Culture Notes

Art is a barometer of its time, providing the common ground for our shared humanity—essential in a vibrant democracy. I came of age as an artist and administrator in New York in the 1970s. Post modernists, punks, minimalists, and graffiti artists were deconstructing and distilling everyday actions. By the 1980s, some of these provocateurs mainstreamed into galleries and museums, theaters and opera houses. Many audiences were mystified, some transformed by the emergent forms. At the end of the ‘80s, I was performing arts curator at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the aesthetic zeitgeist had changed. 

Artist as Administrator

Visiting a retrospective exhibition of the art and film of Robin Lloyd and Doreen Kraft reminded me of how many arts administrators are also artists in our community. In the workplace, artists have certain advantages, particularly with the never-ending aspiration to improve. While building upon technique and experience, curiosity leads artists to explore new horizons. And, resiliency and adaptability are central to an artist’s process, and crucial for an organization’s sustainability.

Arts, Humanities, and Public Broadcasting Funding Again at Risk

Seems like national funding for the arts, humanities, and public broadcast media may once again on the chopping block in Washington. Enflamed debates highlight fundamental disagreement over federal government funding priorities, and we can expect vituperative arguments again this spring as Congress determines budget appropriations. At the appropriate time, it will be incumbent on each of us to claim our cultural agency and let Congress know how essential the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting are.

Inside the Culture Wars Maelstrom of the 1990s

In 1994 while working at Walker Art Center, I presented Ron Athey’s Four Scenes in a Harsh Life. The sold-out performance was well received by an audience of about 100. Post-show discussions with the artist, attended by eighty people, were thoughtful and engaging. Theatre and dance critics had been invited—none chose to attend. Three weeks after the event, a visual art critic from the Minneapolis StarTribune called, wanting to verify someone’s distorted, fantastical version of the performance. She did not want to meet in person, and warned me to look for her lead story on the front page the next morning.

Weaving A New Cultural Tapestry

One-third of the children in Burlington and Winooski public schools are students of color, including new Americans who are English language learners. With the demographics in our region shifting so dramatically, government agencies, educational institutions, businesses, and nonprofits are grappling with inadequate cultural competency in trying to serve these myriad populations.

Yesterday, the Flynn Center, along with Burlington City Arts, the Vermont Arts Council, and the Vermont Community Foundation, hosted a forum in Burlington called New Community Visions with Americans for the Arts. The initiative’s goal was to explore the role that the arts play in pursuing a healthy, vibrant, and cohesive community, and how individuals, arts institutions, and support organizations can help achieve that.

Walking with the Dead: Remembering World AIDS Day

Morning coffee had me scanning the obituaries. Still others, I discovered in passing conversations with friends, who assumed I already knew.

I hold on to my dead. They have become the elements in my reality.

I can still hear Celie's fluid-filled lungs laboring in her emaciated transgendered body. Her quick, shallow breaths are wind in my universe.

A Journey to the Austrian Alps to Discuss "The Performing Arts in Lean Times"

Last month I joined colleagues from around the world to attend the Salzburg Global Seminar: “The Performing Arts in Lean Times:  Opportunities for Reinvention.” Adrian Ellis and Russell Willis Taylor co-chaired the convening. Several ideas from this meeting may be relevant to our blogosphere discussions. First the context: we were lodged in Max Reinhart’s castle.

Essential Skills for Making the Most of Resources in the Nonprofit Arts

In January, The San Francisco Foundation and Grants for the Arts, with support from The Wallace Foundation, hosted a daylong Dynamic Adaptability Conference.  Over 700 community members attended, learning from creative thinkers from the arts, neuroscience, business, media, and philanthropy.

Where Hope Lives

Responding to the economic meltdown last year, the San Francisco Foundation downsized and began reconsidering what a community foundation needs to be in the present environment. As a result of this rethinking, in addition to the arts portfolio, I now have multiple tasks including managing programs for LGBT organizations, diversity in philanthropy, and a new initiative supporting mergers, closures, joint ventures, and back office collaborations.

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