September 8, 2011 by

Around the horn: Rock me like a hurricane edition

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<p>First, two personal items of note: I’m honored to be listed once again as one of the top 25 (really, 40ish) arts leaders on Barry Hessenius’s <a href=annual list of such things; and the video of my talk at TEDxMichiganAve given many months ago is now available for viewing.

CLOSURES, OPENINGS, MERGERS, AND PAY CUTS

  • Gentrification claims another arts space in Williamsburg.
  • The Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic are in active merger talks.
  • I would like to see more of this kind of story: after Pittsburgh Symphony musicians agreed to a new contract that forced them to take a 9.7% pay cut, their music director, Manfred Honeck, announced that he would take a 10% cut too. Of course, Manfred can afford to lose a bit of income, as he made $546,700 last year. But still, it’s surprisingly rare that we see even this much of a gesture from the leaders of organizations under financial duress. Meanwhile, the Wichita Symphony players recently accepted a further 20% pay reduction, on top of a voluntary wage cut of nearly 14% over the past two years. No word on any concessions made by the music director there.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

PHILANTHROPY TALK

  • The philanthropy/nonprofit blogspace is all abuzz over the fact that GOOD, a for-profit media company focused on social causes, has bought Jumo, the social media and crowdfunding platform for nonprofits started by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. The fact that Jumo is itself a nonprofit that was started with the help of $3.5 million in grants from the Ford and Knight Foundations and Omidyar Network seems to be the source of the intrigue.
  • Good news for cultural diplomacy enthusiasts: New York’s Robert Sterling Clark Foundation has dramatically increased the resources it is pumping into international cultural exchange programs. A list of grants made so far is available here.
  • The Save America’s Treasures grant program, administered through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is shutting down.

RESEARCH CORNER

  • Emerging arts leaders: do the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Council and your fellow citizens a solid, and fill out this survey to share tips, tools, and resources that you find useful with your peers.
  • Musicians: do the Future of Music Coalition and your fellow citizens a solid, and fill out this survey about the ways in which you make your money (or don’t). I hear there are iPads to be won!
  • I think it’s pretty awesome that the American Planning Association would publish a report called “Community Character: How Arts and Culture Strategies Create, Reinforce, and Enhance Sense of Place.”
  • The Aspen Institute is studying artist-endowed foundations.
  • Ways in which cities are using data and research to improve citywide out-of-school-time (OST) systems.
  • Freakonomics contributor Daniel Hamermesh is out with a new book called Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful. I’ve been interested in this topic for at least a decade, ever since I first became aware of psychology and economics studies showing the substantial life benefits reaped by attractive people, and am glad to see it starting to enter the mainstream conversation. Curiously, the data suggests that there is more downside than upside to the attractiveness game for men as compared with women. Hamermesh goes so far as to make a (fairly cogent) argument for fashioning a legally protected class out of the ugly. Fascinating stuff!
  • Sage advice for young cultural researchers from Canada’s Lidia Varbanova: “Cultural policy research field is rewarding but not an easy one: it requires a good portion of diplomacy and negotiation skills as it reflect diverse stakeholders because research without policy actions stays only in the libraries without real impact on improving the creative life of cultural professionals and the communities. It also needs patience, as in many cases undertaking practical policy actions as a result of research findings requires time, lobbying and joined advocacy efforts.”

ART AND THE LAW

  • The previously-blogged New Jersey plan to require nonprofits in the state to allow program-restricted donations has been thankfully dropped.
  • A little-known provision in current copyright law allows artists to apply for reinstatement of the ownership rights to their work after 35 years. That deadline is coming up and record labels, publishers, and others that rely on the assignment of copyright (and milking cash cow artists) for their business model are understandably freaking out about it and trying to challenge the law. The conflict centers on whether (for example) albums made under a recording contract can be considered “work for hire” and thus belong to the record company by default. With the legal ramifications unclear, Representative John Conyers has come out on the side of the artists.
  • I never thought I’d be writing these words, but there is going to be an arts policy storyline on a major network television show.

ART AND GOVERNMENT

  • Sam Brownback just doesn’t know when to quit. Not satisfied with being the first governor in history to completely defund his own state’s arts commission, now he’s having his chief of staff show up at ribbon-cutting events to mouth off about how wonderful the arts are. Meanwhile, he refuses to reconsider his decision – despite the fact that the state now has a $180 million surplus.
  • Jay Dick from Americans for the Arts explains the complex web of societies for elected officials and why AFTA tries to have a presence at their convenings. In my (still developing) observation, this type of advocacy seems to be what AFTA is best at: the behind-the-scenes relationship building that takes place in different corners of the country and among policy insider circles. I sometimes think AFTA doesn’t get enough credit for its work in this area, which to my mind would be very difficult for others in the arts field to replicate. It’s definitely soft power rather than the hard power represented by massive lobbying dollars or enormous mobs with pitchforks, but soft power is better than nothing.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

  • Diane Ragsdale considers the shape of arts cuts and new funding models in the Netherlands and Australia. Meanwhile, severalEuropean impresarios talk about the effect of recent budget cuts on their plans and speculate about the future.
  • Sad news: a British cultural council in Afghanistan has been the focus of a terrorist attack. At least twelve people died in the fighting, mostly Afghani police and security guards.

AND SO ON…

  • If you’re hankering for some great live jazz streamed direct to your computer, Tara George has your fix.
  • I enjoyed this neat idea from Andrew Taylor on “job function trading cards.” He’s definitely right that small organizations risk making suboptimal use of their employees’ unique talents because they are too beholden to job descriptions.
  • It sounds a little ridiculous, but I actually think these “gofer” services popping up are pretty brilliant. Besides providing value to buyers and sellers, it could help the long-term unemployed stay productive and earn a little on the side.

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