Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for the ‘Interesting Articles’ Category

Is this a joke?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Current Events, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Interesting Articles, Outside Your Comfort Zone on September 22, 2009 at 10:16 am

I have read and re-read these two blog posts- one by ultra conservative art critic, Roger Kimball, and the other written by film maker, Patrick Courrielche, about The NEA working closely with the White House. I simply don’t understand what the hoopla is all about? What? Our government IS NOT ALLOWED to try and become more innovative and actual effectuate change in the country as a result?

NO. We can’t have that!

What’s so wrong with having an agenda? What’s wrong with the arts being vehicles for additional reflection on an issue, revealing deeper meaning to key messaging and shedding a bright light on agendas? That’s not ‘Partisan’ or ‘Socialism.’ That’s passion.

WHO IN LIFE DOES NOT HAVE AN AGENDA? Agenda’s are a part of life- they run our meetings efficiently and they allow us to know where someone stands. Can’t we learn to WORK TOGETHER with all our agenda’s? Can’t we learn how to compromise and appreciate different points of view? Does it all have to be about conquering and overpowering? What about sharing ideas and leveraging combined strengths ethically to create a truly awe inspiring win-win?

Where is the open mindedness this country needs to utilize the power of the arts in new ways going to come from? It is going to take a village…… Who is going to build that bridge to the White House? Could it be you and me?

Sit down and let these two reads strengthen your resolve and faith in just how innovative the arts really CAN BE- RIGHT NOW. President Obama gets it. There IS Hope and it DOES float.

Remember the rules that apply to true revolutionary change: Step #1 dismiss it, ignore it, turn your back on it, Step #2 rebel violently against it (I think these articles reflect this point of view- and how) Step #3 Fully embrace the change and accept it as if it were the standard and expected all along.

As I see it– this is really good news. The call to the battle field has rung. We are in the beginning of Step #2.

So, will you join me on this battle field and support Innovating Through Artistry?

For God’s Sake– please won’t you join me and help me?

I have a box of home made machetes if you prefer to imagine our joint combined efforts more akin to beating back the bushes together discovering what happens when we use our imaginations to help others deepen their own– its amazing but they usually become more of who they are and hopefully more tolerant and open minded. Pigs really can fly. Minds and hearts can open and change. Peace can be reached. Interdisciplinary collaboration is our future. Our economic life-line is arriving- its finally almost here…. but not without you. I need you to join me- actively.

What can you do to start a dialogue with your village- your army of friends, fans and family, about ETA’s point of view? What’s your ETA to Entrepreneur The Arts? Are you ready to serve and discover how you too can make a difference? And YES, THIS IS MY AGENDA! Someone, please tell me what is wrong with it? I am trying to create a win-win-win-win-win….. and another win. There ARE ways to do this. Business as Art, Government as Art and The University as Art do mix- this combination offers loads of feature and benefits for artists to deliver, just like the taste of oil mixed with vinegar does. But all this starts with you sharing a vision– one that will help the world find a new way to perceive and utilize the strengths of your gifts.

Explosive New Audio Reveals White House Using NEA to Push Partisian Agenda written by Patrick Courrielche. Patrick Courrielche is a filmmaker, marketer, and art community consultant based in Los Angeles.

And also from the ULTRA conservative U.S. art critic and social commentator, Roger Kimball. National Endowment for the Arts Renamed National Endowment for Propaganda. Stay Tuned. “This is Only the Beginning.

The Grass is Always Greener (for making green)

In Author: Melissa Snoza, BOOKS: Learn and Grow, Interesting Articles, Legal, Marketing, Money on September 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm

First, a big thanks to fellow ETA blogger David Cutler for featuring Fifth House Ensemble in his new book, the Savvy Musician, advance copies of which are available on his website prior to the full release in November. If you’ve been reading his posts, you know that David brings an incredible energy to the concept of being a working, entrepreneurial musician, and his book is sure to be a great resource all of us who are working to create new opportunities in the field.

In an article published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, David’s mention of 5HE’s dual business model was mentioned. When we formed in 2005, we created both a 501(c)3 nonprofit (Fifth House Ensemble) and an LLC for our private events business (Amarante Ensembles, LLC). Same folks, different purpose.

As a young group, we knew we wanted to provide a wide variety of services, including those that would serve the public good (performances, educational programs), as well as those that would help to keep us fed (weddings, private events). We formed both businesses at the same time in order to be able to keep these activities separate financially, and in order to be able to market them in completely different ways.

Since the article was published, I’ve been getting many inquiries from arts organizations both established and emerging about how and why we did this, wondering if the same model would work for them. Interestingly, in most cases the concern is less about the types of services being provided and the best business structure to manage them, and more about how to raise the most money in the shortest amount of time. Inevitably, those who began as a for-profit think that they will raise more from donated funds as a non-profit, and vice-versa.

My first question is always, “why do you want to do this?” A business structure is about the most effective way to manage the types of services you want to offer, so you have to consider what is a good fit for your goals, not just your bank statement.

If you are a performing arts organization that is committed to work in the public schools and bringing performances to underserved audiences, changing from not-for-profit to an LLC will not help you raise funds from venture capitalists, unless something changes about the services you offer. What will you tell them about their return on investment? And do the people you are serving have the resources to pay big bucks for what you do?

Conversely, if you are a for-profit company that has been successful selling tickets to shows, merchandise, and DVDs, and you are attracted to the extra money you think you will bring in as a non-profit but loathe paperwork, is switching to 501(c)3 status really a good fit? Given that you don’t want to be the one to do grantwriting, annual reporting, financial management worthy of public scrutiny, board agendas, and all of the other tasks that go into managing a nonprofit, you may end up paying staff a large part of the added revenue you would see from changing structures.

The only real reason to have a split structure (in my opinion) is if you have services that are distinctly different enough to warrant that. If there is overlap, not only is the purpose for your choice not clear, but you also risk running afoul of the IRS. I remember fondly the conversation I had with Mr. Botkins, the IRS agent who reviewed our 501(c)3 application, about how we had created these two entities for the sole PURPOSE of keeping for- and non-profit activities separate. The IRS doesn’t like seeing for- and non-profit organizations to be connected in any way, via common control (similar officers/managers), contracts, or other financial arrangements.

Know yourself, the type of work you want to do, your tolerance for paperwork, and the types of people you want to serve. Be realistic about how much you have the potential to earn or raise. If the structure you are considering isn’t a good fit for your services, don’t be tempted to follow what you perceive to be the greener pasture, or you may certainly find yourself out in the cold. The best way to get more green is to make sure that what you do is serving the people around you in the best possible way, which will inspire customers to pay for your work, or donors to support its creation.

Melissa is the flutist and Executive Director of the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble. Like what you read here? For more music entrepreneurship tidbits, visit www.playingclosetothebridge.wordpress.com, brought to you by members of 5HE.

The Arts and Creativity in Business

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Interesting Articles, The Idea, Writing on May 29, 2009 at 7:49 am

Fast Company just released their 100 most creative people in business list. What can we learn about the arts and creativity in business from this list? Here are a few things I learned:

Out of 100 individuals selected 22 artists ( or those from what is considered classic artistic disciplines) made the list– leaving the remaining 78 of the most creative people in business working very creatively without artistry. While the arts are often thought of as being highly creative, artists represent only 26% of Fast Company’s top 50 and 22% of the entire list. What does this say about the arts and its role in business? Are we not creative enough to impact business or are we not trained and skilled enough in the areas of business to make an impact?

Of the 26% in the top 50, all of these artists have developed a multi disciplinary approach to their art, using more than one artistic skill set, while intertwining business skill sets into the vision of what their art can produce.

Creative writing is the single most common unifying skill amongst the most creative artists in business and a couple of academics made the list!

Each of these artists have taken all of their passions in life and exploited them to their fullest in their careers.

The list includes 5 artists, 4 from fashion, film and music, 3 writers and 2 chefs.

5 Artists #22, 55, 70, 86 94
4 from Fashion #13, 24, 42, 92
4 from Film #14, 21, 31, 60
4 from Music #36, 47, 69, 83
3 Writers #10, 40 and 41
2 Chefs #44, 73

# 10, James Schamus, Chief executive officer, Focus Features
Perhaps the only person in Hollywood who can rival Meryl Streep’s versatility is James Schamus. In addition to being a CEO, he’s a veteran screenwriter, Columbia University film professor, producer, marketer, distributor, and sometime composer. “There’s nobody else like him in the entire industry,” says Bill Mechanic, former chairman of 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment. “For a writer of his caliber to choose to be an executive is completely abnormal.” Schamus, 49, cofounded Focus in 2002. Known for its sophisticated and daring film slate, Focus produced Oscar winners Milk and Lost in Translation. Coming soon: Taking Woodstock, Schamus’s latest screenplay for director Ang Lee. — by Chuck Salter

Website:http://www.filminfocus.com/focusfeatures/

#13, Stella McCartney, Fashion designer
According to her boss, PPR CEO François-Henri Pinault, fashion designer and Beatle progeny Stella McCartney is the new face of responsible luxury. “Stella has set the bar,” he told Britain’s Sunday Times. Across the pond, the Natural Resources Defense Council honored her this spring for her “outstanding environmental leadership.” McCartney, 38, a PETA pet, uses no leather or fur; her skin-care line and ready-to-wear collection are both organic. Lest this sound too hair shirt to be stylish, consider Women’s Wear Daily’s review of the designer’s latest fall collection: “McCartney’s biker jacket in ‘nonleather sheen cupro’ can vroom with the best of them, and her thigh-high boots, in silk knits and perforated faux, strut the killer instinct she can live with.” — by Linda Tischler

Website: http://www.stellamccartney.com/

#14, JJ Abrams, Founder, Bad Robot Productions
J.J. Abrams warps Time at will. Past, present, and future coexist as a kind of fluid that cannot be contained. The camera jumps back and forth in time. Characters age and grow younger again. Time itself accelerates, then slows. “It’s intriguing to play with exactly when you learn elements in a story,” says the Emmy-winning writer-director-producer, referring to Lost, his biggest hit on the small screen. “It engages audience members in a puzzle where they begin to question everything. It makes them look for clues in what they’re watching in a way traditional narrative doesn’t.”

Website: http://www.badrobot.com/

#21,Tyler Perry,Owner, Tyler Perry Studios
He writes, directs, produces, acts, and scores — Tyler Perry controls an entertainment empire and moneymaking machine that includes the hit show Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and movies featuring his alter-ego Madea, a jumbo, no-nonsense granny with a knack for physical comedy. Perry’s creative impulse was forged in the crucible of personal pain. Channeling years of abuse by his father into writing plays with beautifully rendered characters, Perry bested homelessness and despair to transform black urban theater (pejoratively called the “chitlin’ circuit”), and expanded his audience as quickly as he released hit movies. His seven films, which rarely cost more than $20 million, have grossed upward of $300 million combined — four of them opened at No. 1 — and sold 25 million DVDs. And last October, he made history, opening the first black-owned film studio in the United States. — by Ellen McGirt

Website: http://www.tylerperry.com/

#22, Damien Hirst, Artist
Hate him or loathe him, Damien Hirst is an artistic and business provocateur. Who else could render a photo of Bill Gates standing in front of his own famous work (The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living) and turn it into a painting that sells for more than half a million dollars? Bill With Shark is a shrewd bit of philosophical and capitalist commentary: the once-voracious, aging Gates catching his own reflection and contemplating the work’s title. Of course, the deeper reveal came to the art world when Hirst sold this and other works at Sotheby’s last September for nearly $200 million, cutting out the middleman and raising the real possibility of the death of the art dealer. — by Mark Borden

Website: http://www.damienhirst.com/

#24, Jil Sander, Designer, creative director, Uniqlo
The high-fashion/mass-marketing movement seems to be reaching a new phase with Jil Sander’s new project: The German designer, who became famous for her luxurious if minimalist couture, has signed on as the creative director for Japanese retailer Uniqlo. Sander, who sold her namesake label in 2004, took on the clothing chain as her first consulting client, and then agreed to oversee its fall and winter collections — possibly including one of her own design. — by Abha Bhattarai

Website:http://www.jilsander.com/

#31,Hayao Miyazaki, Cofounder, Studio Ghibli
When Pixar’s animators need inspiration, they watch Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. The giant of anime has been elevating cartoons into epic cinematic events for more than two decades, with fantastic, award-winning films such as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. The writer-director’s stories are mostly hand-drawn, with strong female characters and morally ambiguous plotlines that make his work a harder sell than, say, Shrek 10 would be. But this summer, Miyazaki may finally get his commercial due in the U.S. with Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Disney/Pixar creative chief John Lasseter worked with megaproducers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy to build a stellar voice cast (Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson) and to secure Miyazaki his widest U.S.-theater release yet. — by Jennifer Vilaga

Website: http://www.studioghibli.net/

#36, Pharrell Williams, Musician
Pharrell Williams knows it all starts with a beat — he got his start on the snare drum in his high-school marching band back in Virginia Beach, Virginia. As half of the production duo known as the Neptunes, he has helped everyone from Britney Spears to Justin Timberlake to Madonna to the Hives find time on the charts. Williams also fronts the funk-rock band N.E.R.D., produces a clothing line called Billionaire Boys Club, hawks a line of shoes under the Ice Cream Footwear brand, and designed sunglasses and jewelry for Louis Vuitton. Most recently, Limelight, an updated version of Fame that he created with film director McG, was picked up by ABC. Tapping Williams’s own beat, the show is loosely based on his performing-arts experience in high school. — by Mark Borden

Website: http://bbcicecream.com/blog/

#40, Neil Gaiman, Author, screenwriter
“Writing is, like death, a lonely business,” according to Neil Gaiman. But the prolific wordsmith has made it a bit less so, building a global community of fans of all ages and in many media, including comic books (Sandman), novels (American Gods), TV (the BBC’s Neverwhere), and a children’s novella turned 3-D movie (Coraline). In January, Gaiman won the Newbery Medal, kiddie lit’s top honor, for The Graveyard Book, the enchanting, daringly dark tale of an orphan protected by the long-dead residents of a cemetery. Gaiman also blogs at neilgaiman.com, discussing everything from his computer setup to his success. “I liked the idea of a world in which I could feed my family by making things up and writing them down,” he wrote recently. “[But] I’m not quite sure how it happened.” — by Danielle Sacks

Website: http://www.neilgaiman.com/

#41, Maurice Sendak, Writer, illustrator, producer
The extraordinary Maurice Sendak has sold millions of copies of Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and In the Night Kitchen (1970); most recently, he collaborated with Tony Kushner on Brundibar (the book debuted in 2003, the play in 2006). Sendak, now 80, has designed operas, won myriad honors, spawned everything from stuffed monsters to lunch boxes, and inspired generations of dreamy kids. In October, the Wild Things feature film will premiere. An improbably hip, moodily gorgeous affair, it’s being brought to the screen by a formidable team: director Spike Jonze; screenwriter Dave Eggers; stars Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, and James Gandolfini; and Arcade Fire and Karen O (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs), who are providing music. Let the wild rumpus begin! — Anya Kamenetz

Website: http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/HarperChildrens/Kids/A…

#42, Marc Jacobs, Fashion designer, LVMH
Marc Jacobs has “made fashion hip, but not inaccessibly hip,” says Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Accessibly hip enough for him to build a $5 billion empire within LVMH that delights both the moneyed elite and the allowance-driven economy (his junk-store concept — $11 flip-flops, $55 rubber totes — is still thriving in the retail slump). Jacobs’s knack for forecasting trends (this fall, neon and ’80s nostalgia), anointing muses (hola, Anne Hathaway), and playing the media keep him in the spotlight. But it’s his endless inspiration that drives sales. “It’s very organic. We say, ‘Let’s make this happen and see what the reaction is,’ ” Jacobs says. “It’s not like a creative person sits down with a mathematician. That’s a hard thing for a lot of businesspeople to understand.” — by Mark Borden

Website: http://www.marcjacobs.com/

#44, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Chef
In this era of celebrity chefs and haute cuisine gone less haute, Alsace-born Jean-Georges Vongerichten is the rare talent who has grown his empire without resorting to the indignity of slapping his face on a frying pan or frozen pizza. He already has 18 restaurants — eight of them in New York, including Vong and his flagship Jean Georges, which has three Michelin stars — and for a sense of the size of his plate, consider that Spice Market alone rakes in about $15 million a year in revenue. His unprecedented partnership with Starwood Hotels has given the cuisinier license to unleash his creativity — and trademark Asian flavors — in 50 new restaurants over the next five years. That’s still not enough for him: “If I could have my dream,” he has said, “I would open a new restaurant every month.” — by Kate Rockwood

Website: http://www.jean-georges.com/

#47, A.R. Rahman, Composer
You might know A.R. Rahman as the Oscar-winning composer behind Slumdog Millionaire’s “Jai Ho,” which has been downloaded more than 100,000 times on iTunes and was re-recorded as a hit collaboration with the Pussycat Dolls. But Rahman has been writing Bollywood hits since 1992. His soundtracks have reshaped Indian pop, adding influences from jazz, reggae, and Western classical music, and have sold more than 100 million copies. Rahman also created the musical Bombay Dreams and has been testing new forms of music distribution; through a tie-up with Nokia, he recently released an album just for the company’s music-phone users in India. — by Dan Macsai

Website: http://www.arrahman.com/

#55, Gregg Gillis, Mashup artist
Gregg Gillis, 27, is the first truly postmodern rock star. The ex-biomedical engineer layers unlicensed song samples and “performs” them live, with him and his laptop center stage. Last year, he released his fourth album, Feed the Animals, online, using Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want model. So artful are his mashups — Feed the Animals’ 300-plus samples include unlikely pairings such as Nine Inch Nails and Kelly Clarkson, and David Bowie and 2 Live Crew — that even the notoriously litigious record labels have offered their ultimate compliment: silence. — by Jennifer Vilaga

#60, Josh Schwartz,Television producer, writer
Josh Schwartz has made his name chronicling the young, pretty, and privileged on TV, first with The O.C., then with Gossip Girl. But after his Girl found unexpected success online — new episodes routinely top iTunes’ most-downloaded chart — Schwartz, 32, pitched his latest beautiful brainchild, “Rockville CA,” to TheWB.com as a series of five-minute Webisodes. “Kids are going to college with laptops, not TVs,” says the former USC frat boy. “I figured, Why not?” Not that he’s swearing off old media: His as-yet-untitled Gossip Girl spin-off debuts this fall on the CW, and he’s directing a new film version of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City. — by Dan Macsai

#69,Dave Stewart, Musician and record producer
You may know Dave Stewart as the Eurythmics cofounder and a singer’s songwriter — he’s written hits for Tom Petty, Celine Dion, and No Doubt. But it’s the rest of his CV that’s unexpectedly impressive. He started the consulting company DeepStew with Deepak Chopra, acts as U.S. creative director for the Law Firm ad group, serves as president of entertainment for fashion designer Christian Audigier’s brand-management unit, and is an official Change Agent for Nokia. “I’m willing to receive a smaller percentage and relinquish control, as long as the idea goes into the minds of a brilliant company,” he says. “I’m not going to run out of creativity or ideas, so I don’t hang on to stuff for dear life. If you’re terrified to release control, nothing gets made!” — by Mark Borden

#70, Brian Donnelly (KAWS), Artist and Designer
Brian Donnelly has been compared to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, both of whom straddled the divide between street and institutional art. But Donnelly has arguably surpassed them with his one-man empire. Business at his Tokyo-based company OriginalFake, created as an outlet for his art and related merchandise, is thriving. During his February L.A. gallery show — just his second solo exhibition ever — the line to enter snaked seven blocks; Lance Armstrong bought the biggest painting. The guy who just a few years ago was hiding in bushes to evade anti-graffiti officers is now being courted by megabrands that want his signature graphic treatment on their products. Mostly, he’d rather not. “I only like to work with companies that are part of my life already,” says Donnelly, who has said yes to Marc Jacobs, Nike, and Levi’s. — by Jana Meier

Website: http://www.davestewart.com/

#73, Dan Barber, Executive chef and co-owner, Blue Hill restaurants
“Manhattan’s answer to the Farmer in the Dell,” as Dan Barber was called by a New York Times restaurant critic, is more than the foodies’ latest locavore darling. The driving spirit behind the two Blue Hill restaurants, Barber, 39, is a passionate advocate for regional farm networks. They’re the answer, he says, to big agriculture’s economic and ecological abuses. A 2009 James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Chef, he practices what he preaches on his own family’s farm and at the Stone Barns Center, a not-for-profit that promotes sustainable agri-culture. One of his trademark dishes is This Morning’s Farm Egg, with hen broth and root vegetables — tasty proof that the farm-to-table movement is not just high-end menuspeak. — by Linda Tischler

Website: http://www.bluehillfarm.com/

#83,Brian Eno, Musician
Brain Eno, the father of ambient music, is still in the vanguard. Take his recent collaboration with David Byrne. Byrne wrote lyrics in New York to the instrumental tracks Eno had sent from Lon-don. Then they prereleased the album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, online. Now he’s curating a lights-and-music festival in Australia that includes his own light show projected on the Sydney Opera House. — by Genevieve Knapp

Website: http://www.enoshop.co.uk/

#86, Cai Guo-Qiang, Artist
When not drawing — and detonating — pictures made from gunpowder or staging massive outdoor “explosion events” like the fireworks at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Cai Guo-Qiang is busy breaking records. His 14 gunpowder pieces sold at Christie’s in Hong Kong in 2007 for $9.5 million, an all-time auction high for contemporary Chinese art. He’s the first Chinese artist to snag a Venice Biennale award and the first living artist to have a solo show in a state-operated Chinese museum. The seven white sedans he suspended from the ceiling at the Guggenheim in New York last year left the art world chattering about American car culture. — by Kate Rockwood

Website: http://www.caiguoqiang.com/

#92, Simon Collins, Dean of fashion, Parsons
After 20 years in the industry, Simon Collins is grooming the next wave of Tom Fords to be as prepared for the boardroom as they are for the run-way. In less than one year, he has devised a new model for his 1,300 students to collab-orate with companies such as Ellen Tracy, Henri Bendel, and Gap. Collins, 41, who began his career as a bespoke tailor in London, designed for Ralph Lauren, Ermenegildo Zegna, Reebok, and Nike, and spent a brief spell opening a New York design office for Wal-Mart. Now he aims to trans-form Parsons — which produces some 70% of the designers on Seventh Avenue — into the breeding ground for the first generation of sustainability-minded designers. “If we taught our students it’s all about red, they’d go into their careers thinking it’s all about red,” Collins says. “Hopefully we can do that with sustainability.” — by Danielle Sacks

Website: http://www.parsons.edu/faculty_and_staff/faculty_details.asp…

#94, Kevin Adams, Lighting designer
Kevin Adams is on the leading edge of the post-incandescent age on Broadway, exploiting the potential of CFL bulbs, fluorescent tubes, glass and flex neon, and the latest LED technology. His work for Spring Awakening — brilliant white light for the 19th-century play’s scenes and saturated color from what he calls “electric objects” for the songs — won him a Tony in 2007. He picked up a second Tony in 2008 for The 39 Steps. Another Adams hit: a fabulous wall of light for the musical Passing Strange. One admirer said it looked “like Mark Rothko meets Japanese pop.” Adams also lit the current revival of Hair. — by B. Martin

Website: http://www.ambermylar.com/

Producer Is Chosen to Lead the NEA

In Author: Lisa Canning, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Interesting Articles on May 14, 2009 at 4:12 am

Although a friend of mine, former Dean of The Eastman School of Music, Robert Freeman, was under consideration to run the NEA, I think this could be a very interesting and productive appointment. Let’s pray it is.. we need someone to be outspoken and determined to shake things up for the benefit of the arts.

By ROBIN POGREBIN, May 13, 2009, The New York Times

Rocco Landesman, the colorful theatrical producer and race-track aficionado who brought hits like “Big River,” “Angels in America” and “The Producers” to Broadway, has been nominated as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, the White House said on Tuesday.

The appointment, which is expected to be announced on Wednesday, surprised many in the arts world. It ends months of speculation about who would be selected to lead the nation’s largest and most important arts organization.

The White House declined to discuss the appointment before the announcement. Mr. Landesman, whose appointment must be confirmed by Congress, also declined to comment.

“It’s potentially the best news the arts community in the United States has had since the birth of Walt Whitman,” said the playwright Tony Kushner. “He’s an absolutely brilliant and brave and perfect choice for the job.”

Choosing Mr. Landesman, 61, signals that Mr. Obama plans to shake things up at the endowment. While a major source of money for arts groups around the country, it has historically been something of a sleepy bureaucracy, still best known to some for the culture wars of the 1990s.

Since then, the agency has been trying to rebuild its image on Capitol Hill, along with its budget. The current allocation stands at $145 million, and though Mr. Obama has requested $161 million for 2010, that is still short of its high of $176 million in 1992.

Mr. Landesman, who would fill the post vacated by Dana Gioia, is expected to lobby hard for more arts money. But he is not famous for his skills as an administrator or diplomat. Rather, he is known for his energy, intellect and irreverent – and occasionally sharp-elbowed – candor.

In 2000, for example, he caused a stir by accusing nonprofit theaters of being too much like their commercial counterparts. And, as a producer of “The Producers,” Mr. Landesman created the controversial $480 premium ticket to combat scalpers.

“Rocco speaks his mind, which is probably one of the reasons he was chosen,” said Robert Brustein, the founding director of the Yale and American Repertory Theaters. “Rocco does not defer his opinions.”

As the president of Jujamcyn Theaters, which owns five Broadway houses, Mr. Landesman is accustomed to calling the shots, not working within a bureaucracy. Arts executives say this is a plus. “He is a great entrepreneur and producer and it indicates to me that the administration wants to have somebody in this position who will be much more than simply a distributor of funds,” said Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. “The relationship between the government and the arts needs to be energized. It
needs someone like Rocco.”

Mr. Landesman is expected to resign from his position at Jujamcyn, but to retain his ownership stake in the company.

His directness may prove refreshing to official Washington, and his affinity for country music, horse racing and baseball may help grease the wheels in his conversations with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.

While Mr. Landesman has spent his career in the commercial theater, he earned a doctorate in dramatic literature at the Yale School of Drama and stayed on there for four years as an assistant professor. “It’s an odd
choice,” said Mr. Brustein, who taught Mr. Landesman at Yale. “It’s certainly not one that I would ever have thought of because Rocco’s always been associated with the profit-making world and the N.E.A. is nonprofit.”

Though a creature of the for-profit theater, Mr. Landesman has put his force behind work that other producers might have considered too risky for Broadway, like Mr. Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Angels in
America,” and the musical “Jelly’s Last Jam.”

“He’s really smart and he’s really savvy and will really fight if he believes in something,” said George C. Wolfe, who directed both productions.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Mr. Landesman had his undergraduate education at Colby College and the University of Wisconsin. In 1977 he left Yale to start a private investment fund, which he ran until his appointment as Jujamcyn’s president in 1987. In 2005 he purchased the company.

Rocco is married to Debby Landesman and has three sons.

All of Jujamcyn’s five theaters currently have shows running: the St. James (“Desire Under the Elms”), the Al Hirschfeld (“Hair”), the August Wilson Theater (“Jersey Boys”), the Eugene O’Neill (“33 Variations”) and the Walter Kerr (“Irena’s Vow”).

In recent years, Mr. Landesman has stepped back from active producing, although Jujamcyn still occasionally invests in shows. This year, the company made a $250,000 investment in the revival of “Desire Under the Elms” to help transfer the play to one of its Broadway houses from the Goodman Theater in Chicago.

Mr. Landesman’s nomination means a potential loss for Broadway underscored by the death, in November, of Gerald Schoenfeld, who had been chairman of the Shubert Organization since 1972. Mr. Landesman was among those who had begun to fill the role of elder statesman during this theater season.

Joe Allen, the theater district restaurateur, said that Mr. Landesman would be missed on Broadway, but that the industry would be lucky to have him in Washington. “To have a member of the club running the endowment is a good thing,” Mr. Allen said. “He knows the theater world. He knows how artists
work, what their concerns are, what their personalities are like.”

Mr. Landesman met Mr. Obama before he was a presidential candidate and was a strong supporter and contributor to the campaign.

If confirmed, Mr. Landesman would be the 10th chairman since Congress created the endowment in 1965. Other names circulated as possible candidates included Michael M. Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center; Michael C.Dorf, a lawyer who served on Mr. Obama’s arts policy team during the campaign; and Claudine K. Brown, the program director for arts and culture at the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Mr. Gioia officially stepped down on Inauguration Day. Patrice Walker Powell, the endowment’s deputy chairwoman for states, regions and local arts agencies, has been serving as interim chairwoman since Feb. 2.

While previous chairmen have tried to argue the case for a stronger agency, this task will fall to the next chairman in an even tougher economic climate. “The day of the N.E.A. being this political football of the right – maybe those days are over and we’re going to start to take it seriously,” Mr. Kushner said.

Mr. Landesman is expected to be a vigorous and provocative face of the agency.

“Rocco is bored,” Mr. Brustein said, “if things just go routinely.”

The Susan Boyle phenomenon: redefining beauty, grace, and success?

In Author: Lisa Canning, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Interesting Articles on April 22, 2009 at 3:10 am

Susan Boyle and this article below touched a raw nerve for me.

What is wrong with our world to judge ones artistic capacity by ones style (or lack there of), or body shape or weight? Many have said about Susan Boyle ” Oh an ugly woman who can sing!” Does this kind of statement not speak to how desperately the world needs to be taught the value of creative self expression and the authenticity required to create artistic mastery? What on earth does appearance have to do with it?

Why is it that becoming a celebrity means shifting your focus on appearance or taking the wrath from the media if you don’t? It is no wonder that most of the world has trouble recognizing the true capacity of the arts to teach, enlighten and change who we can become when all that we as a country focus on is the appearance of it all. It’s not what’s on the inside that matters right?

I believe for many it is not because of the incredible insecurity and fears we hold about our true potential in life. It is the bright light that shines within us that most frightens us, which makes it far easier to focus superficially on others and avoid having to face ourselves.

But you see- here is where the rub comes- if you don’t ever take the time to discover and then share the gifts you have hidden inside of you– who will ever know?

I applaud Susan Boyle and Paul Potts and anyone else like either of them willing to risk sharing their gifts- their true purpose in life- with the world. Susan Boyle’s so called “fumpy” appearance is not what I see when I hear her sing. I see a woman who is allowing her life to be revealed to all who will dare to see and hold her close.

What a brave woman to come as herself to sing. What astonishing wisdom to not get caught up in the trappings of superficial illusions but instead stay true to herself and the richness of her true self expression.

And to you Simon Cowell– your initial reaction to Susan Boyle’s appearance, and attempt to conceal it with your comment at the end of this clip, makes it clear you have little room in your life for emotional intelligence. But that’s Hollywood for you, right?

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By Ben Quinn | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the April 21, 2009 edition
oboyle_p1LONDON – It was to her elderly mother, sometime before she passed away, that Susan Boyle pledged she would “do something” with her life.

Two years on from that loss, she honored that promise with a now almost legendary appearance on a British television talent show.

A video clip of the Scot winning over skeptical judges and a cynical crowd with a rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.” from the musical “Les Misérables” has been viewed more than 40 million times, making it one of the most popular YouTube videos ever posted.

The youngest of nine, Ms. Boyle is an unlikely global star. Or is she?

She’s a middle-aged woman from a village called Blackburn in Scotland’s West Lothian region, where she lives alone with her cat, Pebbles. Her unruly hair and spinster image have long attracted taunts from local children, an echo of the bullying she endured as a girl. Several times a week, she serves as a volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes church, visiting elderly members of the congregation.

The mass media – especially in the United States – are now hugging Boyle close ahead of a second performance (May 23) on the television show “Britain’s Got Talent.”

CAPTURING THE DOUBTS – AND HOPES – OF MILLIONS

But her sudden rise to popularity is prompting many commentators, even those not usually noted for their interest in light entertainment, to find a deeper meaning in her performance.

“Boyle let me feel … the meaning of human grace…. She reordered the measure of beauty. And I had no idea until the tears sprang how desperately I need that corrective,” wrote Robert Canfield, a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., in his blog where he typically comments on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.

Dr. Canfield says, in response to emailed questions, that Boyle captured “the hopes of a multitude.”

Her performance resonates with millions, he says, because “most of us in our heart of hearts have severe doubts about ourselves.

“So when a Susan Boyle appears on stage before a clearly condescending audience in a society that can read class status in every move, the hairdo, the dress, she appears as a loser. And we feel for her. We see how precarious her position is, how vulnerable she is, and we feel for her,” he writes in his email.

“We can see in her an objectification of what we fear about ourselves. So when she comes forth with that voice, that music – as if we have discovered Judy Garland at the age of 47 – we are thrilled. She’s going to make it, we think. She’s going to win (!). And we unconsciously invest ourselves in her achievement.”

IS BOYLE LIKE OBAMA?

Patricia Williams, a professor of law at Columbia University in New York, likened Boyle’s story to the election of Barack Obama in an op-ed piece for Britain’s Observer newspaper headlined: “I know those sneers. I’ve heard them too.”

“Boyle’s ability to up-end conventional preconceptions is akin to what the ‘black is beautiful’ movement of the 1970s tried to accomplish: a debunking of surface-based biases in favour of deeper commitments to fairness, intelligence, courage, humility, patience, re-examined aesthetics and the willingness to listen,” wrote Professor Williams.

“Dismissing her – or anyone – based on careless expectations about what age or lack of employment supposedly signify is the habit of mind common to all forms of prejudice.”

The Times of London asked Boyle, given how much importance the entertainment industry places on appearance, might she succumb to pressure to have a makeover?

“Maybe I’ll consider a makeover later on,” she told the Times with a laugh. “For now I’m happy the way I am – short and plump. I would not go in for Botox or anything like that. I’m content with the way I look. What’s wrong with looking like Susan Boyle? What’s the matter with that?”

THE SIMON COWELL FACTOR

One of Boyle’s fellow Scots, Alison Kennedy, a writer and comedian, says that some cynicism has also emerged around her meteoric rise and who might profit by it. But it’s focused on Simon Cowell, judge, producer and creator of “Britain’s Got Talent.” Yes, the same Simon Cowell on “American Idol.”

Mr. Cowell stands to make a lot of money from Boyle, who he has predicted would have a No. 1 record in the US.

Nevertheless, Ms. Kennedy adds: “People are still pleased for her, and it’s clear that she has a particular talent. People are fond of her, even if they are not fond of Simon Cowell.”

All eyes are now looking to Boyle’s May 23 performance on the talent show, which promises the ultimate winner – the opportunity to perform in front of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Elaine Paige, the singer whom Boyle has said she would like to emulate, has also suggested the two might one day record a duet.

In the meantime, Boyle herself has told reporters camped outside her home that she is “taking it all in my stride.”

“It’s all been complete mayhem, like a whirlwind going like an express train. I never expected all this attention. It’s been indescribable and completely mad. But I could get used to it,” she told the Observer.

What Happened, President Obama, to the Idea of an Art Czar?

In Art, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Current Events, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Music, Theater/Film, Writing on March 26, 2009 at 7:11 pm

The following updates appeared on Judith H. Dobrzynski’s blog, Real Clear Arts

I know we all want to believe that the Obama Administration will do wonders for the arts and humanities. But so far, the news is not so good.

Yes, the $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts in the stimulus bill was great news. But while we wait for appointments to head the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the appointment of Kareem Dale (below) as mini-czar — which is now likely to be temporary — and two lesser appointments suggest politics-as-usual.

Yes, you heard right- late last week, the White House seems to have appointed an arts czar — but no one seems to have noticed. His name is Kareem Dale, according to a short item in Saturday’s New York Times. As of 1 p.m. on Monday, there’s no press release on WhiteHouse.gov and no reports of the appointment at the Associated Press or Reuters.

I don’t know Mr. Dale, a lawyer from Chicago who is partially blind, but he doesn’t seem to have much of a profile. Searches on Google and Kosmix and in Factiva (which has articles from most major newspapers and many minor ones) turned up very little.

According to published reports, Dale hails from Chicago, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and stayed there to earn a law degree and an MBA, which he received in 1999. He founded and is CEO of The Dale Law Group, which has no website. Campaign finance records show that Dale contributed $2,300 to Obama’s campaign in 2008 (and about the same during the primary season); then he volunteered for it. At some point, he became the campaign’s Disability Vote Director. The only mention of arts I could find was during his campaign volunteer days, when Dale was a member of the campaign Arts Policy Committee, plus service on the board of Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater.

I can’t help but think this is not what many people in the cultural world had in mind when they asked President Obama to appoint a powerful person in the White House to raise the profile of the arts in the U.S.

Another oddity: in mid-February, the White House announced that it had named Dale to the post of Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy. He still seems to hold that post.

Last night, The Daily Beast published my report on this and his appointment is not likely to last very long. It’s sad that his name was discovered by, or leaked to, The New York Times in the first place.

The most disappointing element of the story, however, is the appointment of Hollywood fundraiser Jeremy Bernard as the NEH’s White House and Congressional liaison; it’s an important job. Bernard claims a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College on his website, but Hunter says he did not graduate. When queried, the NEH said the degree is not in his documentation for the appointment. But the whole thing, not just the resume inflation, makes him a bit of an odd fit for the scholarly NEH.

I am pretty sure, by the way, that the White House has recognized this whole situation as a personnel snafu that has to be fixed. And it will — the question now is how and when.

A Look Inside The World of Film in the 21st Century

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Interesting Articles, Theater/Film on March 17, 2009 at 8:15 am

So is there anyone in the arts who isn’t in need of reinventing their profession? Certainly filmmakers, too, have their set of challenges in this changing world, not unlike authors, actors and musicians. This article, written by Sharon Waxman, offers some insights and perhaps some interesting new ideas for the future film. Seems to me, across the board, its time to get a whole lot more imaginative and entrepreneurial with what we love to do to turn it into something financially value-ABLE. (Able to deliver value in ways that only you can imagine.)

While this article points out some of the value social media brings to the film industry, I am not sure social media will ever be anything more than a great way to connect with others. And, as such, a way to market your product, but not a substitute for selling it to a target market who will pay for its value. Yes, ladies and gentleman, it is time we learned how to sell our value to the niche market who wants what we have to offer. Selling is not a dirty word. And it doesn’t have to be one to artists, either. And creating a niche is very lucrative and rewarding, not only for you, but for your customer too. (Trust me when I say that niching creates a win-win situation. Everyone is happy.)

We all buy things we want and love. And every time we do, and are truly happy and content with our purchase, rest assured someone did a good job selling it to us!

visionary-posterI am really looking forward to what Gwydhar Bratton, our new filmmaking blogger, will share with us about her experience as a small independent film company. I am looking forward to seeing her new short, titled The Visionary, too.

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Written by Sharon Waxman

A new online distribution system for documentaries launched in July has found widespread consumer adoption, but is still not close to providing substantive income to documentary or low-budget filmmakers.

SnagFilms, launched by former National Geographic Films chief C. Richard Allen and former AOL executive Ted Leonsis, is geared to using the social networking tools of the web to feed a new distribution model for low-budget films.

Users can download widgets for any one of more than 550 documentaries available on the site, and watch the film — which has about 90 seconds of advertising interspersed through it — for free. SnagFilms shares the revenue, half and half, with the filmmaker.

But the films need to be seen hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of times before filmmakers can see substantive income from advertising revenue.

On the other hand, the site allows filmmakers to earn full revenue from any DVD sales, which are promoted along with the free download. And viewers are also encouraged to donate money to non-profits associated with some of the films.

“We want to start to open up the expansiveness of the audience by making it free, reducing the friction of trial and error,” said Allen. “A lot of people love documentaries but if you say documentary, they say ‘Ugh, that’s a little too much work.’ So we make it easy for viewers to find it, explore, and check things out.”

So far, so good. The widgets, thanks to an alliance with AOL, has been embedded on some 20,000 websites since July, and by this week will have placed on more than 300 million web-pages, Allen said in an interview with TheWrap.

“That’s a significantly bigger number than what we had projected,” he said.

Films featured on the site include well-known and already successful documentaries such as “Paper Clips,” a documentary about the Holocaust, and “Supersize Me,” a cult hit about the fast food industry.

But it also promotes more obscure docs. The site’s homepage now features a documentary about the TED technology conference, “The Future We Will Create: Inside the World of TED,” and “Life is for the Living,” a documentary about the debate over embryonic stem cell research.

The system comes as low-budget documentaries and independent films struggle to find distribution outlets in a landscape of shrinking opportunities. Traditional theatrical exhibition has been overwhelmingly dominated by big studio releases, crowding out independent films that have small marketing budgets and little time to gain a word of mouth following.

If it works, the model could prove useful for many low-budget films, as independent film distributors have been shuttered by major studios are gone bankrupt in the past year.

But “The Secrets of the Pharaohs,” a documentary promoted by AOL, demonstrates the revenue limitations for the model. The advertising rates online — known as “cpms” — do not add up to much income for the filmmakers until the number of viewers gets to be in the millions. “Pharaohs” was downloaded 60,000 times in a period of two weeks, said Allen; but at a $20 cpm, that amounted to only $1200 in advertising revenue.

Allen declined to discuss precise revenue amounts, saying that was proprietary information.

As viewers turn increasingly to their computers for entertainment, the web has provided a potential outlet for distribution, but the problem has been how to let viewers know that any given small film exists.

Allen says the rapid acceptance of Snagfilms made him optimistic about the future of movies on the web.

“Do you need another revenue stream?” asked Allen. “Absolutely. Is the revenue stream going to be something that starts out so large that you’re going to be able to do distribution? No. Do we believe it’s a revenue stream that you can track is growing? Yes.

“And we’ve seen it dramatically, number of views going up dramatically. It starts with the product being out there.”

College Art & Design Students Collaborate With Business

In Creativity and Innovation, Interesting Articles on March 13, 2009 at 5:21 pm

ETA Blog reader Donna Kemmetmueller, sent us this delightful article today and with it a note that read:
“I am more attentive these days to the ways that artists can be incorporated into bigger business. I was delighted, then, to find this site.”: http://www.canoeing.com/canoes/feature/novacraftcomp.htm

I agree Donna, this is a marvelous find! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Below is the lead article from the Nova Craft Canoe website.
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spot-feature-designcomp-1

With only two days before the big event, the excitement in Roch Prévost’s voice was audible as he described his vision: three new canoe designs, manufactured in secret and concealed under canvas at the front of a large hall. Their looming, oblong shapes create an air of suspense as 74 Nova Craft Canoe Design Challenge participants – London, Ontario Fanshawe College Art and Design students – mingle with canoe industry folks, potential employers and the media. Everyone casts glances at the cloaked canoes, but the temptation to peak is tempered by two foreboding bodyguards. At the appointed hour, the overhead lights dim and spotlights draw every eye in the room toward the cloaked objects. The music rises, the fog machine whirs, and at last, the MC begins the great reveal.

That’s right. Bodyguards, fog machines, sweeping spotlights and canoes. In an industry dominated by tradition and the aged beauty of birch bark and wood canvas, dramatic tension is something canoeists are used to experiencing at the head of rapids, not over the release of a canoe design. But dramatic tension is what they got on Wednesday, February 18 in London, Ontario when Nova Craft Canoe revealed three new designs aimed at attracting a younger audience to paddlesports. And if fog machines send ripples across the placid waters of the canoeing industry, then these designs make waves. The three chosen designs, all equal winners, merge graphic art with the function of a canoe to completely change the artistic vision of the industry.

Manufactured by Nova Craft staff using the artist’s renderings, each canoe is completely unique and speaks to the wide range of entries Nova Craft received. The round, yellow eye of a white octopus looks out from the bow of a canoe in Lurking Octopus; inspired by Jenna Greogry’s submission, its tentacles intertwine down the length of the canoe. Combining elements of stylized cartoons with the bold graphics of graffiti art, it commands a second look. Escape city, a more subtle yet equally striking design, invokes a dreamscape where the city gives way to nature, carrying its paddlers away from the worries of civilization. And finally, Blue Ribbon by Erik Reutz, introduces graphic elements and textures to create a design that feels like an abstract landscape, the clouds at the bow melting into the water and land toward the stern.

This isn’t the first time that Nova Craft has shaken up canoe designs; last year Canoe and Kayak Magazine gave the company kudos for creating a new plaid canoe. Prévost’s daughter made the unique request, and Nova Craft, already looking to bring a little innovation to traditional canoe designs, brought it to life. The company discovered that nearly any fabric or design could be laminated onto a composite canoe and adapted this process to mount fabric onto the canoe itself. By the end of the year the original plaid was joined by a tie die canoe, several additional plaids and even a design inspired by the Canadian flag, custom-made for canoeing author Kevin Callan. Prévost and Nova Craft president Tim Miller saw tremendous potential in customizable canoes, but taking these innovations to the next level took on special meaning when the Paddlesports Industry Association gave Nova Craft a mandate to attract younger generations to canoeing.

The popularity of canoeing has been on the decline as youth and young adults spend less time outdoors. According to a 2008 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report released by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, youth participation in outdoor activities decreased 11% between 2006 and 2007. Young adult participation hovers around 5.4%. The take home message is clear: younger generations are not embracing canoeing, and inspiring passion or peaking their interest has become an industry-wide goal.

“Generation X and Y don’t want to do what their parents do. They probably don’t want canoes that look like their parents’ ” Prévost said. Recognizing that much of their technology and recreational equipment – iPods, cell phones, computers, skis and even skateboards – have color, patterns, or images, Nova Craft hypothesized that customizing designs might be a way to increase appeal among these generations. Prévost approached Fanshawe College Art and Design instructor Robert Chilver about partnering with their design students; the result was a semester-long project last fall. Nova Craft provided the specs for a banana-shaped skin that would fit over a canoe, and students created designs that would appeal to 25 to 35 year olds and adhere to the unique shape of the canoe. The contest itself was optional, but all 74 students chose to pitch their designs to a panel of five canoeing and artistic heavyweights: author Kevin Callan, Canadian Canoe Museum representative James Raffan, local artist Philip Aziz, Fanshawe Marketing and Communications representative Jeff Sage and Nova Craft president Tim Miller.

The students, whose actual paddling experience varied, had three minutes to make their pitch. Prévost estimated that a third based their designs on personal canoeing experiences, a third had paddled only occasionally and a third had never been in a canoe. But experience wasn’t crucial; knowledge of their generation was, and the resulting range of artwork was so good it was hard to pick only three. The panel selected six or seven that Nova Craft then shopped around to friends and family of all ages for final advice. Once chosen, Nova Craft staff manufactured the designs in secret, and no one – not even the winners – knew which designs would be revealed at the big event.

And was the suspense everything the Roch Prévost had hoped for? Simply put: “Yes, completely.”

Nova Craft will retain exclusive use of the winning designs, and the winners will receive $500 bursary scholarships from Nova Craft as well as the opportunity to paddle their boats at a celebration on the second annual Canoe Day in June. But Nova Craft and Fanshawe College also worked hard to make the event a success for all participants, inviting not only canoe industry representatives but also employers looking to hire fresh designers and media to give the students exposure.

Now, one question remains: how to get these ambitious new designs in front of Generation Y? Again, Nova Craft will defy tradition, moving into waters not often paddled by traditional canoeists: YouTube, Facebook – all the mediums where younger audiences communicate. Only time will tell if the contest or the designs truly draw potential paddlers closer to the water, but in the meantime, Nova Craft has brought fresh inspiration to a very traditional industry, inspiring creativity and, dare we say it? Rocking the boat, just a little bit.

Want to see the Nova Craft Design Challenge winners? The canoes will make appearances at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show, Canoecopia in Madison, WI, the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough and the 25th Anniversary of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System conference in Ottawa.

Artists’ Jobs: Even Worse than NEA’s New Report Suggests

In Interesting Articles on March 11, 2009 at 6:55 am

This article was written by Lee Rosenbaum. It appeared in ArtsJournal on 3/10/09.

Is anyone else tired of nothing but bad news?
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The National Endowment for the Art’s recently unveiled report about the “sharp increase in unemployment” among visual and performing artists’ makes the job situation look bad.

Actually, it’s worse.

Based on recent U.S. Census Bureau surveys that were conducted on behalf of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the report’s findings apply only to those for whom art is their “primary occupation.” People who view themselves as artists but who work for more hours a week at a different job aren’t counted. The report DOES include self-employed artists, such as the painter who earns his living by selling his work. (I suppose that to become an “unemployed artist,” he has to put down the brush.)

A better measure of how the recession is affecting artists would be a comparison of art-related income in the last quarter of 2008 to that in the last quarter of 2007. But the new report is concerned not with income but with the recession’s “impact on jobs.” This relates to the goal of the federal stimulus package—to preserve positions that are now “in jeopardy or [have been] eliminated.”

Artists’ income IS discussed, however, in NEA’s more voluminous Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005, belatedly issued in May 2008 (when its figures were already out-of-date).

Here are some fun facts from that report:

—There are (or were in 2005) about 2 million artists (i.e., people for whom art is the primary occupation).

—Some 35% of those were self-employed (compared to only 10% of the total workforce). But in the subcategory of “fine artists, art directors and animators,” a much larger portion, 55.6%, was self-employed.

—Median income of artists from 2003-2005 was $34,800. But you have to read the fine print: Income is the total that the artist received from ALL sources, not just art.

—Median income of full-time artists was $45,200, compared to the higher median income for full-time (general) professionals of $52,500.

—Some 45% of all artists did not work full time all year. Their median income was $20,000.
What all this means is that, art-stars notwithstanding, choosing a career in the creative arts, more often than not, involves financial sacrifice.

And that’s why NEA needs to prevent more self-employed artists from declaring themselves “unemployed,” by reinstating artists’ fellowships that help make it possible for them to keep on creating.

Are Hard Times Good For Writers and Books?

In Interesting Articles on March 10, 2009 at 2:38 am

This article was written by Robert McCrum and appeared in The Observer, Sunday 8 March 2009
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After the fear, the grip of this recession on our collective imagination is all to do with its cliffhanger narrative. Is this the end? The beginning of the end? The end of the beginning? Here, we’re all on the same page. No one knows. Once again it is Shakespeare who provides the best consolation. “The worst is not,” says Kent towards the end (Act IV Scene I) of King Lear, “So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst’.”

And what about books? Again, no one knows anything, and the signals are mixed. On the one hand, like all businesses, publishers are in hard times. Last week HarperCollins was the first to post redundancies. Random House UK is said to be looking at layoffs close to 20%. Across the Atlantic it’s no better. TS Eliot’s publisher, Harcourt Brace, is for sale; Doubleday has been swallowed up, and several other well-known imprints are threatened.

At the same time, the market in the UK seems to be holding steady. The Bookseller reports that “book sales are outperforming the wider economy”. Volume sales are marginally up on last year, and some seasoned publishers remain optimistic. In difficult times, according to Bloomsbury’s blogging chairman, Richard Charkin, “people turn to quality, reliability and good value. Books represent all those things.”

Historically, this fits. Penguin was conceived and reared during the Great Depression and the second world war. Books remain a dependable commodity (middle-class readers are not likely to stop buying or reading books); their comforts go well with recessional introspection. Moreover, their shop floor has virtually no industrial muscle (authors do not unionise well), and every incentive to keep working through the night.

So how will writers respond to this crisis? There are few, if any, precedents now, but the one guide to a likely outcome of this recession might be found in the 1980s.

Some people look back to the great days of Waterstone’s and the Net Book Agreement as a kind of golden age. They point to the popularity of novels in translation (for example Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose) and the beginnings of our literary festival culture (Hay was launched in 1987) as symptoms of a literary boom exemplified by the writing of a new generation: Maggie Gee, William Boyd, Graham Swift, Kazuo Ishiguro, Timothy Mo, Iain Banks and the rest. This was the era, too, when English literature went global, a moment memorably celebrated by Salman Rushdie’s exultant declaration that “the empire strikes back”.

At the time, it all felt not so much golden as provisional and hand-to-mouth. Thatcher’s Britain was not a green and pleasant land. There were race riots, the miners’ strike, a pointless war in the South Atlantic, severe social unrest and an utterly supine relationship with the United States. Such were the upheavals that the years of actual recession (1981-83, and 1990-92) were camouflaged by the smoke from many other battles.

The paradox, often noted, is that this chaotic, typically British, socioeconomic revolution sponsored an arts boom: the novels of Hanif Kureishi, the plays of David Hare, the poetry of Wendy Cope and Simon Armitage and the emergence of Jeanette Winterson. It also gave us masterpieces like Money and Shame

I think we should be suspicious of the garret theory of literature, the romantic assertion that art is born out of crisis and deprivation. Too often it has been used to justify philistine contempt for culture. But what makes ideas? Where does creativity come from? It certainly begins with a heightened awareness of the essence of things. Good writing gives the reader a new vision of the world, or at least a new focus on it.

Clarity and seriousness go together. When money, work and the other fundamental things no longer seem to apply, the writer’s perspective acquires a new urgency. At its most basic, there is something new to say, the prerequisite of cultural renewal.

None of this makes the recession good news for anyone, but I’m betting it will, eventually, give us a dividend we won’t get from the Dow Jones or the FTSE 100.

Transforming The Humanities, Arts and Sciences in Higher Education

In Emotional Intelligence, Interesting Articles, WEBSITES & BLOGS on February 26, 2009 at 9:47 am

I received this email today from my friend at University of Texas- Austin, Rick Cherewitz. Rick and I met when I spoke to UT students about a year ago about arts entrepreneurship. Rick and I immediately connected around his concepts of Ie- Intellectual Entrepreneurship. Ie offers higher education an opportunity to embed the kind of transformational, yet practical, thinking I blog about here at ETA almost daily…

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Folks,

The NYT article below may be of interest. For me, it speaks to the need to truly transform higher education–for example, to integrate Intellectual Entrepreneurship-type thinking into undergraduate education so that our students (in the humanities, arts and sciences) can begin to contemplate how to utilize their rich academic knowledge to solve problems, innovate, create new possibilities and make a real difference for themselves and society.

I am reminded of what a colleague of mine in classics wrote a few years ago:

“Intellectual entrepreneurship seeks to reclaim for the contemporary world the oldest strain in our common intellectual tradition: the need for thought and reflection in the midst of the world of action. As the experiment of the original Greek teachers of practical affairs demonstrated, and as Plato demonstrated through his reflections on these very themes, some of the deepest problems of thought emerge from the affairs of practical life. When one brings together the demands for action and the equally unrelenting demands for reflection characteristic of the new electronic and global marketplace, the term “intellectual entrepreneur” describes a new form of union between the academy and the world and between the academy and its own deepest traditions.”

Those of us dedicated to this cause shall persevere.

Rick
Richard A. Cherwitz, Ph.D.
Professor and Director, Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE)
A Cross-Disciplinary Consortium: “Educating Citizen-Scholars”
Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement
https://webspace.utexas.edu/cherwitz/www/ie/

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New York Times

February 25, 2009
In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth
By PATRICIA COHEN

One idea that elite universities like Yale, sprawling public systems like Wisconsin and smaller private colleges like Lewis and Clark have shared for generations is that a traditional liberal arts education is, by definition, not intended to prepare students for a specific vocation. Rather, the critical thinking, civic and historical knowledge and ethical reasoning that the humanities develop have a different purpose: They are prerequisites for personal growth and participation in a free democracy, regardless of career choice.

But in this new era of lengthening unemployment lines and shrinking university endowments, questions about the importance of the humanities in a complex and technologically demanding world have taken on new urgency. Previous economic downturns have often led to decreased enrollment in the disciplines loosely grouped under the term humanities which generally include languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural studies, philosophy and religion. Many in the field worry that in this current crisis those areas will be hit hardest.

Already scholars point to troubling signs. A December survey of 200 higher education institutions by The Chronicle of Higher Education and Moodys Investors Services found that 5 percent have imposed a total hiring freeze, and an additional 43 percent have imposed a partial freeze.

In the last three months at least two dozen colleges have canceled or postponed faculty searches in religion and philosophy, according to a job postings page on Wikihost.org. The Modern Language Associations end-of-the-year job listings in English, literature and foreign languages dropped 21 percent for 2008-09 from the previous year, the biggest decline in 34 years.

Although people in humanities have always lamented the state of the field, they have never felt quite as much of a panic that their field is becoming irrelevant, said Andrew Delbanco, the director of American studies at Columbia University.

With additional painful cuts across the board a near certainty even as millions of federal stimulus dollars may be funneled to education, the humanities are under greater pressure than ever to justify their existence to administrators, policy makers, students and parents. Technology executives, researchers and business leaders argue that producing enough trained engineers and scientists is essential to Americas economic vitality, national defense and health care. Some of the staunchest humanities advocates, however, admit that they have failed to make their case effectively.

This crisis of confidence has prompted a reassessment of what has long been considered the humanities central and sacred mission: to explore, as one scholar put it, what it means to be a human being.

The study of the humanities evolved during the 20th century to focus almost entirely on personal intellectual development, said Richard M. Freeland, the Massachusetts commissioner of higher education. But what we haven’t paid a lot of attention to is how students can put those abilities effectively to use in the world. We’ve created a disjunction between the liberal arts and sciences and our role as citizens and professionals.

Mr. Freeland is part of what he calls a revolutionary movement to close the chasm in higher education between the liberal arts and sciences and professional programs. The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently issued a report arguing the humanities should abandon the old Ivory Tower view of liberal education and instead emphasize its practical and economic value.

Next month Mr. Freeland and the association are hosting a conference precisely on this subject at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. There is a lot of interest on the national leadership level in higher education, Mr. Freeland said, but the idea has not caught on among professors and department heads.

Baldly marketing the humanities makes some in the field uneasy.

Derek Bok, a former president of Harvard and the author of several books on higher education, argues, The humanities has a lot to contribute to the preparation of students for their vocational lives. He said he was referring not only to writing and analytical skills but also to the type of ethical issues raised by new technology like stem-cell research. But he added: Theres a lot more to a liberal education than improving the economy. I think that is one of the worst mistakes that policy makers often make not being able to see beyond that.

Anthony T. Kronman, a professor of law at Yale and the author of Educations End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life, goes further. Summing up the benefits of exploring whats called a life worth living in a consumable sound bite is not easy, Mr. Kronman said.

But the need for my older view of the humanities is, if anything, more urgent today, he added, referring to the widespread indictment of greed, irresponsibility and fraud that led to the financial meltdown. In his view this is the time to re-examine what we care about and what we value, a problem the humanities are extremely well-equipped to address.

To Mr. Delbanco of Columbia, the person who has done the best job of articulating the benefits is President Obama. He does something academic humanists have not been doing well in recent years, he said of a president who invokes Shakespeare and Faulkner, Lincoln and W. E. B. Du Bois. He makes people feel there is some kind of a common enterprise, that history, with its tragedies and travesties, belongs to all of us, that we have something in common as Americans.

During the second half of the 20th century, as more and more Americans went on to college, a smaller and smaller percentage of those students devoted themselves to the humanities. The humanities share of college degrees is less than half of what it was during the heyday in the mid- to late 60s, according to the Humanities Indicators Prototype, a new database recently released by a consortium headed by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Currently they account for about 8 percent (about 110,000 students), a figure that has remained pretty stable for more than a decade. The low point for humanities degrees occurred during the bitter recession of the early 1980s.

The humanities continue to thrive in elite liberal arts schools. But the divide between these private schools and others is widening. Some large state universities routinely turn away students who want to sign up for courses in the humanities, Francis C. Oakley, president emeritus and a professor of the history of ideas at Williams College, reported. At the University of Washington, for example, in recent years, as many as one-quarter of the students found they were unable to get into a humanities course.

As money tightens, the humanities may increasingly return to being what they were at the beginning of the last century, when only a minuscule portion of the population attended college: namely, the province of the wealthy.

That may be unfortunate but inevitable, Mr. Kronman said. The essence of a humanities education reading the great literary and philosophical works and coming to grips with the question of what living is for may become a great luxury that many cannot afford.

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Creative cities rejoice: You will recover

In Interesting Articles on February 24, 2009 at 12:31 am

Written by SIMON HOUPT From Monday’s Globe and Mail on February 22, 09

NEW YORK — Thank heaven for the recession. Haven’t you heard? It’s going to do wonders for New York, not to mention cities whose prosperity is fuelled by creativity such as Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco. People are hailing the new Age of Aquarius, in which the arts will flourish, mankind will discover the ineffable, and dogs and cats will open pie shops together.

And boy, things are already looking up as everything goes down. Echoing the long-standing belief that the city and its culture became more vacuous as the money flooded in during the past decade, the Times headlined a recent piece by Holland Cotter, “The boom is over. Long live the art!” At a newly austere Fashion Week that was sponsored in part by McDonald’s, the bacchanal boy Marc Jacobs, dropping his million-dollar holiday blowouts into an Orwellian memory hole, gushed that the city’s emphysemic real-estate market would prompt legions of new designers to move here and reinvigorate the scene.

There was even a flicker of the good old bad old days last week when rumours began to swirl late on Thursday night that a riot had broken out in Washington Square Park. Visions of revolution – of Molotov cocktails and blood in the streets – danced in the head. Might owners of $3-million East Village lofts be chased down and lynched in their marble lobbies?

Might Disney tug its animatronic tail between its legs and flee 42nd Street for the Midwest? Alas, the riot turned out to be little more than a few dozen New York University students who, trying to hold a sit-in to protest a hodgepodge of university policies, took to Twitter to carp about being denied access to the cafeteria. After all, who can man the barricades with low blood sugar?

New York magazine, sensitive as a barometer to the changes in the city’s cultural atmosphere, recently inaugurated a regular online feature known as the Downturnaround, in which journalist Hugo Lindgren celebrates tiny shreds of hope. (Example: Sure, prices of existing homes around the U.S. dropped at an annualized rate of 15 per cent, but sales were up 6.5 per cent from November to December!)

Last week Lindgren wrote, “the Downturnaround just about wept with joy” over the March issue of The Atlantic in which the “semi-famous” urban theorist Richard Florida argues that New York will be well positioned to recover from the recession by its continuing capacity to attract the creative types powering the 21st-century economy.

(Of course, Florida’s so-called “creative class” includes investment bankers who were so impressively creative that they created a worldwide financial meltdown.)

The city, feeling the need to retain laid-off bankers and their high-earning potential, last week announced a $45-million incubator program to help seed new companies in the financial sector. Aides to Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested the program could help create 12,000 new jobs over the next five years: astonishing math, considering that over the past five years, $45-million usually supported about 12 jobs in the financial sector. But hell, fuzzy math got us into this mess, it might just get us out of it, right?

What I’d like to see are the numbers justifying the belief that the financial sector needs millions of dollars of assistance before it can create its exotic instruments (and, one presumes, wealth, if only for itself), while conventional wisdom holds that the main thing artists require is cheap space.

Because, until that cheap space arrives, the city is bleeding creativity. Opera, dance and theatre companies are shortening their seasons or closing down entirely. On Friday the New York City Ballet, struggling to deal with a deficit of $5.5-million (U.S.) on a budget of $62.3-million and an endowment that dropped from $187-million to about $138-million over the past year, announced it was letting go 11 members of the corps. Dozens of galleries are barely keeping their doors open. New York State recently toyed with the idea of taxing tickets to Broadway performances, which arts advocates suggested might be better applied to those on more stable financial footings, such as professional baseball teams.

Richard Florida may be right in suggesting that New York will thrive in the future, or he may not. But his assumptions are based in part on the continuing existence of industries that are right now undergoing shifts of a historic scale, encouraged but not caused by the recession.

Even before the markets cratered last fall, the mass media based in the city was under attack. The five daily newspapers are limping along, and only the Times and the Wall Street Journal seem to have a sense of how to make any money on the Internet. (Even those two papers are suffering deep losses.) TV viewership is in turmoil. Book publishers are feeling woozy. Even magazines, which some analysts believe aren’t as susceptible to new media threats, are shuttering.

Creative types come to New York to exchange ideas with like-minded people, but also to have the mass media spread their work. What happens when websites such as Pitchfork (started by a Minneapolis kid in his bedroom) can do much more for a band’s fortunes than Rolling Stone? What happens when fashionistas listen more to blogs than they do to Vogue?

New York used to be an important place for writers to begin their careers. But during a recent appearance at the Columbia University Journalism School, Tina Brown advised prospective graduates to go to India instead.

Maybe she was just trying to reduce the competition.

I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker.

In Author: Lisa Canning, Authors, Interesting Articles on February 20, 2009 at 5:21 am

The title of this post, “I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker,“ was the name of the welcome speech address given to freshman at Boston Conservatory, given by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of music division at Boston Conservatory. INCREDIBLE! Enjoy!!
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One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school she said, “you’re WASTING your SAT scores.” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works. One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940.

Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp. He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture why would anyone bother with music? And yet from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning. ”

On September 12, 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless.

Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day. At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang We Shall Overcome. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heart wrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does. I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects. I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland’s, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier even in his 70¹s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: ³During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me? Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft. You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevys. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor or physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should it together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.

“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way
again.” –Stephen Grellet

Dance Your PhD

In Interesting Articles on February 20, 2009 at 12:18 am

Thanks, Eva Niewiadomski from Catalyst Ranch for passing this article along!

In Chicago, researchers hold finale to ‘Dance Your PhD’
Scholars put their papers into choreographed motion

By Robert Mitchum | Tribune reporter

February 16, 2009

The lights came up on five dancers wearing plastic wrap, fishnet and white face paint. As they moved in slow synchronization, a tall shirtless man wearing a red sparkly skirt prowled among them in a slow-motion pop-and-lock.

It wasn’t your typical scientific presentation.

But it was, indeed, science: the finale of the “Dance Your PhD” contest organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to coincide with their annual meeting in Chicago last weekend. Science
journalist John Bohannon challenged scientists around the world to communicate their research in the form of dance and drew more than 100 videotaped replies posted to YouTube.

The four winners of that contest were on hand Friday night at Architectural Artifacts, a Northwest Side warehouse converted into an antique bazaar, to present-and explain-their videos. They then joined
the audience of scientists and dance enthusiasts to watch the premiere of “This Is Science,” a four-part dance created by Chicago choreographers in collaboration with the scientist winners, who submitted their research as its source material.

So “Salt Dependence of DNA binding by Thermus aquaticus and Escherichia coli DNA Polymerases,” a paper by Professor Category winner Vince LiCata of Louisiana State University, featured two tattooed men attaching women to ropes dangling from an overhead catwalk and twirling them as they posed in a vaguely double-helix shape. Of course!

Though the meaning wasn’t always clear, the dances did suggest the beauty and dynamism of the scientific process, so often lost in the PowerPoint presentations and clunky jargon of academic meetings. That
man dressed in red? A laser, studying viral packaging motors, which create forces as strong as an atomic bomb, according to that dance’s “scientific adviser,” Markita Landry of the University of Illinois
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“How amazing that scientists around the world busy with lab work took a break to do something as bizarre as this,” Bohannon said, clad in a white disco leisure suit. “I love that.”

Do arts jobs count as jobs?

In Current Events, Interesting Articles on February 12, 2009 at 12:23 am

Written by Andrew Taylor from the Artful Manager

Oh My God does this article hit home. How can this question even be asked? And yet, the concern over our identity– both to ourselves and to the public– with regards to our economic ability as earners, providers for our families, is at this moment a valid question.

We simply must start standing up for ourselves and requiring, with or without our institutions of higher education assisting us in producing the skills we need to create the employment opportunities only we can imagine within our field, that WE take responsibility for guiding and educating our own futures. We are in charge of our destiny and each choice we make can lead us closer ( or farther away) to our own vision of artistic and economic success. We need to each find the leader within us, and move towards building a future where the question of “if we count,” or not, can never be asked!

Do you recognize your ability to lead? If you don’t already know it, you are already, as an artist, a natural leader. Precisely because it is going to take all of us collectively to think about how to set the “record straight” about the capacity of the arts to earn and contribute to the world economy, each one of us must get to know the leader within us so we can change the way we are perceived in our individual communities! Of course, it would help if we all got on the same page about what that looks like- which is yet another reason why I started ETA.

Let this article below serve as a reminder of why we need to band together and think together about how we can change how we are perceived by others and by society as a whole. The consequences of us not working together to change these perceptions hinders our development and has been hindering our development for centuries. What exactly must we do about it? What do you perceive in your world, your community about the attitudes towards artists and their capacity to lead, earn a great living and reshape the world into a better place? I wrote a post with some musical examples of what I see, but what do you see? I sure would like to know.

By the way, this article made me feel sick to my stomach when I read it and it might leave you feeling the same way- so consider yourself warned. This stuff has got to change…one artist at a time.
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Scott Lilly at the Center for American Progress floats a timely reminder to the good folks in Congress currently bristling about the stimulus package: arts jobs are jobs, regardless of your opinion of what they produce. He quotes Rep. Jack Kingston’s (R-GA) remarks when complaining about the NEA funding (now removed) from the bill:

“We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA and pretending that’s going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a road project is disingenuous.”

Which suggests, of course, that artists, cultural managers, stagehands, gallery staff, technicians, costume designers, and anybody else involved in artistic pursuits aren’t actually working, or earning a paycheck, or supporting their families, or any of the other productive things road workers might do. Or, to put it more bluntly, arts workers are not ”real people.”

It’s perfectly fair to challenge the ”stimulus potential” of any line item in the massive bill. And there are legitimate arguments to be made that one form of spending or incentive works more quickly, more effectively, more efficiently than another. But this particular line of attack, suggesting that the arts don’t involve people doing jobs, is staggering in its ignorance.

Before we go railing off on conservative politicians, however, we might look for the same bias and blindness among ourselves. I was at a conference panel recently, for example, in which an architect from a well-respected firm with extensive cultural facility projects to their credit made an astounding admission: up until their most recent project, that involved direct discussion with a wide range of practitioners, they hadn’t thought of a cultural facility as a workplace. A performance/display space, an audience chamber, and a public venue, to be sure. Even an administrative office tucked away in the back. But the entire building as a daily workplace for professionals and tradespeople? A novel idea.

Perhaps that explains why so many cultural facilities have spaces that can’t be cleaned, lightbulbs that can’t be changed without massive machinery, and offices and common spaces that cramp and confound the folks who come to work there every day.

Somewhere between our lofty rhetoric about the power of the arts, and our mechanical arguments about social and civic benefits, there seems to be a disconnect in our message. The arts are people. They don’t just serve people or help people, they are people. It’s astounding that anyone would understand otherwise.

Having Happy Friends Can Make You Happy

In Interesting Articles on February 11, 2009 at 12:40 am

But Having Lots of Friends Won’t–Unless They Are All Happy

Written by DAVID CAMERON, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL

happyIf you’re happy and you know it, thank your friends — and their friends. And while you’re at it, their friends’ friends. But if you’re sad, hold the blame. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego, have found that “happiness” is not the result solely of a cloistered journey filled with individually tailored self-help techniques. Happiness is also a collective phenomenon that spreads through social networks like an emotional contagion.

In a study that looked at the happiness of nearly 5,000 individuals over a period of 20 years, researchers found that when an individual becomes happy, the network effect can be measured up to three degrees. One person’s happiness triggers a chain reaction that benefits not only their friends, but their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends. The effect lasts for up to one year.

The flip side, interestingly, is not the case: Sadness does not spread through social networks as robustly as happiness. Happiness appears to love company more so than misery.

“We’ve found that your emotional state may depend on the emotional experiences of people you don’t even know, who are two to three degrees removed from you,” says Harvard Medical School Professor Nicholas Christakis, who, along with James Fowler from the UC, San Diego, co-authored this study. “And the effect isn’t just fleeting,” Christakis said.

These findings were published online the BMJ.

For over two years now, Christakis and Fowler have been mining data from the Framingham Heart Study (an ongoing cardiovascular study begun in 1948), reconstructing the social fabric in which individuals are enmeshed and analyzing the relationship between social networks and health. The researchers uncovered a treasure trove of data from archived, handwritten administrative tracking sheets dating back to 1971. All family changes for each study participant, such as birth, marriage, death, and divorce, were recorded. In addition, participants also listed contact information for their closest friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Coincidentally, many of these friends were also study participants. Focusing on 4,739 individuals, Christakis and Fowler observed more than 50,000 social and family ties and analyzed the spread of happiness throughout this group.

Using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Index (a standard metric) that study participants completed, the researchers found that when an individual becomes happy, a friend living within a mile experiences a 25 percent increased chance of becoming happy. A co-resident spouse experiences an 8 percent increased chance, siblings living within one mile have a 14 percent increased chance, and for next-door neighbors, 34 percent.

But the real surprise came with indirect relationships. Again, while an individual becoming happy increases his friend’s chances, a friend of that friend experiences a nearly 10 percent chance of increased happiness, and a friend of that friend has a 5.6 percent increased chance — a three-degree cascade.

“We’ve found that while all people are roughly six degrees separated from each other, our ability to influence others appears to stretch to only three degrees,” says Christakis. “It’s the difference between the structure and function of social networks.”

These effects are limited by both time and space. The closer a friend lives to you, the stronger the emotional contagion. But as distance increases, the effect dissipates. This explains why next-door neighbors have an effect, but not neighbors who live around the block. In addition, the happiness effect appears to wear off after roughly one year.

“So the spread of happiness is constrained by time and geography,” observes Christakis, who is also a professor of sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “It can’t just happen at any time, any place.”

The researchers also found that, contrary to what your parents taught you, popularity does lead to happiness. People in the center of their network clusters are the most likely people to become happy, odds that increase to the extent that the people surrounding them also have lots of friends. However, becoming happy does not help migrate a person from the network fringe to the center. Happiness spreads through the network without altering its structure.

“Imagine an aerial view of a backyard party,” Fowler explains. “You’ll see people in clusters at the center, and others on the outskirts. The happiest people tend to be the ones in the center. But someone on the fringe who suddenly becomes happy, say through a particular exchange, doesn’t suddenly move into the center of the group. He simply stays where he is — only now he has a far more satisfying sense of well-being. Happiness works not by changing where you’re located in the network; it simply spreads through the network.”

Fowler also points out that these findings give us an interesting perspective for this holiday season, which arrives smack in the middle of some pretty gloomy economic times. Examination of this data set shows that having an extra $5,000 increased a person’s chances of becoming happier by about 2 percent. But the same data also show, as Fowler notes, that “Someone you don’t know and have never met — the friend of a friend of a friend — can have a greater influence than hundreds of bills in your pocket.”

This is the third major network analysis by Christakis and Fowler that shows how our health is affected by our social context. The two previous studies, both published in the New England Journal of Medicine, described the social network effects vis-à-vis obesity and smoking cessation.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging, a Pioneer Grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a contract from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to the Framingham Heart Study.

Will Act for Food

In Current Events, Interesting Articles on February 7, 2009 at 8:53 pm

This article appeared in Newsweek Jan 10th, 2009 and was written by Jeremy McCarter. Thanks James Wilney for passing it along. If you care about the arts, this article is a must read. It speaks to so many of the issues shared here on ETA. After you have read it, please go to the post US Senate Cut Arts Stimulus Support and send off your letter to your senator. It will take you two minutes.
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Since election day, pundits have exhausted themselves trying to locate every last reason for Barack Obama’s win. But the fine-tooth combing has missed something—or, rather, someone: Walt Whitman. Nobody has pointed out that Obama shares his victory with the generations of writers and musicians and painters in the fervently democratic tradition that descends from our national poet.

To understand how the arts prepared the way for Obama, we first need to clarify what it means when people (including the president-elect) say that “only in America” could his story be possible. That can’t be a statement about law or politics, since the election of someone with Obama’s unconventional background is technically possible in plenty of democracies. It’s really a statement about our national imagination: only in America could a majority of voters see a person who is so unlike them—a black man who has an African father, a mother from Kansas, an international childhood, a name packed with vowels—as a fellow citizen who’s capable of leading them. And where did we Americans learn to be so uniquely broad-minded? In large part, from our artists.

Since Ralph Waldo Emerson issued his call for homegrown American creativity 130 years ago, and Whitman answered him with the all-embracing poems that helped shape the psyche of our polyglot young democracy, the arts have offered the various tribes of this country some of our best chances to know ourselves and one another, and to see the pleasures and pain of our interactions more clearly: think of what we’ve learned from Huck and Jim, “Invisible Man,” Alvin Ailey’s dances, “Angels in America,” the blues. Better yet, try to imagine how we’d relate to one another without them.

This isn’t to say the pressure from our artists has been steady or even all in one direction: important strains in our cultural legacy haven’t exactly blazed a new trail of multicultural understanding; others have propagated a gruesome number of demeaning racial and ethnic stereotypes. But at their best, our great artists have achieved in their work the kind of harmony that so often eludes us in life, firing our imaginations with advance glimpses of the more perfect union that the Founders envisioned but made only limited progress in achieving. We know, for instance, that in America, blacks and whites, Jews and Gentiles, highbrows and regular folk should all coexist in peace. Even if we’re still not sure how that union will look, the catchall beauty of “Rhapsody in Blue” tells us how it sounds.

Serenaded by the cross-pollinating strains of hip-hop and salsa, polka and jazz, the most vibrant stream of our culture has been slowly, fitfully molding us into what Randolph Bourne called “trans-national America.” In his landmark 1916 essay, the great cultural critic grasped that we were not, and should not try to be, a homogeneous nation with a single shared heritage, as in the Old World. We are instead becoming a people among whom even someone as category-defying as Barack Obama can feel at home: “a nation of nations” in which a “spiritual welding” among men and women of diverse traditions will make us “not weaker, but infinitely strong.” An America this generous and accepting—this absorbent—is the one for which Martin Luther King and the other heroes of the civil-rights struggle fought and bled and died. And only an America that has made real progress toward those ideals could dream of making the presidential choice we’ve just made.

Cultural issues, which aren’t a top priority for new administrations even in the best of times, will have trouble climbing very high on the Obama agenda. But in light of what this election has helped us to understand about the potency of the arts in our national life, the new president would be wasting a glorious opportunity if he failed to give them his attention. Partly it’s because the overlapping crises we face at the moment give him a rare chance to dream big. Partly, too, his singular story gives him a unique ability to make connections among people that might change the way we think about culture. But it’s also a question of his larger vision for society, which the arts could help him to realize. If he treats them wisely, he might foster a climate for creativity as unprecedented as his election.

Though Obama hasn’t made any arts or humanities appointments yet, he has signaled that he regards culture seriously. During the campaign, he took the unprecedented step of forming an Arts Policy Committee, which produced a thorough list of policy objectives. (Rare are the campaigns that can boast a statement of principles drafted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist—in this case, Michael Chabon.)

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The Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative

In Current Events, Interesting Articles on February 5, 2009 at 12:14 am

This article appeared in Arts Journal Feb 4, 2009 written by Andrew Taylor
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The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced their Arts in Crisis initiative this week (covered here in the Washington Post), designed to provide emergency planning assistance to cultural organizations in trouble during tough economic times. Through the system, any nonprofit arts organization can request advice and counsel — both from the leadership and staff of the Kennedy Center, and from a growing list of mentors who can sign up through the web site.

It’s a wonderful example of an established and well-resourced cultural institution embracing its position and its privilege as a platform to help their smaller peers. And it’s great to see such quick and proactive response from an organization who could easily have claimed it was not their job.

But while I applaud and honor the effort, I hope it also comes with a willingness to embrace a larger truth: The Kennedy Center is part of a network of networks, part of an ecology of resources focused on the task. Their impact will be exponentially more profound if they do not assume they are going it alone.

The crisis in the arts, or any other industry, is an ecological one. Any crisis can certainly benefit from unilateral and independent action. But a more resilient and encompassing response would also include recognition and interconnection of the entire ecosystem that provides coaching, counseling, mentorship, and responsive strategy support to organizations and leaders at the edge of collapse.

National service organizations in the arts, state and local arts councils, national nonprofit support organizations like CompassPoint or the Nonprofit Finance Fund, regional endeavors like Springboard for the Arts, and academic centers of research and service in nonprofit cultural management have been doing this work for decades, and may have some best practices and systemic knowledge that could promote both the capacity and the success of the Arts in Crisis mission. Simple initial efforts such as staff awareness of the many players in the game, and effective referral efforts for incoming requests would help. Lists and links to regional and local resources for advice and counsel would help as well (even the Small Business Development Centers across the country have extraordinary and productive insights to share).

Clearly, quick action is needed. And blissfully, the Kennedy Center and Michael Kaiser have stepped up as they have so often in the past. But neither the Kennedy Center nor Mr. Kaiser has the capacity (or full range of insight) required to engage the tidal wave of cultural leaders who need help.

Only by recognizing the full network of resources in the system, and engaging in a way that both aligns individual energy and builds the capacity of the network, will we effectively navigate this current cycle and emerge more strongly on the other side.

What Grammy Can Learn from 3 Innovators

In Interesting Articles, Leadership, Music on February 2, 2009 at 12:36 am

This article appeared in The Chicago Tribune on Sunday February 1, 2009
It was written by Greg Kot greg@gregkot.com

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If the sagging music industry really wanted to turn itself around, Radiohead, Lil Wayne and Paul McCartney would be doing more than just performing next weekend at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. They also would be dispensing business advice on innovative distribution models.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which represents the 20,000 industry professionals who vote on the Grammys, signed those high-profile artists to boost ratings at the nationally televised awards presentation (7 p.m. Feb. 8 on WBBM-Ch. 2). But the Academy should also study how these artists have continued to remain relevant and commercially successful at a time when the Grammys and the mainstream music industry are struggling.

Like the major labels the awards have represented for the last half-century, the Grammys need a makeover. Ratings are down; last year’s telecast drew 17.5 million viewers, down 12 percent from the previous year, and down 42 percent from the all-time 1993 high of 30 million. The music industry isn’t doing much better; it has lost one-third of its business in CD sales since 2000. The biggest losers have been the Big Four labels: Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music Group, which traditionally back most of the Grammy nominees.

But the music world itself has never been more vibrant. Artists, many without major-label affiliation, are pioneering new avenues for releasing their music and building an audience. Radiohead, McCartney and Lil Wayne speak to different generations of listeners, but they have all expanded their careers in recent months by working around the stodgy music industry and releasing music in a wide variety of platforms.

Radiohead’s “In Rainbows,” nominated for album of the year among several awards, was initially released on the band’s Web site at a price of the consumers’ choice. Since then, the band has solicited and received thousands of fan-generated videos and remixes of the album’s songs. McCartney ended a four-decade partnership with the major labels in 2007 and revived his career by releasing his last two albums, one under the name of the Fireman, through independent outlets, including a coffee retailer. And Wayne paved the way for his multimillion-selling major-label release, “Tha Carter III,” also nominated for album of the year, with a series of unauthorized mix tapes distributed for free through the Internet.

In years past, independent artists had no place at the Grammys. Though the awards purported to honor “artistic excellence,” they focused primarily on big-budget releases from the handful of major labels that had dominated the business in the last half of the 20th Century.

The majors’ grip on music distribution loosened as peer-to-peer file sharing exploded on the Internet at the start of the decade. Illicit downloads now outnumber paid downloads 40-1, which means that more people are listening to more music than ever, but the mainstream industry hasn’t been able to take advantage of this extraordinary marketing opportunity. Radiohead, Wayne and McCartney were among the artists quick to recognize the potential of this new distribution model, and they operate as independent entrepreneurs rather than major-label vassals.

Another innovator the industry should be getting to know better is Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, who received two relatively minor Grammy nominations but is not scheduled to perform at the awards ceremony. That’s a shame, because few artists had a more successful year. Functioning as a one-man music industry, he released five albums’ worth of new music through his Web site in myriad formats and price levels. After releasing a boxed set of instrumental music last March, he reported first-week revenue of $1.7 million. Because he didn’t have a major-label publicity and marketing machine behind him, Reznor kept most of that take for himself.

Of course, Reznor benefited from years of major-label investment in building his career, as did McCartney, Radiohead and Lil Wayne. But now these artists, and countless others, are starting to realize that they don’t need a major label to communicate directly with their fans. In the next year, major breadwinners such as Pearl Jam, 50 Cent, Metallica and Beck will become free agents, and they will certainly ponder whether they’d be better off without a label when they release their next albums. Though the big labels have the resources to expose music in the mainstream media, they have lost the trust of consumers by placing profit and expediency ahead of artistic accomplishment and long-term growth. Listeners no longer deem many CDs worth the $18 list price and have sought out alternative means of sampling music, including file-sharing. Instead of following the consumers’ lead, the industry has tried to stifle them by suing file-sharers.

Radiohead, Lil Wayne, Paul McCartney and Nine Inch Nails have chosen a different path, one in which they deal more directly than ever with their fans, and it has paid off handsomely. The music industry would be wise to learn from their example.

Where Fashion Spreads Are Taken Seriously

In Art, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Fashion, Interesting Articles on January 27, 2009 at 12:30 am

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Friday January 23, 09 and was written by CHERYL LU-LIEN TAN
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Against the backdrop of a crisp blue sky streaked with stark-white clouds, a well-chiseled, glistening man wearing nothing but goggles, hot-pink briefs and white fur boots is draped over a suitcase. His mouth is ever so slightly ajar as his crotch dramatically thrusts skyward.

For many, the racy image, from a 2007 photo shoot titled “Frozen Margarita” in the French men’s magazine Numéro Homme, may seem more at home in a breathless issue of Playgirl than a museum exhibition. No matter how artfully shot or arresting an image it is, the picture, taken by Dutch fashion photographer Matthias Vriens, is in its essence about an almost-nude man striking a lewd pose.

But now a museum is where you’ll find it. The piece is part of an exhibition that’ll kick off a year-long series of shows that the International Center of Photography in New York is devoting to fashion photography.
“Veruschka, New York”
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The series, which will feature hundreds of photographs spread out over seven exhibitions in 2009, is an ambitious — and unusual — undertaking for a museum that has generally showcased works of significant social heft. Cornell Capa, the founding director of the center and a photographer himself who died last May, once wrote that photography had a duty to “provoke discussion, awaken conscience, evoke sympathy, spotlight human misery and joy which otherwise would pass unseen, un-understood and unnoticed.” How does a beefcake shot jibe with that mission?

“Some of the questions that we’ve addressed toward other areas of photography such as photojournalism could also be addressed to fashion photography,” argues Brian Wallis, the center’s chief curator. The photographs “address sociological issues or issues of social history and shape public consciousness and attitudes. All kinds of social views go into the production of images for fashion photography.”

The center began planning this series two years ago. Fashion photography is “an area that involves a lot of inventiveness in order to keep things lively for the reader — to do the same thing month after month, year after year really requires extreme innovation if you’re going to be any good,” says Vince Aletti, a co-curator of the series. “A lot of the people who are working [in it] today are producing some of the most interesting photography out there, and virtually all of that work hasn’t been seen by anyone unless they’re looking very regularly at American and European fashion magazines.”

Indeed, the exhibitions feature the work of several well-respected photographers who are already regarded as artists: Richard Avedon, whose vibrant pictures conveyed the exuberance and motion of fashion in still photographs, is the subject of a show that runs from May 15 through Sept. 6, for example. Hungarian fashion photographer Martin Munkacsi, who shot spreads for ad campaigns and magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar in the early 20th century, also warrants his own exhibition, which is up through May 3. And names such as Hedi Slimane, postmodern avant-garde artist Cindy Sherman (who outfits herself in designer duds for French Vogue) and Juergen Teller (of the haunting Marc Jacobs ads) are included in “Weird Beauty: Fashion Photography Now,” which also has a May 3 closing date.

The concept for the series began with discussions about the Avedon show, which branched out to also include the planning for one on the work of Edward Steichen, a big name in art photography who drew some fire during his time for doing commercial work as chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair in the 1920s; and another about pictures that weren’t conceived as fashion shots but possess a distinctive style element. Called “This Is Not a Fashion Photograph,” that show includes such works as an untitled picture from Carrie Mae Weems’s 1990 “Kitchen Table Series,” which shows a proud-looking, perfectly coifed woman sitting erect at a dining table and staring straight ahead, almost mannequin-like, as a man slouched nearby reads the newspaper. A 1966 Bruce Davidson photograph of a high-school student smoking a cigarette while carrying a switchblade on East 100th Street in Manhattan depicts the young man in a pose that manages to look both semistudied and not terribly unlike the man-on-the-street images that pop up in fashion magazines these days.

Nick Knight, Courtesy of the artist
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Nick Knight’s ‘Boned,’ part of ‘Weird Beauty,’ one of the International Center of Photography’s shows.
In the case of the Steichen show, co-curator Carol Squiers says she was interested in showcasing the work of a shooter who was a pioneer in the genre. Mr. Steichen actually produced some of his best work for magazines. The exhibition’s photos from the Condé Nast archives include portraits of such celebrities as Amelia Earhart and Charlie Chaplin. Many of the works are simple, straightforward glamour shots — some of the more striking pieces are the ones with no bold-faced names attached. A 1934 photograph meant to accompany a story on hand and nail care, for example, focuses on a model who is shown dramatically shielding her face with her hands.

Ms. Squiers wants the pictures in the series to convince viewers that fashion photography should be treated as a serious art form. “I hope one thing they’ll get is just the way imagination unleashed on even a subject as limited as a coat or a dress can go in so many different directions,” she says.

Some of the most striking photographs are to be found in the “Weird Beauty” exhibition. A Steven Klein spread juxtaposes a plus-size woman in intimate situations with a young, muscular pretty boy with long hair. “It’s a great female fantasy and one that you don’t often see,” Ms. Squiers says. A Günther Parth spread on hats shows pieces like a bucket hat and a rumpled knit cap perched atop styrofoam mannequin heads with ghastly, eroded features. With their pockmarks and deep indentations, the heads conjure thoughts of horrific flesh-eating diseases, providing a fascinating foil for the expensive, tailored chapeaus.

While American magazines have come under some fire in recent years for promoting so-called heroin chic, many of the most daring pictures were culled from European magazines, such as Vogue Paris and Arena Homme Plus. “I think that U.S. advertisers have a lot of influence in terms of what is permissible for the print or editorial sections,” Ms. Squiers says. “They want pictures where the clothes are shown and there are no disturbing images.”

To be sure, there are some photographs in the series that look so straightforward in concept and style that one wonders what separates them from the pictures in the latest J.Crew catalog. But perhaps the answer is “nothing.” The larger point that this series sets out to make, after all, is that art can and should be found in the most commercial and mass-market forms of fashion photography. Even in a simple shot of a man wearing a suit, staring straight into the camera.

Ms. Tan is a fashion reporter for the Journal.