Situations are changing, but we still need the cash

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Within this past week a number of news stories have crossed my desk which show that all is not well in the arts and culture area (oops, I mean cultural sector – no forget that, let`s call it cultural industries).

Regardless, it is something that is certainly not new by any stretch of the imagination for those involved actively, but at least there seems to be some awareness of it on a larger scale – or maybe that is just wishful thinking.

I don`t have much time today so will only touch on a few things, more in passing.

 

1. The issue of corporate culture and economics with the arts world.

This morning in the Globe and Mail there is an article written by Thomas Hodd which talks about the corporatization of the arts world. The author teaches literature at the university level and also sits on various arts organizational boards – so as one would expect, he talks about language. He also brings up this “situation whereby artists and cultural organizations are now being forced by governments to conform to the language and approach of corporatism if they want to get funding.”

This appears to be a continuation of comments made in mid-October 2012 in the (St. John, NB) Telegraph-Journal where Hodd stated in an editorial, that “Economics should not be a driving force in decisions regarding matters of culture. Economics serves to provide us with the means by which to live while culture gives us a reason to live in the first place.”

2. The issue of social media

A British organization called One Further just published a study last week entitled “Facebook Survey for Arts and Culture Organisations” which can be accessed here. It is a 16-page document that as a result of a statement issued by Facebook in 2013 which “lead to some consternation among arts and culture organisations. . . (namely) If fewer people are reading their updates then are they worth posting? Should they pay Facebook to push their updates into more News Feeds via the Promoted Posts feature? Can nonprofit organisations afford to do that? Is it worth continuing with Facebook at all?”

This led One Further to conduct a survey of 48 organizations in Europe and North America during a two-week period in June 2014. The results are found in the report linked above. It is well worth the read for any arts administrator whose duties involve social media.

3. The issue of public art.

This past May, City Council bowed to public pressure to a point, resulting from the Blue Ring controversy which with terrible timing was installed right in the middle of the last city election campaign. I am quite certain that this probably of little help to the whole issue of developing a new YYC Arts Plan that was already well underway by that time. The end result was rejigging the formulas for the 1% for art program and a few other tweaks. As explained above, this issue was scheduled before the election, for discussion this year on the 10-year anniversary of the Public Art Program. Notwithstanding this situation, public art is something that must be considered.

I see that the Vancouver City Council will be discussing at their City Council meeting today, some significant changes to their public art program in its first significant overhaul in 30 years. As quoted in the Vancouver Sun story that ran a few days ago, “the changes, proposed in a report going to council on Wednesday, come as the publicly funded side of the city’s program is faltering under a lack of capital and an aging body of works in need of maintenance. The city’s cultural spaces management is eyeing taking more from developers to help grow the existing program and to also create a superfund for a new class of projects on city land.”

Of course this issue of an “aging body of works in need of maintenance” speaks to the issue of the original 98-year old lions that once stood on the Centre Street Bridge; and what to do with them now.

One may recall, a few years back the lions were a front page story in the Calgary Herald (February 21, 2012) and created quite a stir when they were observed in a warehouse yard covered by a tarp (ironically across the street from the Calgary Herald offices). At the time of the 2012 story, they were exposed to the elements after being removed from the bridge in 1999 and replaced with replica copies a year or two later.

Once again, the lions are back in the news again along with a series of subsequent letters to the editor. The verdict in the most recent news is that their future is now uncertain once again and that they may be too fragile to move – which more or less repeats what was originally stated in February 2012. However it has been floated as a potential addition to public art located the West LRT line a few times – so one never really knows for sure until a final decision has been made on that, probably sometime next year (2015).

The city actively solicited an opportunity to provide feedback about the lions. For these comments to be included in the written feedback for the Request for Proposals (RFP) relating to public art projects involving the West LRT and the lions, the form had to be filled out by July 21 (two days ago). That webpage is still active – for how long I don’t know and cannot predict. However, if you want to provide your feedback and have not done so already follow this link.

4. The issue of declining revenues for artists

This one is more about music than fine art although a case can be certainly made for the transference between the two. In a recent story in salon.com the issue is brought up about how streaming music is adding to the frustration from musicians outside of the mainstream. Specifically mentioned are the two genres, classical and jazz. This article sites ” low royalties, opaque payout rates, declining record sales and suspicion that the major labels have cut deals with the streamers that leave musicians out of the equation, anger from the music business’s artier edges is slowing growing.”

Added to this could be a discussion about changes at the CBC, where it is becoming more like every other top 40 (or top 100) radio stations on the dial (notwithstanding their on-air advertisements which would seem to indicate otherwise), and becoming less easily distinguishable as a unique view on Canadian culture and content. That discussion however is for another day. To be frank, it will probably will never be covered by me, however I am sure it has been well covered by others.

 

This all plays back to the first comment about corporatization and how funding (however it comes) is affecting arts organizations and changing the cultural landscape.

If anything, I would propose that this is more of an entry point for further discussion and dialogue.

 

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