Archive for January, 2009

Secretary of the Arts?

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Clipboard Signature

Photo by Lee Bey — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

The petition’s plea is rather simple:

To:  President Barack Obama

Congratulations and thank you for all you do.
Your good friend Quincy Jones said: “…next conversation I have with President Obama is to beg for a Secretary of Arts.”
[November 14th 2008 WNYC interview by John Schaefer on "Soundcheck."]
We the undersigned support Quincy Jones’ plea.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
The Undersigned

This online campaign initiated by musicians Jaime Austria and Peter Weitzner is running until February 16. The goal is to convince President Obama to create a new cabinet level position for the arts in America.

Quincy Jones, who has created the most buzz (as usual) for this idea, is demure (unusual) about whether he would take the position if offered. According to Quincy’s site, he first spoke about the need for Obama to appoint an arts minister when he was on a “book tour to promote his acclaimed coffee table book, The Complete Quincy Jones: My Journey & Passions.” (The man with a long list of significant accomplishments is never shy about his long list of significant accomplishments.)

At the beginning of the presidential campaign, in “Yes, Minister,” we imagined evaluating presidential candidates through the lens of their potential impact on US arts and culture, just as we do for their philosophies of judicial restraint, tax policy, and international relations.

Jones, whose success derives not from government support but from his own commercial acumen, believes the US needs a cabinet level office to promote and support the arts. Jones has said that “food, music, and language are the soul of a country.” According to Jones, the US is losing its soul; the country is disconnected from its artistic roots and spirit.

No doubt, president Obama has presented himself as a “Champion for Arts and Culture.” No doubt, the US is behind other western governments in creating a viable and consistent foundation for non-commercial arts. No doubt, there is common agreement about the importance of cultural diplomacy.

There is doubt, though, on whether a US secretary for the arts makes sense. Even the coverage of this initiative in Rolling Stone magazine coverage garners pro and con responses from the country’s hippest readers.

Many artists and the major arts organizations, led by Americans for the Arts, see an opportunity to bring consensus and clarity to the multiple government agencies involved in the arts (NEA, NEH, Library of Congress, state department), regular access to the president, and an ever-ready advocate for US copyright protection, arts education, and culture diplomacy.

Aside from the ever-ready shrink-the-government crowd, others against the idea feel art-making should stay as far away as possible from government-ruling.

Is it about finding more economic support for the arts outside of the country’s market driven approach to creation? Or, is it about government reaching further into citizen’s lives, in the context of the country’s up-by-your-own-bootstraps mythology.

Either way, it is about the US government’s vision for the creation and enrichment of American culture.

Are you going to sign?

- Bill Reichblum

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Arts Presenters: Robyn Archer

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Robyn ArcherRobyn Archer is a singer, writer, director, festival director and advocate of the arts in Australia and around the world. Archer is a talented exponent of German cabaret, has been the Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival, and the Melbourne International Arts Festival among others, and was made an Officer of the Order of Australia, as well as a Chevalier du l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

In this podcast she talks about changing attitudes towards the arts in Australia and the United States, the cultural shift taking place at the dawn of the 21st century, and how technology impacts the creation and presentation of art.

This interview is part of an ongoing series with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

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You Want Real Hope, Real Change?

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Dave Cho at Manifest HOPE

Photo by GoTellMama! — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

You want real hope? You want real change? Sure. But why would you believe hope and change can come from a politician — a politician?!

There is no doubt that Obama has brought a new vision, a new vibe, to America and its place in the world. However, if you want a tangible sense of a new vision and a new vibe check out what is happening in the arts, worldwide.

Honestly. Think about it for a moment. If the campaign slogan was “Yes, We Can” then there are a lot of festivals around the world that every day demonstrate the slogan, “Yes, We Do.” The change in our world is taking place and you can hear it in the performers and see it in the audiences.

Last week, New York was the center of two remarkable festivals: Under the Radar and globalFest.

Under the Radar (a description of theatre works that applies only to their pre-UTR Festival life) presented companies forcefully on the edge from Ireland, Korea, The Netherlands, Scotland, UK, as well as American-based work, including a deeply personal and intimate performance from Hip-Hop’s extraordinary Lemon Andersen, Reggie Watts’ theatre of multiplicity, and, of course, Mabou Mines (what would an American festival be without Mabou Mines?).

globalFest brought together a soundtrack for everyone’s daily life from Sufi Music as Bollywood, Calypso, Boushehr of southern Iran, Intuit throat singing via today’s sounds, rumba Catalana, French cabaret, a Balkan and Berber combo, Brazilian samba, and “Amazonian psychedelic surf-cumbia” (how’s that for a PR person’s promotion?).

As vibrant as the mixture of cultures, points of view, and experience was on the stages, the audiences, too, were a sight to behold: multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-national, and multi-passionate.

A politician can give a speech to the world; but, at festivals like these, one can dance with the world.

Dance with a common cause: maybe a bit naive, surely idealistic, but genuine and real.

You want real hope? You want real change? Just wait until Obama’s poetry of politics meets the politburo of the US Congress.

Still, somewhere near you is a festival that proves the global ideal of common hope, peaceful change, and a better tomorrow.

That’s something to believe in.

- Bill Reichblum

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Interview: Norman Armour

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Photo: Norman ArmourNorman Armour is the Executive Director and Curator of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, currently in progress in Vancouver, Canada. The festival’s mission, in his own words, is to “present the very best in contemporary performance with work that is visionary, genre-bending, multi-disciplined, startling and original.” His quest for works that meet this description has taken him around the globe, from Brussels to Melbourne.

In this interview, Norman talks with us about the trajectory of the PuSh festival, and the role of Vancouver in the festival.

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Arts Presenters: Daniel Bernard Roumain

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Daniel Bernard RoumainComposer, violinist, band leader and educator Daniel Bernard Roumain combines his classical training with jazz, rock, electronica and hip-hop to create some of the most innovative contemporary music today. DBR has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Philip Glass and DJ Spooky.

In this podcast DBR talks about why he mentors young composers and musicians, who has helped him get to where he is today, and how the iPod shuffle has changed the way audiences respond to contemporary classical music.

This interview is part of an ongoing series with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

Photo Credit: John Walder

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