Archive for the ‘arts policy’ Category

Drama at La Scala

December 14, 2010

Drama at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim got an ovation even before he conducted Wagner’s Die Walküre at Milan’s La Scala last Tuesday. It was after he addressed Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who was in the royal box:

“In the names of the colleagues who play, sing, dance and work, not only here but in all theatres, I am here to tell you we are deeply worried for the future of culture in the country and in Europe.”

Mr. Barenboim also quoted Article 9 of the Italian Constitution, which directs the government to promote culture and protect the nation’s artistic heritage.

There was an equally impassioned performance in front of the historic opera house earlier in the day as caribinieri beat and gassed protesters, hundreds of cultural workers and students from across Italy. The protests were in response to proposed drastic cuts in government funding for education and the arts.


Spectrum of DC Art

August 13, 2010

Spectrum of DC Art

See the variety of DC’s visual art at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery at Smith Farm Center today through Wednesday, August 25, 2010. The free exhibit features work by Washington artists applying for DC Arts Commission fellowships. This is a chance to see the latest painting, prints, photos and drawings by some of our favorites (Rex Weil, Rik Freeman, Roderick Turner, Elaine Langerman, Alec Simpson) as well as emerging artists. Sample works are on view here.


Brandeis May Rent Out Museum’s Art

May 31, 2010

Brandeis to Rent Out Museum's Art

Last year, Brandeis University announced it would close the Rose Art Museum and sell off its renowned modern art collection to cover the school’s budget shortfall.  The result: condemnation, lawsuits from art donors and their families, student unrest, and cancelled alumni donations. 

Brandeis now says it won’t sell the art after all — it will rent it out instead.  The world of art museums has a specialized and genteel vocabulary. Selling off your collection is called “deaccessioning,” and renting out art may be called “loaning” or “collection-sharing.” If art loans are done for gain, we wonder if the IRS calls it “taxable.”


 “Rent-a-Rose: Sotheby’s Persuades Brandeis to Lend Collection for Profit,” Lee Rosenbaum, Culturegrrl.

 “University considering alternative options to selling art from Rose collection,” Alana Abramson,The Brandeis Justice.

“University exploring alternatives to art sale,” Brandeis University press release.


 Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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Art Criticism in Lubbock, Texas

April 30, 2010

Art Criticism in Lubbock, Texas

The Lone Star State’s authoritative aesthetic arbiters, the Young Conservatives of Texas, are protesting a sculpture on the Texas Tech campus in Lubbock. They have mounted an instantaneous online petition a mere six years after the artwork was installed.

YCT says the work, “Tornado of Ideas” by Tom Otterness, commits sacrilege against the Masked Rider, a revered Texas Tech idol, depicting Him using a javelin to commit gross indecencies on a police officer. The work is also said to show two lesbians actually sitting together.


Rose Family Member Sues to Prevent Closing of Rose Art Museum

August 12, 2009

Rose Family Member Sues to Prevent Closing of Rose Art Museum

Three overseers of the Rose Art Museum, including Meryl Rose, a member of the family whose donations created the museum, filed suit in a Massachusetts state court to prevent Brandeis University from closing the museum and selling off its collection. So far, university trustees have reaped about $100 million worth of bad publicity from their decision.

The lawsuit claims that the Brandeis plans “contradict the charitable intentions” of museum founders and donors, and “abrogate Brandeis’s promises that the Rose would be maintained in perpetuity.”

Read more about it in the New York Times or read the suit itself here.


Image (“Liberal Arts Without the Art”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

DC Council Earmarks

August 3, 2009

DC Council Earmarks

DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray has done a brave and sensible thing by eliminating councilmember earmarks from the FY2010 District of Columbia budget. But what DC Government really needs is earmark abolition.

Earmarks are no-bid contracts in the nonprofit sector, and they undercut the city’s competitive grant programs and bidding practices. Earmarks reward the politically-connected, not the best-qualified. Councilmembers and staff do not have the expertise or time to assess the merits of each earmarked grant or knowledge of competing alternatives. The Barry earmarks are exhibit A.

But look at the arts and cultural grants the Council awarded for FY 2010 before they were erased from the budget. The $31 million in Council arts earmarks totaled nearly 4 times the entire FY 2010 budget of the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities. Why bother filling out a DCCAH grant application and putting it through competitive peer-panel review and Commission approval for a possible 4 or 5 -figure grant when your councilmember can get you more money without any paperwork?


DC OKs Demolition of Brutalist Church

May 13, 2009

DC OKs Demolition of Brutalist Church

Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Washington, D.C. Oh, wait ….

The DC Historic Preservation Review Board had designated the 37-year-old Third Church of Christ, Scientist a Historic Landmark and prevented its demolition, against the wishes of the congregation, the Mayor’s Office, and anyone with at least minimal eyesight who passes 900 16th St. NW. The structure is in the mercifully-extinct style of “Brutalism,” a term derived from the French béton brut, “raw concrete.” It is a huge concrete blockhouse.

Yesterday Harriet Tregoning, Director of the DC Office of Planning, acting as Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation,  issued what appears to be a final ruling on the issue:  junk the joint.

The report observes that “design errors” and “defective workmanship” make the building unsuitable for human pursuits of any kind, even with huge operating expenditures for lighting, temperature and humidity control and ventilation. The DC Government will permit the structure’s demolition. The full document is here. Some excerpts:

— The building’s design and choice of materials, particularly the use of uninsulated concrete, were experimental and it could not have been predicted when the building opened in 1971 whether it would succeed as a place of worship.  …the experiment failed badly.

— Adaptive reuse of the church building is not a viable option.

— The use of uninsulated concrete also resulted in the inability to stabilize the wide range of temperature and humidity levels that exist within the building.

— …the Church could operate in the existing building for only three to five years before exhausting its cash reserves.


Nationals Owner Hits Grand Slam

April 7, 2009

Nationals Owner Hits Grand Slam

Last season, Forbes magazine listed Washington Nationals owner Theodore Lerner at number 462 on their annual Billionaires’ List, with a personal wealth of $2.5 billion. The 2009 Forbes list is shorter, of course; we’re in a worldwide financial meltdown and the number of billionaires is a mere 793, down from last year’s 1,125.

Mr. Lerner, though, has bucked the trend: this year he’s #191, with assets of  $3.2 billion. In 2007 Ted Lerner was in true Nationals form, at the bottom of the Bigs (#664, $1.5 billion). Let’s hear it for the home team!

Tomorrow, to celebrate Mr. Lerner’s coup, the cash-strapped DC Government will present him with $700,000-worth of sculpture it bought for him, decorations for the $611 million stadium taxpayers built for the Lerner family last year. We have not learned if the Lerners are actually paying the stadium rent this year.


Admire the sculptures your tax dollars bought for the Lerners 11:00 AM on Wednesday, April 8th, when the artwork will be dedicated at Nationals Park.  RSVP to Deirdre Ehlen at the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) by email or phone (202-724-5613). The event is free. See the art you paid for before you have to buy Nationals tickets to do it.

 Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

DC Buys Bronze Bobbleheads for Billionaires

March 26, 2009

DC Buys Bronze Bobbleheads for Billionaires

As part of its economic recovery effort, the DC Government commissioned $700,000 worth of sculpture for billionaire Theodore Lerner and his family. DC already built $611 million Nationals Park for the Lerners, who own the local Major League Baseball franchise, and the government wants to decorate it to suit the wealthy tenants. Who knows, this might even encourage the Lerners to actually pay rent on the stadium.

You can admire the artistic gifts your tax dollars bought for the Lerners at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, April 8th, when the sculptures will be dedicated. RSVP to Deirdre Ehlen at the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) by email or phone (202-724-5613). The event is free, so go see the art you paid for before you have to buy Nationals tickets to do it.

Forbes estimates the personal wealth of Theodore  N. Lerner at $2.5 billion, but why spend your own money on art when the taxpayers will commission it for you?  The DC Government dead- panned that the baseball art belongs to DC and is only on loan to the Lerners, an assertion worthy of a Larry Neal Award for fiction.  The sculpture  is site-specific, so saying the art is on loan is like saying you don’t own the fillings in your teeth, you only rent them.


Mass Manilow Mall Maneuvers

March 3, 2009

Mass Manilow Mall Maneuvers

Managers of a New Zealand shopping plaza threaten to unleash the ultimate weapon against loitering teenage “Mall Rats”  — Barry Manilow. The facility will play tunes by the crooner over its public address system. “The intention is to change the environment in a positive way,”  Paul Lonsdale of the Central City Business Association told Associated Press. Mr. Lonsdale’s outfit manages the Stewart Plaza shopping mall in Christchurch.

Human Rights advocates are stunned. New Zealand is a signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and may adopt the Optional Protocol. Recorded pop music was an instrument of torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and at clandestine CIA “black site” detention centers.

Partial pop torture playlists are available; while none mention Manilow,  Neil Diamond’s “America” was featured on the Torture Top Ten and Top of the Psy-Ops Pops. Surely if one permits use of Neil Diamond, escalation to Manilow is virtually assured.