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Posts Tagged ‘arts’

Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters.
Dancers from the Berlin State Ballet during the dress rehearsal for a production of Don Quixote in Berlin last December. 

I am often surprised to see how much “Old Europe” leads the way into the future. Not only do we count on Europe to curtail the monopolistic excesses of tech companies like Apple and Google, but we look to thought leaders there for ideas on dealing with everything from climate change to improving arts access.

Kate Connolly in Berlin, Sam Jones in Madrid, Jon Henley in Paris and Angela Giuffrida in Rome have a report at the Guardian.

“Young Germans are to join other Europeans in being offered a voucher to spend on their choice of cultural offerings under a scheme launched by the government. The €200 Kulturpass, which will be made available to all 18-year-olds, has twin aims: to encourage young adults to experience live culture and drop stay-at-home pandemic habits; and give a financial boost to the arts scene, which has yet to recover from repeated lockdowns.

“Germany’s culture minister, Claudia Roth, described the cultural passport as the ‘equivalent of a birthday present’ for the 750,000 people who will turn 18 in 2023. It will bring the EU’s most populous country in line with France, Italy and Spain, which have introduced similar schemes.

“The finance minister, Christian Lindner, described the pass as ‘cultural start-up capital’ that its recipients can use within a two-year period for everything from theatre and concert tickets to books or music. It will be managed via an app and a website that provides a direct connection to a virtual marketplace of everything from bookshops to theaters. …

“Online platforms such as Amazon and Spotify have been excluded from the scheme, which places an emphasis on smaller, often local organizations, such as independent cinemas and bookshops.

Individual purchases will be limited in value to prevent someone from using the voucher to buy, for example, a single concert ticket for €200.

“Launching the Kulturpass, Roth and Lindner said that if successful, the scheme would be extended and probably rolled out to a wider age group, possibly from the age of 15 upwards.

“A similar scheme, announced last year by Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government, offers young people a €400 culture voucher when they reach 18. According to the Spanish government, 57.6% of all those who turned 18 in 2022 registered for the voucher scheme in its first year.

“France’s Pass Culture, or youth culture pass, a promise from President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 election campaign, was trialled across the country the following year and – after a lengthy delay due to the pandemic – officially launched in 2021.

“The app-based pass gives every 18-year-old €300 to spend on cinema, museum, theatre and concert tickets, as well as on books, art materials, arts courses, musical instruments or a subscription to a French digital platform. …

“This year the €200m-a-year scheme was extended to over-15s, in two parts: a collective allowance of (depending on age) €25-30 per pupil per year available to teachers for class visits to exhibitions, films, plays, concerts or workshops, plus from €20-30 that each teenager can spend individually.

“In 2016, Italy introduced a ‘culture bonus’ of €500 for every 18-year-old under prime minister, Matteo Renzi, It has been maintained by the culture ministry despite various changes of government since then and an attempt by populist leaders to scrap it in 2018. …

“Roth said the German pass would open up a range of cultural opportunities for young people comparable with the Interrail Pass, a train ticket that has allowed generations of Europeans the opportunity to travel cheaply around the continent.

“Olaf Zimmermann, the chairman of the German Cultural Council, an umbrella organization representing more than 200 cultural associations, said the voucher was a ‘meaningful way to support both young people and the world of culture which have suffered in particular from the pandemic.’ But he said that establishing what young adults … should cover as many areas as possible, from drawing classes to the purchase of a musical instrument.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle.
Mark Morrisette, facilities director, and Susie Medak, managing director of Berkeley Rep, at a building that will host performers in the pricey Bay area.

Every day, it seems, I read a story on how the current cost of housing affects a different group of people. Yesterday it was about elderly people in Rhode Island becoming homeless and advocates asking the governor to lift local restrictions to house them.

Today it’s about arts leaders using their characteristic creativity to figure out a solution for visiting performers in one of the most expensive regions in America.

Lily Janiak  reports at the San Francisco Chronicle, “Across the breezeway from Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s new Medak Center, fuchsia light from the set of the new musical Goddess streamed through an open loading bay door, like a portal to Narnia.

“Such a sight might frequently greet the company’s out-of-town actors, directors, designers and playwrights — as well as its fellows, Berkeley Rep’s interns — when they wake up each morning and walk next door to work from their new home.

“But the 42,885-square-foot, $26.2 million center, which plans to host a dedication ceremony on Sept. 3, isn’t just about short commutes. It marks a historic and visionary investment in artist housing in a region with ballooning real estate costs.

“Berkeley Rep’s outgoing managing director, Susie Medak, the center’s namesake and the driving force behind its construction, remembers when housing out-of-town artists cost the company $300,000 to $400,000 per year. These days it’s more like $2 million. Before the pandemic postponed the most recent season opening, Berkeley Rep had committed to paying for 7,000 nights at a nearby Marriott hotel for this past year. …

She remembers when housing out-of-town artists cost the company $300,000 to $400,000 per year. These days it’s more like $2 million.

“Assuring comfort and quiet was another objective for the Medak Center. In a university town, a living situation that looked promising during daylight hours might be beset by 3 a.m. parties.

“ ‘I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve had to move actors in the middle of a run,’ Medak said.

“The new center, located next door to Berkeley Rep’s Roda and Peet’s theater, has 45 units with capacity for 128 occupants. Fellows will share three-bedroom units. When Berkeley Rep’s not using those rooms, it plans to rent them to other nonprofits. …

“The building also features a classroom and a studio workshop space, which could host anything from movement classes to small experimental performances. … Other amenities include new storage space, a third-floor terrace with gardening beds for organic produce for residents, and a covered loading dock for the theaters so crews no longer have to load and unload sets while exposed to the rain.

“The building has key-card access, laundry on every floor and full kitchens in every unit. It’s also Gold LEED-certified for environmental efficiency.

“A trendy gray palette marks the interior. For one wall of the exterior, Berkeley Rep has commissioned a four-story mural by Oakland artist Cece Carpio to honor Ohlone peoples, on whose ancestral and unceded lands Berkeley Rep now sits.

“The theater has owned the property where the Medak Center was built since 1991, but for years it contained an empty lot and a warehouse. The project was a decades-long dream until Signature Bank helped finance it. The theater company finally broke ground in 2019.

“One comparable local facility is the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Ute and William K. Bowes Jr. Center for Performing Arts, which opened in 2020 and can house 400 conservatory students and 10 visiting artists, as well as 52 students from the San Francisco Ballet School. Those students pay for rooms, however, while Berkeley Rep’s fellows get free housing as part of their contract as workers.

“ ‘The Bowes Center brought together a range of our ambitions: positioning the institution right in the middle of Civic Center, providing much needed additional performance and teaching space, giving our students beautiful, safe accommodations in a place where they can work and live,’ said President David H. Stull.

“That meansfor example, a guest artist such as superstar Chinese pianist Yuja Wang might live and create and record music in the same building as students. …

“The San Francisco Ballet School has been able to increase student beds from 40 to 52 since the Bowes Center opened, said Jennie Scholick, director of education and training.  And now that students live right next to where they take classes, as opposed to a bus ride away in Pacific Heights, the school can accept younger students.

“At Berkeley Rep … the company’s first fellows [were] set to move into the new building Sept. 26, followed by visiting artists in Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor program, and then the cast and creative team for Wuthering Heights later in the fall.

“The board’s commitment to the Medak Center through pandemic delays and uncertainty, Medak said, was ‘the greatest statement of our intent to exist on the other side of this pandemic. Building this building is a statement of optimism.’ ”

It’s not something every city will have the priorities or resources to tackle, but it’s an inspiring idea, don’t you think? More at the San Francisco Chronicle, here.

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Photo: Marbeth/ Cultural Council Foundation
“Words to Go” mobile troupe of poets and authors (1978)

Two artists who benefited both the nation and themselves in a 1970s recession have wisdom to share about why a federally funded arts program might be a good idea as we rebuild after the pandemic.

Virginia Maksymowicz and Blaise Tobia write at Hyperallergic, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration and its employment of artists during the 1930s [was not] the one and only time the federal government employed artists en masse. [From] 1974 to 1982, federal funds provided employment to 10,000 artists nationwide under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). …

“Signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1973 during a recession, CETA was … originally conceived as a means of training unskilled workers. It was subsequently amended to allow the hiring of trained professionals in high unemployment fields. John Kreidler, an intern at the San Francisco Arts Commission, was the first to recognize how CETA monies could be directed towards artists, and he began using the funding for SFAC’s Neighborhood Arts Project. Soon, similar programs were developed in cities and towns across the country. …

“Why are the CETA artist programs less well known than the WPA projects? For one thing, they took place under less dramatic circumstances — an economic crisis not nearly as severe as the Great Depression. For another, they were decentralized: planned and carried out at the state and municipal level rather than under federal administration. For yet another, they were designed primarily for artists to provide public service (such as teaching, project leadership, or administration) rather than to produce individual artworks. …

“We worked under the largest CETA-funded arts project in the country, the Cultural Council Foundation (CCF) Artists Project in NYC. It and four associated projects employed 500 visual, performing and literary artists. … We worked four days per week in community assignments and one day per week in our studios. Some of the visual artists created community-requested public art works but, unlike the Federal Art Project, this was not a major part of the program.

“The CCF musicians performed in a number of ensembles, such as the Orchestra of New York and the Jazzmobile CETA Big Band, giving free concerts throughout the city. The media artists worked as a documentary video production unit. Many of the writers became part of a mobile teaching/performing unit called ‘Words to Go.’ …

“Our experience proved invaluable to us, not just because it provided a regular paycheck. Through working in different community settings in all five boroughs, we learned how to interact as artists with a wide range of institutional bureaucracies, ethnic groups, and economic classes. …

“When it came to assignments, CCF acted as matchmaker. Community organizations, schools, museums, theaters, and other nonprofits submitted proposals for CETA artists. While the federal government provided the funds and CCF wrote the checks, it was the sponsor’s responsibility to provide the space, materials, and assistance that their proposal required.

“[During] the first year, Blaise was a photographer for the project’s documentation unit along with two other photographers, three writers, and an archivist. He traveled to artists’ studios, to performances and exhibitions, to workshops and classes, and to official and unofficial events related to the project. … In his second year, with the closing of the documentation unit, he was transferred to the general photographers’ pool and worked in three community projects. One was for the Richmond Hill Historical Society, which uses his photographs on its website to this day.

Photo: Blaise Tobia
Painter Charles Stanley leading mural workshop in a Lower East Side elementary school in 1978.

“Virginia experienced a variety of placements ranging from teaching children, to renovating an old school, to assisting in museums to creating public artworks. Her work for an after-school program in the Bronx resulted in a collaboration with Charles Biasiny-Rivera at En Foco. They jointly mounted an exhibition of drawings made by the children and photographs made by professionals. …

“She was also part of a crew of 10 artists assigned to the Brooklyn Arts and Cultural Association. … Under the direction of its founder, Charlene Victor, they converted the former St. Boniface’s School on Willoughby Street into a performance and art space. Their efforts resulted in what came to be known as BACA Downtown, a venue that gave Spike Lee, Danny DeVito, and Suzan-Lori Parks their starts.

“Across the country, CETA artists had similar experiences. … Like the WPA, the CCF Artists Project helped lay a foundation for the future careers of individual artists. It connected artists to communities and to each other. Many of us were able to transition out of the gig economy into sustainable positions. …

“CETA particularly benefited African-American, Latinx, Asian, and women artists, not only as individuals but in terms of kickstarting and stabilizing organizations, some of which remain active today. … Museums and cultural institutions across the country benefited from the CETA funding of support staff. In NYC alone, there were 300 CETA employees in maintenance, security, and other positions. The Philadelphia Museum of Art had at least 38 CETA staff lines. ….

“CETA’s employment of artists was money well spent. The investment was returned to society manyfold in the form of taxes paid, services rendered, real estate values increased, neighborhoods revived, and an overall economy made more vibrant. …

“What would it take to allow a jobs program like CETA to happen again? The will to do so, along with the right approach. … The Biden administration will have to address massive un- and under-employment across all sectors of society. …

“An updated version of Nixon’s ‘new federalism’ might help CETA-like legislation through Congress. Another benefit of the CETA approach is that it relied upon partnerships between government entities and private nonprofits. Such partnerships, intended to increase efficiency within the public sector, often enjoy bipartisan support. … What happened 40 years ago can happen again.”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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Photo: Max Tapogna
As a way to overcome resource challenges, Lisa Adams has taught students at her Portland, Oregon, elementary school how to make their own instruments.

I’ve been learning recently, both from my daughter-in-law and online, that parents frustrated with the imperfections of pandemic school are complaining about the problems to teachers even though it’s mostly not something teachers can control.

Meanwhile, teachers adapt. They’ve been going beyond the extra mile to make everything work. An ESL teacher I work with often spends long, unpaid hours solving technical problems, and my husband’s orchestra-teacher niece in North Carolina rarely finishes her day before 10:30 pm.

Max Tapogna writes at Oregon Artswatch about what arts teachers in his state are doing with limited resources for remote instruction.

“One by one, students pop into the classroom, each in a respective Zoom window. Trisha Todd, a drama teacher at Portland’s Grant High School, waits a few minutes until everyone in her Beginning Theatre class has arrived. Todd is teaching from her office at Grant, which is full of theater tchotchkes: a turquoise folding screen, a poster for Sarah Ruhl’s play Orlando, and what looks like poor Yorick’s skull. Todd’s students, however, are scattered around the city. …

“Class begins, inconspicuously, with a warmup. First some stretching. Then Todd asks the students to go around and share the musical artists they’ve been listening to recently. More than one student mentions Billie Eilish; another says he’s been blasting a lot of classic rock.

“ ‘I’m doing whatever I can to keep them engaged,’ Todd says. ‘We’re just hoping to keep them with us until they get back.’ …

“When classrooms were shuttered due to the coronavirus. Arts educators, especially those with subjects in the performing arts, were forced to grapple with ways to reach students from a distance.

“ ‘It was really hard,’ says Lisa Adams, a music teacher at Duniway Elementary School. … ‘Participation was not required. There wasn’t a unified way that every school was handling it.’

“ ‘Spring was very doomy gloomy,’ says Laura Arthur, a music teacher on special assignment for the district. ‘I feel like the fall is the second, third stage of grief. We’ve reached acceptance and solutions.’ …

“Mary Renaur, a visual arts teacher at Mt. Tabor Middle School … created online tutorials on how to make art supplies at home, like glue and paint, from materials that could be found in a kitchen or recycling bin. …

“Similarly, Adams has taught her students at Duniway to craft their own instruments from household objects, like a ‘guitar’ made from a berry container and rubber bands. One student, Adams says, filled a paper towel tube with beans and fixed tape to the edges. …

“Of course, the technology comes with its complications. On the day I spoke with Renaur, she described how a student’s Chromebook unexpectedly had stopped working.

When she learned the computer wasn’t working, Renaur hopped in her car and drove to school, picked up a new computer, dropped it off at the student’s home, and drove back to her house in time for her next class.

“ ‘Between classes, I had forty-five minutes,’ Renaur says. …

“Other adjustments have been less stressful. Chris Meade, who teaches drama and music at Lent K-8, says, ‘I did a whole assignment on taking silly selfies just to get students used to using a camera.’

“At the beginning of the school year, Meade surveyed his students to get a sense of their preferences for learning music virtually. ‘The majority of my kids were really uncomfortable singing by themselves into a computer,’ Meade says. …

“Instead, Meade shifted his focus to emphasizing music appreciation and literacy. This fall, for example, students are learning about the various musics of Latin America. District-wide, arts classes are now structured around themes like emotional resilience and racial equity. That change, Meade says, has been welcome.

“He says, ‘It’s nice to [explore] all these other aspects of music that kind of get glossed over during the regular school year.’

“For theater, Todd says her goal is less forcing her old curriculum into a new format than tailoring her subject to online learning. ‘We can look at history, we can look at Shakespeare, we can look at the Greeks,’ Todd says. ‘We could just read plays for a semester.’

“Instead of directing a fall play, Todd is organizing a 24-hour devised theater piece. The festival will showcase a play written, directed, and acted entirely by students. ‘It’s supposed to happen really quickly,’ says Todd. ‘You go with your instinct. You don’t have set limitations. You create them.’ ”

Read at Oregon Artswatch, here, how the typical isolation of arts teachers has been altered by pandemic isolation, which in at least one district has led to a collaborative way of working that will likely outlast lockdowns.

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Photo: Ken Hofheinz
Brandon Steppe, the founder of the David’s Harp Foundation, received a grant for his work using music education and multimedia training to help at-risk youth.

When philanthropists step up to fill a need, it may be a sign that our tax money is not being used in some important ways. Arts education, for example, provides so many benefits to students that it really should be available in every school, but too often it’s the first thing to go when districts are underfunded.

So hooray for philanthropists filling a gap! Lauren Messman wrote at the New York Times, “The Lewis Prize for Music, a new philanthropic organization focused on fostering music education and career development in young people, announced its first slate of winners on [January 14]. The $1.75 million will be awarded to the leaders of nine organizations in eight states.

“The prize, which is split into three categories and includes both long-term and single-year support, was founded in 2019 by the philanthropist Daniel R. Lewis.

“ ‘My vision is to ensure opportunities to learn, perform and create music are available to all young people,’ said Mr. Lewis in a statement. ‘Ideally, this would be happening in every school, but that isn’t the case, especially in low-income and historically marginalized communities.’

“The Accelerator Award, which provides $500,000 for multiyear support, was given to Community MusicWorks, which provides classical music educational programs in Providence, R.I.; My Voice Music, which brings songwriting, recording and performance mentorships to mental health treatment and detention centers in Portland, Ore; and The David’s Harp Foundation, a San Diego-based organization that works to develop job skills through music with youth in the juvenile justice system. …

“ ‘What we’ve noticed is that when these young people come from being incarcerated back into the community, there’s a gap in our service there,’ [Brandon Steppe, the founder,] said in a phone interview. He added that the rest of the money will go toward building ‘arts-based diversionary programming in the community,’ in an effort to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system.

“Winners of the Infusion Award, which provides $50,000 over one year, include programs aimed at inspiring Native American music educators and composers, bringing traditional Mexican music education to the children of immigrants, providing music and entrepreneurship training for young musicians of color in Detroit and building support for the next generation of New Orleans brass band musicians.” More at the Times, here.

I liked reading further about one of the Infusion Award winners, the Native American Composer Apprentice Project. The Grand Canyon Music Festival website explains, “Since 1984, the Grand Canyon Music Festival has been dedicated to bringing the world’s finest musicians to Grand Canyon National Park in celebration of the power and beauty of this magnificent World Heritage site.

“Since 1985, the Festival has extended this gift of music to the students of northern Arizona’s under-served and rural communities, primarily at schools on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. In 2001, the Festival initiated its Native American Composers Apprentice Project (NACAP) to extend its outreach to training talented Native American students in the art of composition. NACAP develops musical literacy and enhances critical thinking and decision making skills through the study of music composition. It introduces students to European ‘classical’ music techniques, develops their understanding of their own musical heritages and how to use that knowledge to develop their own compositional voices.”

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Homeless Young People

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Photo: Tom Parsons on Unsplash
Concern for homeless youth continues to grow.

Since I read Sarah Smarsh’s memoir Homeland, I have had to recognize that my difficult childhood was not as difficult as many other people’s. And my difficulties were never exacerbated by the relentless poverty Smarsh’s farming family experienced despite always working hard.

Still, I identified with some aspects of her story, like the wish to run away. In the book, Smarsh would decide to live with a different relative from time to time, which seemed to help her get her head together for a while. I never ran away, but even as an adult, I used to fantasize about ways a child might do that successfully. I finally concluded it’s not possible, despite The Boxcar Children and their apparent self-sufficiency.

It may not be possible to do so successfully, but children and teens do run away. Tristan Hopper and Kaitlin J. Schwan write about youth homelessness in Canada at The Conversation and suggest some ways to help them.

“Despite decades of policy and programming, youth homelessness remains an urgent issue in many communities across Canada. [Twenty] per cent of people experiencing homelessness are youth. Particular groups — Indigenous youth, racialized youth and youth who identify as LGBTQ+ — are at increased risk of homelessness due to intersecting forms of structural and systemic inequity. …

“Given this, there has been an increased focus on homelessness prevention across Canada and globally. … Research shows that meaningful and accessible activities like sports and arts can have significant impacts on youth social connectedness, better developmental outcomes, improved mental health and recovery from trauma. …

“Youth homelessness is a complex social issue affecting people between the ages of 13-24 who are living independent of parents or caregivers and do not have the means to acquire safe and secure housing. …

“A key component of youth homelessness prevention is not only preventing youth from experiencing homelessness in the first place, but also preventing young people from re-entering life on the streets. …

“Social exclusion, loneliness and limited social networks are particularly common issues for those who have recently left homeless status. These experiences powerfully contribute to mental health decline, substance use, feelings of hopelessness and subsequent returns to homelessness.

“Young people exiting homelessness may be housed in locations that are isolated from services, community centres and childcare. This distance can create barriers to accessing meaningful activities and can present challenges to social and political inclusion.

“All young people deserve stable and safe housing, and also the opportunity to be engaged in meaningful activities, [which include] resources that encourage social inclusion … Social inclusion may also mitigate risks of eviction. For example, neighbourhood groups may help navigate conflicts with landlords. This inclusion may help in the development of a new identity as young people re-articulate their sense of selves in a new community.

“Some studies show that youth experiencing homelessness view artistic activity and sports engagement as absolutely critical to their wellbeing, recovery and exits from homelessness. … Recreational sport participation can have several physical, psychosocial, emotional and developmental benefits. … However, for sport programming for homeless youth to be purposeful, the social, political and cultural barriers to participation must be addressed, including time and place of programming, cost of access and cultural acceptance.

“Research has shown that for Indigenous youth, re-connection with cultural practices — including sports — can be a critical component in connectedness and meaning. … We need to [invest] in frontline prevention programming that includes sports and arts activities driven by the needs and interests of the young people they serve.”

More at The Conversation, here. (I believe social scientists like these are doing good work, but their writing is awfully dry. For more-engaging and specific writing on youth in trouble, try UTEC, here.)

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metro-arts-student

Photo: Metro Arts
This
student is engaged in a restorative justice program that uses the arts to reach young offenders. Cecilia Olusola Tribble, Community Arts Coordinator of the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, says, “We have been able to work and watch miracles happen every day.”

My friend Diana was the first to explain to me the concept of restorative justice, and I wrote about it here. The idea is to bring a young perpetrator and his or her victim together, if the victim is willing, to learn about the effects of the crime and make restitution. When the process works, the young person turns aside from wrongdoing and keeps a clean record. Today I have a story about how the arts can be part of a restorative justice outreach to youth who are already incarcerated.

Cecilia Olusola Tribble writes at ArtsBlog, “The purpose of the Restorative Justice + the Arts program is to enable artists and arts organizations to provide dynamic program opportunities for youth and families who have interacted with the criminal justice system. Our aim is to equip teaching artists with the tools they need to bolster their practice in ways that lead youth toward productivity, resiliency, and well-being.

“In 2016, photographer and musician Nduka Onwuzurigbo heard about the transformation happening in the juvenile justice system and wanted to create a project with the youth in the detention center.

“Since her election in 2014, Judge Sheila Calloway has been restructuring the juvenile justice system in Metro Nashville/Davidson County to include resources to divert children and families in trouble, providing them creative paths toward a better, brighter, and more productive future. …

“[She] mobilized her team to make sure the children in the detention center were able to participate in the photography project. As that singular project was seeing success with the youth who were incarcerated and had a positive community response, Metro Arts in Nashville approached the judge about establishing an ongoing partnership. Since then, Metro Arts and the Juvenile Court in collaboration with the Oasis Center have been able to build the Restorative Justice + Arts program.

“It costs roughly $88,000 to incarcerate one youth for a year in Nashville. For the same amount of money, we have been able to pitch, build, and pilot the Restorative Justice + Arts program. …

“To start the program, Metro Arts held focus groups with our artist community, grantees, arts educators, and other stakeholders. … Next, Metro Arts spent time in the various departments in Juvenile Court. The focus in the court is in the process of shifting from solely emphasizing penalty to giving children and parents the tools to restore healthy relationships and communities. Judge Calloway has explained Restorative Justice in the following way:

‘Restorative Justice moves the conversation from “Who did the crime & what do they deserve?” to “Who has been harmed?”, “What are their needs?” [and] “Whose obligation is it to fix their harm?” ‘ …

“In FY 2018, the artists have been able to serve 424 youth who have been incarcerated, had other involvement with the court, or who are deemed at-risk due to poverty, school attendance, neighborhood crime, poor school performance, or living in an area where fresh food is scarce. …

“It is because of the partnership between multiple government agencies, youth-centered organizations, arts organizations, and artists that we have been able to work and watch miracles happen every day. We have witnessed youth leaving the detention center and seeking out their yoga and dance teacher. … We have watched the miracle where former gang members admit to shooting at each other, but theater and painting classes have bonded them together as brothers with arms entangled. Our hearts are full at experiencing young folks arguing with the characters of an August Wilson play to make a better choice. …

“This spark came from one artist who asked the question and made the difference.” One and one and 50 make a million. More here.

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Photo: Jackson Food and Art Festival
A food festival in Mississippi incorporates the arts to address nutrition issues.

It’s a good thing that philanthropies are able to support projects that improve lives in communities, because low-income municipalities can’t afford to tackle as many concerns as they’d like. Among the initiatives that Bloomberg Philanthropies supports are arts programs that address human needs.

As ArtForum reports, “Jackson, Mississippi, is the latest city to be awarded a $1 million Public Art Challenge Grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. … The funds will support the project ‘Fertile Ground: Inspiring Dialogue About Food Access,’ which aims to inform policy related to nutrition by using art as a medium to communicate the complexities of the issue in the city. Local and national artists, landscape architects, filmmakers, farmers, chefs, nutritionists, and community members will be invited to collaborate on a citywide exhibition featuring installations and performances, as well as other programming.

“The initiative will activate public streets, community gardens, a local elementary school, and a vacant building, which will be converted into exhibition space and a food lab with a pop-up kitchen, to address challenges stemming from the proliferation of fast food restaurants in the area. According to the Clarion-Ledger, many areas of Jackson are considered food swamps where there is almost no access to grocery stores.

Due to the overabundance of fast food, the city has the second highest obesity rate in the nation and the highest rate for children between the ages of ten and seventeen.

“ ‘The city is overjoyed to have been selected in this process,’ Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in a statement. ‘This was a highly competitive grant.’ …

“Among those participating in the project are artists Adrienne Domnick and Kara Walker; filmmakers Keegan Kuhn and Roderick Red; Mark Bittman, the country’s first food-focused op-ed columnist for the New York Times and a faculty member of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; chef Nick Wallace; clean eating advocate Ron Finley; and landscape architect Walter Hood.

“In February [2018], Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of US cities with thirty thousand residents or more to submit proposals for temporary public art projects that address important civic issues.” More here.

And click here to read descriptions of other winning projects, including one to help heal the community after the Parkland school shooting: “The City of Coral Springs in partnership with the City of Parkland proposes developing five temporary installations to bring the community together in collective healing and reflection following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February of 2018. The artworks will serve as the community’s vision of change and hope for the future. The project will draw on and support Coral Springs Museum of Art’s ‘Healing with Art,’ an art therapy program which began as an immediate response to the shooting.”

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moore_geograph-418511-by-elliott-simpson

Photo: Elliott Simpson
“Two Piece Reclining Figure No.1,” by Henry Moore, Glenkiln Sculpture Park in southwest Scotland. Scotland’s government has proposed a policy that, among other things, would give ordinary Scots a greater say in shaping the cultural life of their communities.

What I remember about a trip to Scotland decades ago is Loch Ness, the glowing quality of sunlight in Inverness, how Edinburgh’s castle looms over the city, sheep on the hills, sheep crossing narrow highland roads.

But there is more to Scotland, and now the government is working to give communities a greater say in how the country’s culture is presented to the world.

Christy Romer writes at Arts Professional, “Ensuring culture is fundamental to Scotland’s social and economic prosperity is a core aim of the country’s first culture strategy in over ten years. …

“The draft document outlines plans for a new Government cultural adviser and new funding models for the sector. In addition, it aims to give people a ‘greater say’ in shaping the cultural life of their communities through participatory models of decision-making and community ownership.

“ [The draft strategy says Scotland] ‘places culture as of equal importance alongside other areas such as the economy, education, environment, health and tackling inequality, and values culture for the unique perspectives it can bring.’ …

“One of the major initiatives announced is a new cultural leadership post within Scottish Government, which would be supported by strategic thinkers from the culture sector and beyond.

“This figure would be responsible for joining up thinking across Government and with major stakeholders. They would aim to respond to big societal issues and make culture central to progress in areas such as health, the economy and education.

“Other initiatives include developing a national partnership for culture, which would see the sector work with academics to develop new approaches to measuring and articulating the value of culture.

“Partnership working with businesses, schools and care homes is also seen as key to creating opportunities for more people to take part in culture. The document …  suggests using Scottish Government powers to generate a collective responsibility to support culture in the long term.’ This could involve the National Investment Bank or devolved tax and legislative powers.”

Oh, dear. Already I see trouble ahead. The intentions are good, but that wonky document suggests to me that artists were not involved in the writing and may not be helping much to carry out the policy. Hmmm. I’m wondering if government’s role in a country’s culture should be limited to funding it.

For example, consider what Claire Selvin reported in October at ArtNews about New York City: “With largest-ever allotment for department of cultural affairs, New York City Grants $43.9 million to arts programs.” That’s putting your money where your mouth is. I realize some of the funds may get lost in the bureaucracies of the various recipient arts organizations, but I think I’d rather have them working on the ultimate allocations than a government entity.

More on Scotland at Arts Professional, here.

One of Scotland’s historical highlights is the Antonine Wall, built by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland. These ruins mark the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire.

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Photo: PjrTravel/Alamy
The act of building puppets has long been a form of protest for the Czech people.

Never underestimate the power of the arts to affect the course of nations. In this story, puppets kept the Czech language alive during a period of repression by German speakers.

Jacklyn Janeksela writes at the BBC, “It was thanks to the humble puppet that the Czech nation – and its language – was inadvertently saved.

“In the 17th Century, when the kingdom of Bohemia was under Habsburg rule, the Czech language almost disappeared. …

“When the Protestant court left Prague in the early 1600s, the city fell into decline for almost two centuries. The new ruler, Ferdinand II, did not tolerate non-Catholics, viewing Protestants as a threat to his faith. Czech locals, mostly peasants and working class people, were forced to speak the German language of their invaders. Soon after, intellectuals, who had initially resisted the German language, followed suit. Even Czech actors began to perform in German as an official mandate. Czech became a mere dialect, and would have slipped into oblivion had it not been for some unassuming pieces of wood.

“The act of building puppets has long been a form of protest for the Czech people. Seventeenth-Century wood-carvers, who were more versed in sculpting Baroque seats for churches than human facsimiles, started making puppets for the actors of Bohemia soon after Ferdinand II came to power, as puppets were the only remaining entities that had the right to speak Czech in public places. While the rest of the country and its people adhered to the newly imposed German language, wandering actors and puppet-masters spoke through the puppets in their native Slavic tongue.

“It might seem unlikely that a few hundred puppets and puppet-masters could safeguard a language, especially through a loophole, but the people’s last remaining legacy to their past was tied to the puppet’s strings.

“It’s easy to see why these marionettes have found a home in Czech hearts, and why the magic of puppets continues to permeate the city. …

“In the streets, puppeteers make magic happen. I watched a puppet show in a charming cobblestoned square, where the puppet-master wore the velvety cap of a pageboy, pierced by a single plume that swayed along with the puppet’s movements. He used his puppets to beckon bystanders. Melodic medieval music accompanied the dance of a peasant male and young princess, a Czech love story with a plot twist that favours the underdog, the peasant who wins the heart of a far-fetched royal love.” Read more at the BBC, here.

With minority languages threatened around the world today, it’s worth remembering that a culture and way of life can be preserved through arts like puppet-making. See also my blog post on the historically important role of shadow puppets in Armenia, here.

Photo: Carol J Saunders/Alamy
Puppets have a special place in the hearts of the Czech people. For one thing, they saved the language in the early 1600s when German-speaking rulers prevented everyone but puppets from speaking Czech in public.

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Photo: Dolly Faibyshev for The New York Times
In a ceremony at the Abrons Arts Center in New York, Emily Johnson acknowledges the Lenape tribe, which inhabited Manhattan before Europeans arrived. The bonfire event is part of an initiative by artists called “land acknowledgment.”

It’s interesting to me that at the same time that nationalism and harsh attitudes about migration are sweeping the Western world, some very different movements are gaining traction. One is the increased acknowledgment in some English-speaking countries that Europeans were once interlopers, too.

Siobhan Burke writes at the New York Times about arts groups starting to pay attention to first residents.

“On an evening in early June, before the sun had gone down, a bonfire blazed outside Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side. Handmade quilts lined the steps of the outdoor amphitheater. Anyone walking down Grand Street could come in and take a seat. As a group of singers arranged themselves around a large cylindrical drum, the choreographer Emily Johnson stood up to speak a few careful, welcoming words.

“ ‘I’d like to acknowledge and pay my deep respect to Lenape people and elders and ancestors — past, present and future,’ she said. She gestured toward the ground and in the direction of the East River. ‘I acknowledge and offer deep gratitude to this Lenape land and water that supports us, as we’re gathered here right now together, and I invite you to join me in that acknowledgment, that respect and that gratitude.’

“In recognizing Manhattan’s original inhabitants — the Lenape (pronounced len-AH-pay) — and their ancestral homeland, Lenapehoking, Ms. Johnson was taking part in a ritual that, with her guidance, has become increasingly common at New York performing arts spaces in the past year.

“Routine at public gatherings in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the custom of Indigenous land acknowledgment, or acknowledgment of country, has only recently started to gain traction in the United States outside of tribal nations. In New York City the practice is sporadic but growing, occasionally heard at high-profile cultural and educational institutions like the Whitney Museum of American Art and New York University. …

“Ms. Johnson, 42, a Native Alaskan artist of Yupik descent, has been the catalyst for much of that progress in the city’s dance scene. … Wherever she tours, she publicly honors — and engages with — the Indigenous people of that place.

“And behind the scenes she has been working to strengthen relationships between predominantly white institutions and Indigenous communities, to ensure that more Indigenous voices are heard at all organizational levels, from the artists onstage to the board of directors. That process, she said, begins with institutions recognizing where they are: on land taken from Indigenous peoples. …

“For the inexperienced, speaking an acknowledgment can be awkward at first. Hadrien Coumans, a co-founder of the Lenape Center, said false starts were to be expected. …

“While land acknowledgment might be a mere formality in some contexts, Mr. Coumans emphasized that he sees it as something much greater, an invitation to consider and appreciate where, really, you are standing.

“ ‘We’re part of a living being,’ he said. ‘Earth is a living entity, so in acknowledging land, what we’re really doing is acknowledging life. Not nationalism, not patriotism. Life.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

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Photo: Walther Bernal/CBC
Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation Chief Lance Roulette signed Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord in June. The new treaty addresses tribal representation in numerous aspects of life.

The “truth and reconciliation” initiatives in South Africa after Nelson Mandela was released from jail set a kind of standard for healing old wounds — or at least for moving on. The idea was that nations must bring to the light of day all the bad things that were done and give everyone a chance to express their pain. After that, acceptance and reconciliation can begin.

A similar process is happening in Canada to heal the injustices done to tribes. One example is in Winnipeg, where the lung association, an arts organization, and many others are working to make amends for the past and create a better future.

Aidan Geary writes at CBC News, “A Manitoba association created by the agency that once ran segregated ‘Indian hospitals’ in the province is among more than 40 new signatories to Winnipeg’s Indigenous accord. …

“The Lung Association was among dozens of Winnipeg-based groups that added their names to the city’s year-old Indigenous Accord [in June]. Other groups include the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, CentrePort Canada, Investors Group, the Manitoba Museum and the Manitoba College of Social Workers.

“The accord was first signed by more than 80 groups [in March 2017]. Signing on means committing to an ongoing responsibility to reconciliation, the city says. Signatories are required to report yearly on the success of their efforts and their future goals.

“For the Lung Association, it also means addressing a legacy of segregation, substandard care and allegations of mistreatment at the hands of tuberculosis doctors from Indigenous patients, [Neil Johnston, president of the Manitoba Lung Association] said.

” ‘We want to make sure that that … never happens again, and we want to help in the healing of people who have survived that care but also the families and make up for the intergenerational trauma that occurred,’ he said. …

“So far, Johnston said its goals include examining and establishing the association’s own history, and speaking to people who experienced the hospitals themselves. From there, the association will work with Indigenous community members to form a plan for reconciliation and improved health outcomes. …

“Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman urged more organizations to sign on, calling the accord an ‘aspirational document’ and an ongoing effort. … ‘We have created a website in which organizations can submit their outcomes on an annual basis and report on what they’re going to work on, and that’s shared publicly so there can be that learning within the community.’ …

“Carol Phillips, executive director of the Winnipeg Arts Council — which signed on in the first year of the accord — said her organization will launch a new Indigenous arts leadership fellowship program this fall, placing two Indigenous fellows into arts organizations to develop management and governance skills.

“She said Indigenous people are underrepresented in leadership positions in arts groups across the country, with the exception of Indigenous-focused arts organizations. She said she’s seen improvement on that front, but not enough.

” ‘There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be Indigenous arts leaders in any arts organization, and that’s ultimately what we want to see happen,’ she said.

“The WAC will also place an Indigenous artist-in-residence in the city’s Indigenous Relations department, she said.

“Values around reconciliation have long been a part of the arts council’s work, she said. But she said it’s important to demonstrate those values and make them clear to the community.

” ‘The city obviously wants an overt demonstration of commitment, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, so we participated,’ she said.

” ‘The thing is, here we are still talking about the sort of exceptionalism of this situation. Our goal is that this is just how things are, and it’s not an exception — it’s how the arts community functions.’ ”

More at CBC, here.

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Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune
Bill Gossman is mayor of New London, Minnesota, and a potter who knows firsthand how arts can build community. Legacy funding from a law updated in 2009 has helped spur the town’s revival. 

The arts are often good for business, and the experience of towns in rural Minnesota provides a good example.

Jenna Ross reports at the Star Tribune, “One by one, they took the stage and told their stories. A man in his 80s, leaning on a cane. A teenage girl. A retired farmer.

“ ‘Times were good for farmers in west-central Minnesota in the 1940s,’ Ed Huseby began his tale about a tractor that went rogue.

“In the audience, residents laughed, cheered and, after one man described how lung cancer cut short his wife’s life, cried. They were gathered for a Sunday afternoon ‘story show,’ organized by the owner of the Flyleaf Book Shop. The one-page program didn’t mention funding from the Legacy Amendment. But like all shows onstage at the Little Theatre — and most arts events in this small but growing city two hours west of Minneapolis — that money played a key role.

“Legacy funding cuts the cost of renting the theater to $100. It pays the part-time salary of the manager who greeted audience members and pulled closed the curtains. Soon, it’ll fund a new projector and screen. …

“New London, like small cities across Minnesota, has felt the influx of dollars from the Legacy Amendment, passed a decade ago. …

“ ‘In the Twin Cities, there’s a pretty established arts infrastructure,’ said Sue Gens, executive director of the Minnesota State Arts Board. Now Legacy grants are helping build that in communities across the state, she said. …

“In New London, pop. 1,355, such grants have funded a summer music festival. A 10-foot-tall sculpture that stands near the Middle Fork Crow River. And a wood-fired kiln in Bill Gossman’s backyard.

“Gossman is a potter, one who whistles while he digs his thumbs into a piece of porcelain clay. He’s also the mayor. …

“In 2010, Gossman won a $7,000 Legacy grant to add a large new chamber onto his kiln, which is fueled by firewood, giving his pots, vases and vessels an earthy glow. Last month, as they do each year, potters from across the state trekked to Gossman’s place. They drank coffee, chopped wood and packed the massive chamber with hundreds of their pieces. …

“When Gossman took office in 2008, [the] recession had weakened a local economy in flux with the consolidation of family farms. The grocery store had closed, and the hardware store was about to. For-sale signs hung in Main Street windows.

“Today, not a single empty storefront remains. Galleries and gift stores line the compact downtown. …

“A Star Tribune analysis of Legacy dollars shows that from fiscal 2010 to 2017, the biggest recipients of funds via the state and regional arts boards was the Guthrie Theater. …

“Outstate Minnesota has received its fair share of Legacy dollars [largely] because of the 11 regional arts councils, established in the 1970s, that broadened the reach of public arts funding. …

“Speaking at rural conferences across the country, [John Davis, executive director of Lanesboro Arts,] always mentions Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment, which other places regard as a model. …

“But the amendment isn’t perfect, Davis said. He believes that some arts funds should be set aside for rural capital projects, as many small cities struggle with infrastructure challenges in the wake of waning tax revenue and cuts to Local Government Aid.

“ ‘Right now an organization could get money to host a ballet, but if their roof is caving in … they can’t access it,’ Davis said. ‘I think that was something that just out of the gate was a structural flaw.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post
Denver Performing Arts Complex in 2017. The creative economy in Colorado accounted for 4.3 percent of the state’s gross domestic product in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available.

It can’t be stated too many times that the arts are often an important driver of local economies — and a reason for states and municipalities to help artists be successful. Rhode Island, for example, aims to help artists by not taxing art sales, but the lack of affordable housing in the state remains a big problem.

Joe Rubino writes at the Denver Post about Colorado’s creative economy, noting that anyone who saw a show at the local opera house in 2015, bought a painting or book by a Coloradan, or visited a local museum “contributed to the $13.7 billion arts and culture brought to the state’s economy that year, a figure that outdid both the mining and transportation sectors. …

“The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts on [March 7] unveiled their most recent analysis of the economic impact of arts and culture in the U.S. In 2015, the year with the most recent reporting data, goods and services generated by museums, architecture firms, artists and other artistically inclined businesses and agencies accounted for 4.3 percent of the Colorado’s GDP. …

“[Nationwide,] creative industries accounted for a $20 billion trade surplus that year, according to the analysis. Work in arts and culture accounted for 4.9 million U.S. jobs in 2015. Of those, 100,631 were in Colorado. …

“The analysis, collectively known as the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account, or ACPSA, looked at 36 industries that contributed to America’s arts and cultural economy. Some of them are considered core contributors — like museums and graphic design firms — and others are viewed as support industries [including] broadcasting. …

“When it comes to comparing states in the American West, arts and culture in Colorado ranked only behind California and Washington in terms of money made.”

More at the Denver Post, here.

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56876a3cc5470-imagePhoto: Richmond Register
When artist Ken Gastineau moved to Berea, Kentucky, in 1987, there were few artists working in Old Town. Today, with taxpayer support, artists have become Berea’s economic engine.

Residents of Berea, Kentucky, have long known that their arts college was internationally admired. But it wasn’t until the loss of local mining jobs, that people began to see the arts as their most promising economic engine.

Ivy Brashear writes at NextCity, “One of the things people notice after spending any amount of time in Berea’s historic downtown is the density of galleries. For a small city in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, there are a lot of them.

“The state-designated ‘Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky’ attracts visual artists, ceramicists and traditional craftspeople just like Nashville lures country musicians, albeit on a smaller scale. …

“City officials count 40 galleries in total, and three new restaurants and a gallery-cafe have opened in the past two years — not a bad showing of entrepreneurship in a city of fewer than 20,000 people.

“ ‘I believe we can legitimately claim we’re a town where art’s alive because any visitor, almost any time of the year, will be able to encounter active arts in motion,’ says Mayor Steve Connelly. …

“The little town that sprung up around Berea College [is] a rare growing, thriving city in a region that’s confronting steep population decline and rising rates of joblessness due in large part to the collapse of the coal industry. Eastern Kentucky alone has lost nearly 7,500 coal jobs since 2012. … The hope is for something place-based that can keep the economy humming while encouraging businesses to invest locally. In Berea, that thing is art and culture.

“Since 2010, the population of the city has grown by nearly 12 percent, making it one of the fastest growing places in the state. … With new people and businesses moving in, the city’s unemployment rate is four percent, compared to a statewide rate of five percent and a rate of seven percent in nearby communities, 2016 Census Bureau data shows.

“It’s difficult to make a direct connection between any one economic strategy and growth, but local officials say that their investment in building an arts economy has paid off because it gives people a reason to stay. …

“The [arts] culture was largely unsupported by any local government entity until about a decade ago. It was at this time that the city began to recognize what Connelly refers to as its ‘artistic infrastructure,’ and the need to invest in it. …

“It didn’t take long for local officials to recognize that Berea’s greatest local asset was its arts community, something that had been woven into the fabric of the town since the very beginning.

“Local artists were investing in Berea in big ways: by opening galleries and weaving shops, making and selling art, and starting local festivals that continue today.

“They were doing it largely on their own with little to no help from the government or Berea College. They were doing it because there was energy and synergy behind their efforts — a confluence of creativity and economy that city commissioners saw as an investment worth making.

“In 1982, the City Commission passed a hotel/motel tax and started a tourism commission. The World’s Fair was in Knoxville that year, and Berea wanted to catch I-75 travelers on their way south. The commission passed a 3 percent tax, and from 1982 to 2007, the all-volunteer tourism commission received about $125,000 a year from the tax.

“Further tax reform was made in 2007 during the Great Recession when Berea raised its property tax rate from the lowest in the state at .03 percent, to 10 percent. Soon after, they instituted a 3 percent restaurant tax, and the tourism budget quickly shot up to nearly one million dollars a year. …

“Berea Economic Development Director Danny Isaacs describes the decision to move away from traditional industries and look to the arts as a economic engine as one of sheer logic. …

“ ‘[Economic growth] goes back to building on what you have and what you’re known for,’ Isaacs says. ‘For Berea, the natural choice was arts and crafts.’ ”

More at NextCity, here.

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