In his remarks, Chairman Landesman laid out the guiding principle that will inform his work at the agency, which can be summed up in two words: "Art works." Chairman Landesman explained that he means this in three ways:
"Art works" is a noun. They are the books, crafts, dances, designs, drawings, films, installations, music, musicals, paintings, plays, performances, poetry, textiles, and sculptures that are the creation of artists.
"Art works" is a verb. Art works on and within people to change and inspire them; it addresses the need people have to create, to imagine, to aspire to something more.
"Art works" is a declarative sentence: arts jobs are real jobs that are part of the real economy. Art workers pay taxes, and art contributes to economic growth, neighborhood revitalization, and the livability of American towns and cities.
Chairman Landesman announced that he will spend the next six months learning and highlighting the ways that art works in neighborhoods and towns across America.
This national tour will begin on Friday, November 6, 2009 with a visit to Peoria, Illinois, at the invitation of Kathy Chitwood, executive director of the Eastlight Theatre, and Suzette Boulais, executive director of Arts Partners of Central Illinois. The Chairman's visit to Peoria will begin with a round table discussion about the impact of the arts that will be moderated by Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, and will include Peoria's political, civic, business, and arts leaders. It will also include a tour of Peoria's "warehouse district" and a performance of Eastlight Theatre's production of the musical Rent.
The "Art Works" tour will continue on to St. Louis, Missouri, the week of November 23, 2009; to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, the week of November 30, 2009; and to other states, including California, Idaho, Kentucky, and Washington over the next months.
To help inform this tour, the NEA is hosting a blog at www.arts.gov where Americans can post examples and stories of how art works in their own communities. Chairman Landesman will also post dispatches from the "Art Works" tour on the website, beginning after his visit to Peoria on November 6.
"In the coming months, I look forward to seeing downtown sculpture gardens, art walks along waterfronts, public performances and exhibitions, adaptive reuse of abandoned buildings, and subsidized work spaces for artists," said Chairman Landesman. "Despite the economic realities we are all confronting, art continues to work."
“We believe strongly that the arts aren't somehow an 'extra’ part of our national life, but instead we feel that the arts are at the heart of our national life. It is through our music, our literature, our art, drama and dance that we tell the story of our past and we express our hopes for the future. Our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways…..
"It's through this constant exchange -- this process of taking and giving, this process of borrowing and creating -- that we learn from each other and we inspire each other. It is a form of diplomacy in which we can all take part….
“[T]oday ... we're presenting the gifts of these wonderful American artists to our friends from all around the world. And these artists are passing on the gift of their magnificent example to these young people who are here today, studying in this school -- showing them that if they dream big enough, and work hard enough, and believe in themselves, that they can do and achieve some uncommon things in their lifetime….
"That is the core of my mission as first lady -- to share the gifts that come with life in the White House with as many of our young people as I possibly can find. That's why I've worked to make the White House a showcase of America's rich cultural life….
"[T]he truth is, is that even though many….kids are living in Washington, D.C. and in cities across the country, just minutes away from the centers of culture and power and prestige, many of them feel like these resources are really miles away, very far beyond their reach. That's something that I felt growing up.And my husband and I are determined to help to bridge that distance. It is critical that we begin to bridge that distance.
"We want to show these young people that they have a place in our world, in our museums, our theaters, our concert halls.... We want them to experience the richness of our nation's cultural heritage, one on one, up close and personal, not on TV. We want to show them that they can have a future in the arts community -- whether it's a hobby, or a profession, or simply as an appreciative observer….
"In the end, those efforts, and the performances we're enjoying today, and the work these artists do every day here in America and around the world -- all of that reminds us of a simple truth: that both individually and collectively, we all have a stake in the arts, every single one of us.
"And you don't need to be rich or powerful to lift your voice in song or get out of your seat and shake your groove thing. [Laughter.] You don't need to be a Van Gogh to paint a picture, or a Maya Angelou to write a poem. You don't need a Grammy or an Oscar or an Emmy to make your work on the cultural life of your community or your country a valuable one."
"And ... people who might not speak a single word of the same language, who might not have a single shared experience, might still be drawn together when their hearts are lifted by the notes of a song, or their souls are stirred by a vision on a canvas.
"That is the power of the arts -- to remind us of what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common; to help us understand our history and imagine our future; to give us hope in the moments of struggle; and to bring us together when nothing else will. That is what we celebrate here today.”
A full schedule for Listen Here! can be found on the Arts Council's Facebook page and on the New Haven Review's website.
See you next week at Blue State Coffee for The Impious of the Perverse: High Holidays Special featuring readings of Philip Roth's "The Conversion of the Jews" and Melvin Jules Bukiet's "The Golden Calf and the Red Heifer."
Listen Here! is a collaboration between the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, New Haven Review, New Haven Theater Company, and four area coffeehouses. On Thursday evenings, from 7-8pm, short stories selected by New Haven Review editors are read by local actors. Readings take place on a rotating basis at Blue State Coffee, Koffee on Audubon, Lulu: A European Coffeehouse, and Manjares Fine Pastries (Westville).
Photo by Harold Shapiro
One rainy night in July, I drove to my dad’s house in Middletown to learn about my early childhood music education. From the kitchen where we sat I could see the door to his large studio, with the grand piano and piles and piles of music. I asked him what music I heard during my first five years of life, 1966-1971.
At home, my dad – composer/performer Neely Bruce – didn’t “perform” classical piano works; he practiced them on the old upright piano in our living room, the only instrument my parents could afford. Listening to him practice, I heard short phrases played, repeated, changed, replayed. The right hand, the left hand, two hands together. When he composed, I heard him puzzle through notes and chords at the piano. He went slowly. He wrote things down. It was my first exposure to the artistic process.
Over the last 15 years or so, public interest in early childhood music education has exploded, spurred in part by new research showing that music is good for the developing brains of children. I have my own children now, and most parents I know are at least vaguely aware that music helps make children “smart.”
This popularizing of scientific theory can be traced to the 1993 study that coined the term “the Mozart effect.” Researchers at the University of California, Irvine concluded that listening to Mozart increased spatial reasoning in adults. Other scientists have theorized that good music increases “neural plasticity” in the brain – a kind of structural flexibility believed to facilitate learning. More recently, exposure to music has been linked to increased mathematical ability; improvements in memory; enhanced verbal ability; and an increase in overall cognitive functioning.
But when my two young children spontaneously break into song, dance around the backyard, and bang on pots and pans, my first thought isn’t their neural plasticity. Of course, positive brain development is one great reason to expose children to music at an early age. But the research, as fascinating as it is, doesn’t capture the essence of what music is or why it’s good for children.
There are three major methods of music education, each developed by an individual musician in the 20th century: Kodály, Orff, and Suzuki. Today, early childhood music education programs continue to draw on these three great traditions, often explicitly, sometimes in hybrid forms.
The work of John Feierabend, Professor of Music and Director of the Music Education Division at The Hartt School, University of Hartford, is rooted in the Kodály method, developed by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály.
“Kodály believed that the voice is the most personal, accessible instrument,” Feierabend explained. “A lot of parents don’t know how to sing songs to their children. My goal is to teach songs to parents, so they can sing to the children.”
Kodály felt that folk songs from one’s own culture are the best songs to sing to young children. As they grow, children take their knowledge of folk songs and use it to develop classical music abilities. For older children, Feierabend explores classical music and movement in a program – available in two DVDs – that he developed with former Martha Graham Company dancer Peggy Lyman. But for the little ones, he says, singing folk songs is the best.
“I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “This Land is Your Land,” “Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me” – these are some American folk classics that I know by heart. I sing them easily. Kodály, I suspect, would say there’s a reason I know these songs. They are simple, elemental, and passed down through generations.
“I think it’s great that there’s a burgeoning market in children’s music,” reflected my dad. “But that kind of music doesn’t necessarily have a life after you grow up. Other music you can return to throughout your life, and find new meaning in it.”
The Kodály method de-emphasizes built instruments. The Orff-Schulwerk method is different. In the 1920s and ’30s, German composer Carl Orff designed a system of percussion instruments for children including xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels. Orff-Schulwerk (which roughly translates to “Orff for Schooling”) incorporates singing, movement, chanting, storytelling, rhyme, and keeping the beat in a process that gradually moves children into ensemble music-making.
Since 1978, Margaret O’Hara-Best has been teaching preschool and elementary-age children in the New Haven Public Schools using the Orff-Schulwerk method. The Orff instruments, she said, are completely accessible to people who have never been exposed to music before. To play them, children use gross motor, rather than fine motor, skills, ensuring a high degree of comfort and success.
In her classes, preschoolers have limited access to the Orff instruments. They use them to play “Stop and Go,” with O’Hara-Best serving as conductor, and they improvise within certain tonal scales. As they grow older, the instruments enable them to make musical sound together.
“A big part of the Orff philosophy is that instruments used to teach children should sound good. And they do,” said O’Hara-Best. “They’re beautiful.”
“Music is an art,” my dad reminded me. Children respond to music that is beautiful, expressive, and emotionally rich. For me, this is a key to understanding early childhood music education. As Feierabend put it, “We want children to be beatful, tuneful, and artful. It isn’t enough to give children skills. We want them to feel something. We want them to express something.”
Aesthetic values were important to Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki method. Suzuki observed how easily children learn their “mother tongue” (their first spoken language) and believed that every child could learn music just as easily. He recognized that even babies in utero appreciate music.
“He recommended that pregnant mothers choose one piece of baroque or classical music, five minutes in length, and listen to the same piece every day,” explained Dawn Rockwell, director of the early childhood music program at the Bethwood Suzuki Music School in Woodbridge. “The baby will recognize the music immediately after birth, and mother and baby will have this wonderful shared experience of music.”
The Suzuki method is famous for its approach to instrumental lessons for young children, sometimes as early as ages 3 or 4. Suzuki placed great emphasis on listening. Before young children learn to read music, they learn to hear music through a process Rockwell describes as “listening and translating.” The Suzuki early childhood method of pre-instrumental group classes was developed by Dorothy Jones. This method incorporates Suzuki’s core principals of listening, parental involvement, and exposing young children to classical music.
Is there anything young children shouldn’t listen to? Absolutely. According to John Feierabend, very young children respond best to the unaccompanied voice.
“Research has shown that as you add layers of accompaniment to a song, babies and young children lose their ability to hear the melody,” he told me. “When a child hears heavily accompanied music, they ignore it. They can’t take it in. This kind of music actually desensitizes young children to music.”
Feierabend described a 1997 study by a high school student who exposed mice to different kinds of music, then recorded their progress navigating a maze. Mice listening to no music reduced their maze time by 5 minutes; mice listening to Mozart reduced their maze time by 81⁄2 minutes; and mice listening to acid rock added 20 minutes to their maze time. Incredibly, these mice actually ate each other.
“They did the study twice and got the exact same results both times,” laughed Feierabend. “I guess children shouldn’t listen to acid rock.”
For parents seeking to enroll their children in early childhood music classes, Neighborhood Music School (NMS), located in downtown New Haven with satellite programs in Guilford and Madison, offers a range of opportunities, reflecting the school’s understanding that every child is unique and learns differently. Beyond being a great place to expose young children to music, NMS fulfills an important civic function: it’s a community resource for people of all ages, a center for the learning and sharing of all forms of music and dance.
“We have a philosophy that creating a rich and stimulating atmosphere is critical for human development,” said Larry Zukof, director of NMS. “The more stimulating, the better. We know that children need human contact, song, vocalization, movement, and a variety of materials that they can manipulate. We also know that putting young children into lessons – more structured learning – too early can impede their musical development.”
At NMS, early childhood music classes combine music and movement and expose children to a variety of musical forms. Pam Welch, director of the school’s early childhood music program, and many of the early childhood educators at NMS have trained with Feierabend and draw on his Kodály-based approach. They also incorporate classical repertoire. Some NMS early childhood faculty members are Orff-Schulwerk educators. This fall, the school has added two Orff-Schulwerk classes for children in grades 1-2, further increasing the diversity of its program. NMS also offers early childhood Suzuki classes through the Teddy Bear Rhythms program in Guilford (older children may continue with Suzuki lessons at the New Haven site).
For children ages 6 months to 4 years, NMS’s core early childhood classes, “Making Music,” offer an integrated approach that keeps kids playing, singing, listening, and moving. For children ages 3 and 4, the program branches in two directions: “1-2-3 Sing With Me,” a more singing-based class, and “Rhythmic Movement,” which is more dance-oriented.
For a different approach, Liz McNicholl, director of Musical Folk, teaches Music Together classes at two locations in New Haven and will soon be expanding to Branford. Music Together, a play-based program, offers fun, interactive musical learning for young children using songs, rhythm instruments, and recorded music. Songs are arranged or composed to appeal to children. They demonstrate particular musical principals and build on one another. Some of the music is traditional folk; many songs are composed by Music Together founder Ken Guilmartin.
Like Music Together, Kindermusik, another early childhood program, operates as a for-profit business. Music by the Sea offers Kindermusik classes in Branford, North Madison, Guilford, and Old Saybrook. Music Together works with a mixed group, ages 6 months to five years. NMS, Kindermusik, and Suzuki classes group children within more limited age ranges.
While classes offer valuable learning opportunities for parents and children, they are expensive. It costs several hundred dollars to provide continuous early childhood music classes for one child for one year. For many families, especially those with more than one child, the cost may be prohibitive.
But singing at home is free. I have an anthology of folk songs, and I search the Internet for new song ideas and lyrics I’ve forgotten. The public library has resources too. Neighborhood Music School offers scholarships in early childhood classes. And McNicholl periodically offers free Music Together classes at the New Haven and North Haven public libraries. For parents so inclined, religious communities such as churches and synagogues have always played an important role in music education by exposing children to live music. As they grow older, many children in the Greater New Haven region are fortunate to work with wonderful music educators like O’Hara-Best and others, both in public and private schools.
Music educators agree: live music is best. As my dad put it, music doesn’t come from a box.
“You saw from a very early age that music is something people do,” he said. “Today many people basically think that music is recorded. In the music stores of my childhood, there was only one small section of recorded music. The rest of it was sheet music, instruments, music stands – things for making music.”
When people make music together, they embody community in its best, most joyful sense. I see it in my own children and have experienced it in my life. Most children won’t become professional musicians. And that’s fine.
“Teaching music is not my main purpose,” Suzuki said. “I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”
It was late. My dad yawned. He’d gotten up at 4am that day (to practice the piano of course). I had 35 miles to drive and a busy day of work and children ahead of me. I thanked my dad. For the dinner. For the conversation. For the love of music he instilled in me from the beginning.
The Kauder Competition is a great opportunity for the finalists, who hail from all over the world and who come from prestigious music schools such as the Yale School of Music, The Juilliard School, and the Eastman School of Music. The Competition’s live final round will be held on September 11 at Neighborhood Music School from 9 AM to 6 PM. Admission is free. The winners will be decided by three esteemed judges: Doris Goltzer, the solo English Hornist of the New York City Opera for fifty-one years; Jeanne Baxtresser, Solo Flutist of the New York Philharmonic; and Richard Stoltzman, a two-time Grammy Award winner and one of today's most sought-after concert artists. On September 12, a Winners Concert will take place at Firehouse 12 in New Haven from 2-4 PM. The first place winner will receive $4000 as well as a NYC performance opportunity. The second and third place winners will receive $2000 and $1000 respectively.
So check it out- It’s a rare opportunity to attend a premiere of non-contemporary pieces, and it’s looking like this year’s Kauder Competition will be fantastic.
I was working as a carpenter that summer, rebuilding a cape
cottage. I knew some tech people who worked at the Fillmore East in
New York City who asked me to give them a hand building a stage, etc. for a music festival in rural New York. I was eighteen.
I packed the car with tools, a tent, some grub, and a few friends and we were off. It was about a week before the festival and there was a lot to do.
I was assigned to work on a bridge over a road between the performers' pavilion area and the stage. We pitched the tent in the performers' area, so we were in a restricted area. We worked pretty much 24/7, supplemented by vitamin
b12 shots administered by the festival Dr. Feel Good.
At a certain point it started to get really crowded. There was concern that it
could easily get out of hand. We were sort of at the epicenter. The
only way in or out was by helicopter. They flew in food for us.
After the building was done I was assigned to work security on the bridge, to talk
down climbers. I watched a lot of the show from that area behind the
stage and in a video trailer that a friend was working in.
We had about ten people sleeping in a four-man tent.
The rain ...
My memories are mostly informed by the movie. What I remember of the
actual festival is a blur of images. Like most people, probably, I had
never seen so many people in one spot, all in the same situation. It
was a great leveler and there was a feeling of togetherness of which much has been spoken.
After it was over and our job was done we packed up our things and attempted to leave. I had been there two weeks and needed to get back, but the roads were blocked by abandoned cars and it took a while get out. It looked like the aftermath of some
great storm, lots of garbage and abandoned belongings, detritus from the event.
I saw a sunburned, half-naked man riding on top of a van fall off onto the highway at around sixty, bounce once, and roll into a ditch. Amazingly he was OK.
About six months later I received a check. I think it was about $250. I never expected I would be paid.
The next summer I worked the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music in England.
But that's another story ...
What do you think about this?
The program was called Exact Change.
Were you part of the experience? If so, tell us what you thought.
Have you experienced the Arts Council's White Collar. Blue Collar. Pink Slip. exhibition at The Parachute Factory?
Allan Appel recently wrote about the show in the New Haven Independent.
The exhibition, which includes this image by David Ottenstein, explores the uncertainties, anxieties, and rewards of the workplaces that shape our identities. It is the first of a two-part exhibition called Work/Place, which examines the environments on which our survival depends. The second part of the exhibition, Out of House and Home, opens in October.
Despite news reports to the contrary, we are not in a post-racial era. I measure our progress by the number of times shortly after President Obama was elected that my white counterparts let doors and elevators close in my face. I measure it by the length of a drive- to a meeting in Bridgeport the day after the election that I took with a corporate vice president- during which every topic was discussed save the one at hand- the election. I measure it by the Connecticut schools and workplaces that had outright bans in place on watching or listening to the Inauguration Ceremony. I measure it by the vitriol that I hear on a daily basis with regard to “that one,” “this is what happens when a black is president,” the evils of socialism, or referencing of the President simply as “Mr. Obama.” I measure the need for art that challenges us to stand and speak on difficult topics- which we shy away from save with the like-minded- by the veritable silence and mournful tone of my office the day after the election.
A fundamental truth has died regarding the ability and intellect of non-white Americans. Mistakenly it seems that many had long thought this belief to have been overthrown by the deeds and achievements of careers, lives. Hidden hatred and prejudices are bubbling to the surface, and to tacitly say we are past race seems a dangerous game of denial.
I ask again: where is the art that will force us to grapple, see, and progress? Can we as a community and nation afford to remain silent? May brushes and musical notes, lens and keystrokes soon compel us to speak and argue, but invariably see one another.
Last month, New York-based photographer and digital-media artist An Xiao participated in a panel discussion called "Big Love: Artists and Social Networking Technology," a conversation organized to complement "Status Update," an exhibition presented by the Arts Council of Greater New Haven in collaboration with Haskins Laboratories that explores the use of emerging social networking technologies.
More recently, An was kind enough to put some of her thoughts about art, Web 2.0, and physical/digital seamlessness into words. Enjoy ...
Toward the end of the "Big Love" panel discussion, moderator Sharon Butler asked an intriguing question: "What do you see as the future of all this?"
By "this," she meant art and social media, and social media and society. I believe strongly that if you want to understand the future of social media and the tools of Web 2.0, you should look at either digital natives (i.e., teenagers and younger) or citizens of developing nations (i.e., those whose first important encounters with communications technologies were via cell phone, rather than the Web).
During the panel discussion, I discussed briefly the idea of digital/physical seamlessness, a world in which our digital and physical lives intersect seamlessly. In this view, the line between "real life" and "virtual life" is blurred, for activities in the digital realm can and do have very real consequences in the physical realm, and vice versa. Whereas computers and phones first evolved as tools for business and communications, they have further evolved into extensions of ourselves, storing vast amounts of personal information and allowing us to keep in touch with thousands of people.
This is most true in the lives of today's teenagers, who have scarcely known any other life but that which is infused with social media technology. Witness the 21st century teenage break-up. Teenager A posts a dramatic Status Update about Teenager B, her boyfriend. Teenager B leaves a comment about Teenager A's photos. All of this is carried out on the stage of common news feeds viewed by mutual friends, and rumors quickly spread both via texting and Facebook, and then, when school starts, via traditional whispers and notes. News of the break-up, along with the attendant emotions, spreads rapidly through the physical and digital worlds.
The future of social media is simple: it won't be known as social media. Online social media will simply be part of a balanced social diet, a mixture of both online and offline interactions. And with this seamlessness will come new values and norms, as Web 2.0 becomes Life 2.0.
Edutopia, a project of the George Lucas Education Foundation, has identified that digital natives, armed with tools and technology unlike any other generation, prefer to create, collaborate, and teach while learning. In other words, the TV generation sits on a couch and absorbs; the YouTube generation wants in on the fun.
Edutopia has a number of suggestions about what this means for education, and we're already seeing how digital/physical seamlessness and online social media have influenced everything from political campaigns to business. But what does all this mean for art? If I had to guess, there are three things artists working in any medium should consider as we look toward "Art 2.0," that is, art infused with the principles of Web 2.0.
1. Engage your audience in new ways.
While the traditional artist statement, Web site, and interviews will continue to serve your audience, your audience will continue to demand more. The social media audience wants to keep the conversation going and ask their own questions. Set up a Twitter account, set up a blog, set up a Facebook fan page (or make your own page public). Give your audience a way to interact with you after seeing your work, to learn more about your creative practice and the concepts behind it.
But, perhaps more radically, give your audience a way to interact with your art. You can convert your art to desktop backgrounds, yes. But what if you also made select works available in low-res digital form via a Creative Commons license, so fans of your work can "remix" it? It can sound shocking and uncomfortable, after pouring your heart and soul into your work, to release it to the world not simply for criticism but for editing. And yet musicians, including the ever-popular Nine Inch Nails, have been doing this for years.
This is the ethos of the YouTube generation: they want to create as often as they want to absorb. Try it with one or two of your more popular pieces and see what happens.
2. Connect your audience with one other.
Instead of thinking of art as a two-way experience between artist and audience, start thinking of Art 2.0 as a multi-way experience between artist and audience, and between audience members and one other. This is no different from chatting with your friends after seeing a movie, or going with your family to a museum exhibit and discussing it over coffee afterward. What's changed is that the audience has grown larger and more global, and the tools for connecting them to one another have become much more sophisticated.
The Obama campaign's success with the new generation partially came from the idea that anyone could help him run the campaign, as he crowdsourced campaign calls, meetings, and flyer distribution. He's doing this again as he tries to drum up support for his health-care program. You may not have the million-dollar resources of a national political campaign, but the tools of social media are free and available to all. Your audience will stay more engaged with your work if they can engage with one another.
Here's one basic idea: a Facebook-based guestbook at your next show, so folks can not only see one another's comments, but comment on their comments and stay in touch afterward.
3. Strike a balance between online and offline media.
Don't get me wrong: Art 2.0 can still hang on the wall and sell, and you can preserve your artistic mystique just fine (no one needs to know about the toil and trouble of every little detail in the studio!). I believe firmly that artists deserve fair compensation for their work. But audiences also deserve greater interaction with the work as well. This is true now (just look at how MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum have been giving visitors new ways to interact with their collections), but it will become even more so if we want to engage a world quickly growing accustomed to the values of Web 2.0.
Contrary to beliefs I've heard numerous times, the digital generation doesn't live on their computers and cell phones. They live through their communications devices, which make up a percentage of their lives. They still get together for movies and parties and study sessions and what have you. The need for in-person human interaction will never change; no one can deny the power of seeing a painting in person versus seeing it on the screen. The key is finding a balance by seamlessly integrating your physical art practice with the tools of the Internet.
In the end, what I hope to get across here is that Art 2.0 is less a difference of quality as it is of scale. The eroding borders between digital and physical life have led to new values and norms around interactivity and engagement being emphasized, but these values and norms have always existed. Artists have forever borrowed from and built upon one another's work, and audiences have forever chatted with one another after seeing a good show.
What's new is that the digital world has emphasized audience ownership to a greater degree, and it's allowed that audience to stay in touch for a longer period of time and across the world. A generation raised on YouTube and Facebook is no longer accustomed to passive experiences, whether with the Web or music or art. What artists do to engage this new audience with their art practice will, I suspect, come to define art in the 21st century.
An's Web site
An's Twitter feed
The Arts Council's Web site
From the Urban Dictionary:
slang for cell phone
Call me on the cellutations”
Cellutations is an evolving exhibition of cell-phone art presented by the Arts Council of Greater New Haven.
Cell-phone images have been sent by friends and strangers, from locations near and far, to a dedicated e-mail address, email@example.com. Many of these can be viewed on the our Cellutations page on Flickr.
This is an exhibition that will evolve without end, a show whose beauty lies in the fact that anyone can see it, and anyone can be a part of it.
While its physical home is in the Arts Council's Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery at 70 Audubon St., in New Haven, Conn., Cellutations really exists in the frozen moment each image represents.
Cellutations, the Arts Council's evolving cell-phone art exhibition, has gone viral. This recent submission (above) came from K. Brian Söderquist in Copenhagen, Denmark.
This image (Brusselsislookinggreytoday) was submitted by Johan Orye.
And Susan Farricielli sent in this image (Joe Munroe at McSorley's).
Be part of Cellutations. Send your cell-phone images to firstname.lastname@example.org today!
What about you? Has the down economy affected your creativity?
In addition to writing about literary goings-on in the Elm City, Bennett and the editors at the New Haven Review have been organizing literary events around town.
Yesterday, the New Haven Independent published a story about the recent Westville Poetry Crawl, which was organized by the New Haven Review and the Westville Village Renaissance.
Check it out and share your thoughts.
It’s about more than just the economy …
David A. Brensilver
On St. Patrick’s Day, representatives from eight small cultural organizations gathered in the conference room at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven to discuss the greening of the arts in the Elm City — that is, how they are faring and adapting to the current economic climate.
In attendance were representatives from the Arts Council, Artspace, Collective Consciousness Theatre, Elm Shakespeare Company, Music Haven, New Haven Folk, New Haven Oratorio Choir and Orchestra, and Orchestra New England.
The spirit of the meeting was decidedly optimistic. Organizational and cross-sector collaborations, marketing strategies and resource sharing were discussed once fiscal woes were aired and shared. The Arts Council-hosted happy-hour conversation was much more a brainstorming session than it was a collective lament. This was not a woe-is-us, group-hug sort of get-together, but, rather, a forum on looking, and moving, forward. This was representatives from eight institutions looking into a mirror and asking: Is my organization relevant?
Several local arts administrators recently shared their thoughts on the arts and the economy, a topic that has been as unavoidable in these circles as bailouts and bonuses have been in others. It is a painful, reactionary time for many. After all, no one forecasted just how pronounced the economic downturn would be. And many are at the whim of others’ whose purse strings have been pulled tighter.
Leslie Shaffer, executive director of Artspace, said in an interview after the Arts Council gathering that her organization has been feeling the pinch of the economy for about a year. Artspace relies heavily on foundation and some corporate support, as well as state and federal support, all of which, Shaffer said, has diminished. Over the past six months, one staff position has been eliminated and remaining staff members have accepted reduced hours and pay cuts instead of seeing another position eliminated, and the budget has been reduced by 25 percent.
“What’s hurting the most are the creative things people see,” Shaffer said, pointing out that what comes off the top are non-fixed expenses.
With the glass inarguably half empty, is it possible to focus on new ways to fill it? In some voices one hears fear. Others sound determined to figure it out. After all, there is no other choice.
It should be said that a sense of entitlement is a dangerous thing. Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations cannot simply expect to exist because they currently exist.
Mary Lou Aleskie is executive director of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, an organization whose $1 million line-item in the state budget is eliminated over two years in Gov. M. Jodi’s Rell’s proposal. Like the Arts Council, whose $125,000 line-item in the state budget would also be eliminated over two years — first halved, then zeroed out — the festival would be eligible to apply and compete for state grant funding. Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget “would seriously impact” festival programming, Aleskie said, as state funding is what makes the heart and soul of the festival possible, the heart and soul being “free programming that engages people broadly.”
Still, Aleskie sees the glass half full.
“There is a committed understanding of the value of arts and culture, in particular the festival,” she said with regard to legislators in Hartford.
Aleskie is not at all consumed with fear in the face of the current economy. Yes, there are serious issues that require attention in the short term. Looking to the future and thinking long-term though, she’s hopeful. And she’s frank.
“Anyone who thinks that hanging on to what they know today as a way to survive should be voted off the island,” she said.
She’s talking, of course, about being able to adapt and staying relevant. Aleskie said she’s tired of hearing about “sustainability, as if that should be a goal. I’m not interested in it. I’m really not.”
John Fisher, vice president and executive director of the Shubert Theater, knows his organization, too, has to adapt to the times, and is aggressively pursuing the development of younger audiences. The Shubert’s Red Carpet Club for Young Professionals, for example, offers a wealth of member benefits for $150 annually.
(Of course, audience diversification is something arts and cultural organizations have been talking about for years.)
For Fisher, whose organization is “down 15 to 20 percent in general” in terms of ticket sales and contributed revenue, audience development has been an area of focus for the last five years. And that focus has intensified in the face of the economic crisis. Fisher said his organization is working with area schools with an eye on developing audiences for the future, and is tapping into the concert market, booking acts such as Ryan Adams Ben Folds, k.d. lang and John Prine to attract the 20s demographic.
Fisher also talked about selling tickets at a discount, something his organization is doing more of than it used to.
This is an area that needs to be approached carefully. Fisher said one doesn’t want to send a message that his or her organization is discounting all the time. He believes discounting in the retail sector may lead to people expecting discounts. Sales do go up when the Shubert does promotions and discounts tickets, Fisher said. The challenge is to put more people in seats without forfeiting income.
There is another balance to strike, as well: the balance between accessibility and devaluation.
Jamie Gilpatrick, general manager at Long Wharf Theatre, said his organization’s income is 50 percent earned (through ticket sales) and 50 percent contributed. Ticket sales, he said, are on track. The organization did well selling subscription packages before the economy went south.
“It’s clear that this community wants and needs theater,” Gilpatrick said, pointing out that culture and entertainment have played important roles during down economies.
Even so, the Long Wharf Theatre is not immune to the fiscal crisis. Contributions have diminished and the organization’s endowment earnings are down about 25 percent. So the theater, more than ever, is looking to its donors for support.
Gilpatrick said Long Wharf Theatre is doing a lot of analysis and reassessment, and is aware of the importance of being appropriately realistic about future revenues. He echoed Aleskie’s sentiment about sustainability, saying there’s been a lot of talk in the industry about the nonprofit model being broken, that the goal has been to break even.
“I think that’s what’s broken,” Gilpatrick said.
Projecting that contributions to the Long Wharf Theatre will be down by 15 percent, Gilpatrick said the organization has to raise a lot of money by the end of its fiscal year, June 30, to meet that number.
“We have a big challenge in front of us,” he said, a challenge that’s bigger than the moment.
“(You) can’t rely on (the) history of what your organization can do in a good economy,” Gilpatrick said.
If the nonprofit model is broken, and history is an unreliable guide, perhaps service-oriented arts and cultural organizations especially should be asking what they can do for their constituents, instead of telling their constituents what’s being offered them.
Lawrence Zukof, executive director of Neighborhood Music School, echoed some of Gilpatrick’s remarks, saying, “People come to this place, they need it more than ever.”
Recently, Zukof offered free music, dance and drama classes to employees of local social-service agencies. He was hopeful they’d see the value of the classes and tell their friends. It was an altruistic gesture that could generate some free marketing.
Neighborhood Music School’s income is 80 percent tuition based, 20 percent contributed. For the first time, Zukof has seen a decline in enrollment (the school serves 2,500 to 3,000 students each year), and, along with declines in contributed revenue and grant funding, is facing a budget deficit. Zukof said there have been some salary reductions, that retirement contributions “will likely be suspended,” and that there could be some staff cuts.
Organizations, Zukof said, may want to consider aligning with other institutions and look for ways to partner and share resources — not a wholly original idea but nonetheless a vitally important one. He said, for example, that he’s been in touch with administrators at Creative Arts Workshop about the possibility of implementing some cost-sharing measures.
Arts and cultural organizations, large and small, must be able to adapt and ride the curve, not react when they find themselves behind it. That’s not to say organizations should or will be able to insulate themselves from economic crises. But knowing what they know now, arts and cultural institutions should look to other sectors for guidance in terms of what to do and what not to do.
The recording industry has changed dramatically to keep up with technological advances. The newspaper industry, on the other hand, has reacted, and, in Aleskie’s words, realized way too late in the game that their value was in the intellectual capital of their journalists, not in their printing presses.
Aleskie talked about Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb, who has “started to think outside the confines of his industry.”
The Met’s live high-definition simulcasts are a pioneering initiative. The Met also offers subscriptions for those who want to watch world-class productions online, as well as live and recorded performances on Sirius Satellite Radio.
“If you are living in cataclysmically changing times,” Aleskie said, to do the same thing you’ve been doing is “a sure-fire ticket to extinction.”It would be, by Einstein’s definition, insane.
A highlight of the event was the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
This year’s speaker was Wynton Marsalis, who wove words and music together in a powerful message about art, unity and freedom.
Americans for the Arts posted video of Mr. Marsalis' lecture on its Web site.
Watch the video at http://www.americansforthe
~ Arts Council Executive Director Cindy Clair
The show was a mildly conservative explosion of flashy contemporary art, many of which were composed of mirrors, body parts, or words. The manipulation of light and reflections was a common theme, and many artists seemed to revel in the beauty of words, whether it was multiple words crafted as a list of questions an adult man might ask his father, or simply one word: vulnerable. Mirrors were a common sight; broken shards on the outside of a purse, a rippled reflective surface distorting and inverting its reflections, a reflective wall with shapes cut out of it, blurring the edges of its reflection. Body parts seemed even more popular; da Vinci’s belief that the human body is perfect was recaptured in all mediums. A twisting fluorescent light depicted the brain, a mannequin made of clay circles stood in a corner, and a naked female is having sex with a cockroach the size of a Great Dane (the possibility of censorship is scoffed at). Popular culture, humor, and contemporary issues were not ignored either; there was surprisingly only one piece of art concerning President Obama, and one American flag, made of ribbons weaving around Venetian blinds. A large egg, tucked into a baby carriage, nestled in hay A chair and its surrounding walls was made entirely of unraveled VHS tapes, with the film sitting on the mirror that makes the floor, providing a disconcerting illusion of a never ending pit lined with tapes. A clear glass bowl, cut into only three-fourths its size, sits in a corner hugging the mirror on the wall, yet another illusion created by a clever artist.
The show was scattered across an amazing volume of space. It was guaranteed that anyone who visits the show would get lost within minutes, and even knowing the number of the exhibit where he is currently located is a useless indicator of location. The space, however, made it difficult to tell the difference between bona fide art and constructional necessities. A tangle of thick black wires obscured an artist’s small gallery, yet did not draw attention away from the rest of the art; whether that is a testament to the art or the building I cannot say. Altogether, between jelly donuts, free beer, references to a 50 Cent album, and a massive cord telephone, the show was a proud collection of audacious artists who, in these economic times, cannot afford to be too bold.
March 7, 2009
A quote from the New Haven Bulletin: "This weekend and next sculptors will transform 300 pounds of block ice (donated by Elm City Ice) into temporary public art throughout downtown New Haven. The sculptures will remain in place through February at the following locations: The Green, Broadway Island, Temple Street Garage, The Shubert Theater, and Temple Plaza."
Recruit friends to join the cause and sign the petition at tourism4ct.org.
Check out some of the work Katro and others saw over the course of this two-day exhibit.