique musical preferences that are common among individuals with high psychopath scores. So, it’s good news for you if you like “My Sharona” and Sia’s “Titanium,” which were least likely to be favored by psychopaths.