Hollywood stars make arguments for arts funding in Washington

WASHINGTON- Faced with proposed cuts to federal arts funding nationwide, Hollywood stars are adopting novel strategies for lobbying on behalf of the arts, reports The Hill.

“It’s not enough anymore, in this economy, for actors to just argue why arts funding benefits people,” actress Patricia Arquette told The Hill on Thursday. “I came here to talk to Republicans about how the arts drive huge sectors of this country’s economy.”

Arquette is one of a handful of actors lobbying policymakers ahead of Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, and her trip is part of a joint outreach effort by the Creative Coalition, one of the entertainment industry’s premier advocacy groups. She spoke to The Hill at a dinner at the Ritz-Carlton hosted by the Creative Coalition and Lanmark CEO Lani Hay.

“I had an amazing meeting today with the RAMS,” Arquette said, referring to the Republicans Associated for Mutual Support (RAMS), a group of current and former GOP chiefs of staff. “Obviously, [Republicans] aren’t considered the party that typically supports public arts funding, but we talked about the economic impact of creative work and intellectual property, and we were all reasonable adults, so there was a lot of mutual understanding in the room.”

“As the country moves beyond a manufacturing economy, one of the areas we’re going to need to stay on top of the world is the creative economy: film, movies, music and technology. After all, isn’t the iPod a work of art?”

April 29, 2011

Tenure denial sparks student protest

Harvard– Sixty Harvard Graduate School of Education students gathered outside of a faculty meeting for a second time last Monday to protest an April 12 decision to deny tenure to Ed School professor Mark R. Warren, who specializes in community organizing and school reform. The group has claimed that the rejection is one of a long string of incidents indicating that the Ed School is narrow in academic focus.

“It seemed to us that this was a historical trend where HGSE has deliberately pushed out certain kinds of perspectives from its faculty … on issues of race, class, and gender,” said Houman D. Harouni, a doctoral student at the Ed School and one of the 20 students who have prepared documents and research to back up their claims.  According to doctoral student Meredith L. Mira, who was an advisee of Warren’s, the research he has conducted is vital to education reform.
“Most of the education reform work that happens in the realm of education today is happening from a top-down perspective,” she said.

Warren has published several books that analyze how the social forces in communities succeed in reforming their educational systems, and according to Mira, he is a foremost scholar in the field.  But Ed School Dean Kathleen McCartney said that she believes the areas of study in question are already well covered. Though she could not comment on the matter of tenure due to confidentiality concerns, she said that the school is doing its best with a small faculty to provide students with diverse scholars. The possibility that Warren might leave Harvard is one of the group’s main concerns. Harouni said that he believes tenure represents stability and a sense of community, as tenured professors are able to take part in the Ed School’s decision-making process.

“If you’re not tenured, you’re not part of the greater conversation regarding the direction of the school,” he said. “Usually what it means is that professors who don’t get tenure end up leaving.”  According to the documents released by the students, seven former professors left the Ed School after being denied tenure or to find a more accommodating academic environment. The students claim that these and other incidents are part of a larger trend—a failure to address the needs of students who study diversity, equity, and justice within the Ed School administration.

April 29, 2011

University of Washington study finds impact of Picasso exhibit to be $66 million

SEATTLE- The economic impact of the Picasso exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum was $66 million, including $58 million in King County, according to a study by University of Washington professor William Beyers.

The Seattle Times reports that the museum commissioned the study to quantify the financial impact of the show, which ran from early October through the middle of January. More than 405,000 people attended.

Beyers looked at both direct and indirect spending by the museum and show visitors.

He estimated that visitors directly spent about $22.7 million, of which $16.1 million was “new money” — spending that would not have occurred without the exhibition. That total includes what they spent on admissions, food and beverages, lodging, travel, souvenirs, entertainment and parking.

An estimated 51 percent of the visitors came from outside King County. Of those 24 percent were Washington state residents, 18 percent came from elsewhere in the United States and 9 percent came from foreign countries.

For 35 percent of the visitors, it was their first visit to the museum.

April 29, 2011

Manhattan School of Music teacher David Noon retires

NEW YORK- Manhattan School of Music teacher David Noon retires after thirty years. More than 400 students and alums turned out to hear Noon’s final lecture about music in the 20th century on Thursday, reports the New York Daily News.

Almost every student who passed through the prestigious music school since 1981 when Noon arrived has taken his class. Many have gone on to major musical careers and some found fame, including opera stars Dawn Upshaw and Dolora Zajick, jazz pianist Jason Moran and jazz vocalist Jane Monheit.

“He’s the rare combination of encyclopedic knowledge and deep creative talent,” said Manhattan School of Music president Robert Sirota. “He will be missed.”

April 29, 2011

Michigan University’s art collection to be incorporated into Broad Art Museum

EAST LANSING- The Kresge Art Museum at Michigan State University will close after the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum opens in April 2012. The State reports that the collection at the Kresage will be incorporated into the Broad Art Museum at the school.

Michael Rush, director of the Broad Art Museum, said the focus of the new museum will be on modern and contemporary art, which includes works of art from 1945 and beyond. The University collection, currently on display at the Kresge Art Museum, includes a wide number of Roman coins, Greek vases and Japanese and Chinese pieces. Rush says these will also will be absorbed by the new museum.

“Often, the contemporary art that you see on exhibit will be side by side to a work of the (university) collection,” Rush said, adding some pieces of the university’s collection date back to fifth century B.C. “The historical works will help provide a historical guide to the contemporary art.”

April 29, 2011

Sydney University receives Picasso painting to fund scientific research

SYDNEY- The University of Sydney has received a Pablo Picasso painting from an anonymous American donor. The AFP reports that the painting is worth up to $20 million and has been donated on the condition it is sold to fund scientific research.

“Jeune Fille Endormie”, painted in 1935, is set to be auctioned in London on June 21 at Christie’s, which estimates it will fetch between 9 and 12 million pounds ($15-20 million).

University vice-chancellor Michael Spence said any funds raised would mostly go towards funding a new centre for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

April 29, 2011

More public figures under investigation in German plagiarism scandal

GERMANY– Weeks after German Defence Minister Karl- Theodor zu Guttenberg was forced to resign in a plagiarism scandal, three German universities say that they are investigating similar complaints about the academic work of three figures from the country’s political sphere. The theses of all three have been posted for public scrutiny on VroniPlag, a site run by the same people who posted Mr Guttenberg’s work online.

Two of the three – Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a member of the European Parliament; and Veronica Sass, a daughter of former state leader – have declined to comment on the accusations that their theses are suspect. The third, Matthias Profrock, a new state lawmaker, conceded that he might have committed unintentional errors and has called on his university to recheck his thesis.  A report by a University of Bayreuth commission charged with investigating the contention that Mr Guttenberg cobbled together his doctoral thesis from other works without citing them, is scheduled to be released this week. He resigned on March 1st

On April 12, Heidelberg University set up a panel to investigate the doctoral thesis of Ms Koch-Mehrin, a EU Member of Parliament with the Free Democratic Party of Germany. She earned a doctorate in 2000 with a dissertation on historical currency reform.  According to VroniPlag, which presents both the original theses and the sources from which it says that the elements are copied, more than 25 per cent of the 227 pages of her thesis contain instances of undocumented citation.

Ms Sass is the daughter of a former premier of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber. Her thesis on the regulation of cellular phone networks has been attacked by the website as containing too much unsourced text, some of which appears to be taken from articles on Wikipedia.  Julia Wandt, a press officer at the University of Konstanz, confirmed that the university was aware of the accusations and that it was investigating a case of plagiarism of a doctoral thesis.  The university, however, did not confirm that Ms Sass was being investigated, citing her privacy rights. Ms Sass, a corporate lawyer, does not hold public office. Repeated telephone calls to Ms Sass were not returned.  Mr Profrock, recently elected to the state assembly of Baden-Wurttemberg for the conservative Christian Democratic Union party, is perhaps the least known of those accused of plagiarising.  He is being investigated by the University of Tubingen, where in 2007 he earned a doctorate for a dissertation on energy security in the EU.

‘The Germans have been sweeping the plagiarism problem under the carpet for many years,’ said Debora Weber-Wulff, a professor for media and computing at the applied sciences university HTW Berlin and one of the few contributors to VroniPlag who was willing to divulge her identity.

April 28, 2011

Chinese rock musician detained by police after voicing support for Ai Weiwei

China– Zuoxiao Zuzhou was detained and released by police in Shanghai earlier this week after publicly expressing support for Ai — a longtime friend and artistic collaborator — during a rock concert and in a newspaper editorial.

During a gig at the 2011 Modern Sky Folk& Poetry Festival in Zhouzhuang in eastern China, he displayed the words “Free Ai Weiwei” on a large screen, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement.  Soon afterwards, Zuoxiao Zuzhou, whose real name is Wu Hongjin, was detained for over 12 hours by police at Shanghai’s airport with a journalist from the Southern Metropolis Daily, the rights group added.

Writing on his twitter account, Wu wouldn’t comment directly on his detention except to say that he had been freed.”Everything is ok now,” he wrote, “thanks for your concerns.”  Dozens of rights lawyers and activists have been detained or lost contact with friends and relatives since February, when fears of contagion from Middle East and North Africa uprisings triggered a crackdown by China’s domestic security apparatus.

April 28, 2011

Squat raids ‘are not Royal Wedding-related’

LONDON–Scotland Yard insists raids on squats across London are not driven by fears that anarchists will try to disrupt the Royal Wedding.   Photographs of a raid on Grow Heathrow, a market gardening project based on squatted land near what would have been the west London airport’s third runway, were posted on the Indymedia website.  The Metropolitan Police have insisted a string of raids on illegal squats across London are not connected to security concerns surrounding the Royal Wedding.

Officers made at least three raids on Thursday morning at squatter sites connected with anarchist and environmental protest groups and arrested 20 people.  Scotland Yard said last week that it would take pre-emptive action, which could include breaking up squats, if there was evidence a group was planning to commit a criminal act.  But a spokesman insisted Thursday’s raids were not part of the security arrangements surrounding Friday’s wedding.  He added: “Police have today executed warrants at three addresses in London as part of intelligence led operation.  “Nineteen people were arrested for abstracting electricity at Camberwell Road. One person was arrested at the address in Hackney in connection with the disorder following the TUC march. There were no arrests at the address in Sipson.

As many as 15 police vans were seen surrounding Ratstar – a self-styled “squatted social centre” in Camberwell, south east London – shortly after 7am.
Officers also raided Offmarket, a “collective” that takes over disused buildings, at its premises in a former estate agency in Clapton, east London.  Grow Heathrow squat, is connected to Plane Stupid, the climate change action group that has seen hundreds of activists arrested in various protests since it was founded in 2005.

Six people wanted in connection with violence during last month’s anti-cuts TUC marches have been arrested in recent days amid fears they could be planning similar disruption.  Some 68 people who have been arrested at past demonstrations including the TUC protest and the demonstration against the introduction of student fees, have been banned from Westminster as part of their bail conditions.  A thinly veiled call for anarchists to disrupt the celebrations of Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton outside Westminster Abbey has been issued on websites like the Black Bloc Facebook page.  It’s not Royal Wedding-related, but it is related to the student and TUC demonstrations.

April 28, 2011

Unrest closes campuses indefinitely

Ouagadougou– Universities in Burkina Faso have ground to a halt following more than two months of unrest, which was sparked by the death of a school pupil and snowballed into campus and civilian protests – during which six students are reported to have died – and an army mutiny. All campuses have been closed.

Students have demanded an immediate enquiry into the killing of their colleagues and of the school pupil Justin Zongo. Protests at campuses across the country prompted other groups – soldiers, lawyers, traders and artisans – to take to the streets.  Some soldiers embarked on violent demonstrations and attacked law courts. This infuriated lawyers, including law professors, who were already angry about a violent clampdown on student protests by the security forces. Concerned about popular uprisings like those that have swept Arab countries, the government ordered all campuses to be shut until further notice.

It was an incident at a secondary school in the sleepy town of Koudougou, 80 kilometres south of the capital Ouagadougou, that prompted segments of Burkina Faso society to blow off their pent-up anger against the state. On 22 February, pupils at the private school le Guesta Kobore were told that a fellow pupil Justin Zongo had died of meningitis while in a police cell. He had been buried immediately.

Amid the growing unrest, a section of the military embarked on demonstrations and made two demands: first, implementation of an enhanced salary scale whereby all soldiers would earn the same as those in the presidential guard; and second, the immediate release of five soldiers tried and jailed for molesting civilians.  The soldiers looted the stores of traders and artisans. In retaliation, the traders burned down a section of the ruling party’s headquarters. Soldiers also damaged part of the court of justice in Ouagadougou. This angered lawyers, who had earlier condemned the repression of student protests by security forces.

Since the protests had started in universities and they had become centres for planning street protests, the government ordered all campuses closed. No new date has been announced for the resumption of studies.

April 27, 2011

How the arts in Vancouver brought down the province’s mega-casino

CANADA-If the B.C. government had never cut the arts groups out of Direct Access gaming grants, that Vegas-style casino might just have been a done deal after all.  In March of last year, the province announced changes to community gaming grant sectors, stating adult arts and culture, adult sports, environmental groups and school playgrounds would not receive funding in 2010-2011. The new eligibility rules came after the announcement in August 2009 that only a limited number arts and culture groups would be funded. (The province also attempting to tear up agreements with arts groups who had multiyear funding commitments, but ended up backtracking when the threat of legal action loomed).

But the arts fought back. They mobilized, joined with the B.C. Association of Charitable Gaming, and on October 14, 2010, they staged their first protest outside city hall. They demanded the city stop its review of gaming applications until the B.C. government promises to adhere to its 1999 memorandum of agreement with the BCACG, which sets the charitable share of gaming proceeds at 33 percent—just as the city was preparing to consider plans for an expanded Edgewater Casino adjacent to B.C. Place.

Soon, resident groups—the False Creek Residents Association, Strathcona Residents’ Association, and the Grandview Woodland Area Counci—joined the Alliance for Arts and Culture and the BCACG in opposition to the casino expansion, creating the Vancouver not Vegas coalition, and suddenly, what might have been a fairly routine rezoning process for the city turned into eight full days of public hearings, with over a hundred speakers signed up. Medical health officers and police turned up to voice their opposition and concerns about the mega-casino, alongside renowned architect Bing Thom, former city councillor and mayoral candidate Peter Ladner, and former NPA council candidate Sean Bickerton.  The province probably never realized what a gamble it took when cutting funding for the arts. The arts, in turn, upped the ante—and brought down the house of cards

April 27, 2011

PrattMWP increases enrollement by 33% for 2011-2012 academic year

NEW YORK- Pratt at Munson-Williams-Proctor will enroll 100 first-year students this fall, compared to 75 in previous years – setting the stage for a 33 percent increase in the total student body by the 2012-13 school year, reports The Observer-Dispatch.

Dean Robert Baber described increasing enrollment as a way for the arts institute to raise revenue, along with increasing donations to the endowment and increasing membership. He notes while their are a number of factors at play, the increase is also part of a larger financial stability plan for Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, which laid off nine staff members last year after losing 30 percent of its endowment between 2008 and 2009.

The PrattMWP program is not a degree program, but encompasses the first two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree, acting as a feeder program for the most exclusive art schools in the country. Studying upstate also means paying about $15,000 less per year than students at Pratt’s main campus in Brooklyn and enjoying a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1. At the end of the two years, most students matriculate directly into the Pratt program on the main Brooklyn campus.

April 26, 2011

Bill Cosby, Peter Kraus honor revived Harlem Arts School

NEW YORK- Yvette L. Campbell, the new executive director of Harlem School of the Arts gathered with its new and growing board, led by Charles J. Hamilton Jr., a senior counsel at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf LLP last night to celebrate the school’s recent revival.

Bloomberg reports that the school, founded in 1964, was in dire financial straits a year ago and shut its doors. The hiatus lasted only three weeks. Private and government donors stepped in and took over, to clean up and relaunch.

The event gathered about 50 people at the home of private-equity executive Willie E. Woods, president of ICV Partners LLC, and art dealer Lana Woods. Their guests included comedian Bill Cosby and Peter Kraus, chairman and chief executive of AllianceBernstein LP.

April 26, 2011

MoMA collaborates with Columbia University’s Reinhold Martin to promote design program rethinking housing in light of foreclosure crisis

NEW YORK- Five teams of architects will rethink housing in American cities and suburbs in light of the foreclosure crisis in a 14-month program announced on Monday by the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, reports The New York Times.

The program, called, “Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream,” was organized by Barry Bergdoll, MoMA’s chief curator of architecture, and Reinhold Martin, director of Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.

Each team will focus on a “megaregion,” a metropolitan area that lies within a corridor between two major cities. Amale Andraos and Dan Wood of WORK Architecture Company will work on Portland, Ore.; Michael Bell of Columbia University on Temple Terrace, Fla.; Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang on Cicero, Ill.; Hilary Sample and Michael Meredith of MOS on the Oranges in New Jersey; and Andrew Zago of Zago Architecture on Rialto, Calif.

“Foreclosed” is the second program in MoMA’s “Issues in Contemporary Architecture” series, which started in 2009 with “Rising Currents,” which addressed New York City’s rising water levels.

April 26, 2011

Museum of the Moving Image’s $67 million renovation appeals to youth audience

NEW YORK- The Museum of the Moving Image has just completed a $67 million renovation and is now better equipped to address the primacy of “art, history, technique, and technology of film, television, and digital media,” per the organization’s website.

On March 1, Carl Goodman was appointed executive director and will now oversee the museum’s expanded public galleries, enhanced educational programs, and redesigned film and digital screening facilities—in all, 47,000 additional square feet of space in the city-owned building that has housed the museum since its 1988 opening.

The Wall Street Journal reports the embrace of evolving digital technology remains a key aspect of Moving Image’s identity and that it’s Queens location has skewed its destination allure more globally and with programs ranging from youth workshops to 3D screenings to forthcoming exhibits on Jim Henson and “Real Virtuality.”

“It doesn’t suffer as much as comparable institutions from a shrinking youth audience. Our innate appeal to younger audiences is an institutional appeal,” Mr. Goodman said. “It’s not studied. We don’t sit around asking, ‘How do we appeal to younger audiences?’”

April 26, 2011

John Stomberg named director of Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

SOUTH HADLEY- John R. Stomberg has been appointed as the new director of the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. Stomberg has served as deputy director and chief curator of the Williams College Museum of Art for the past two decades and will begin his position August 1.

“I am absolutely convinced that John is exactly the right person for the museum and for Mount Holyoke at this time,” said Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella. “John is a passionate voice for liberal education and how the museum is critical to Mount Holyoke’s mission of using liberal learning for purposeful engagement in the world. His breadth of knowledge and leadership experience will provide an invaluable complement to an already extraordinary museum staff.”

April 25, 2011

Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University vandalized

EAST LANSING- Five concrete panels on the structure that will be the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU were vandalized with red spray paint causing an estimated $1,000 in damage, reports The State News.

All five paintings were of the same image, a circular face with two red, wavy lines coming from its sides. A similar painting was executed on the side of a yellow 2007 CAT excavator with damage on the machine estimated at an additional $500, McGlothian-Taylor said.

Bob Groves, vice president for university advancement, told The State News in an interview earlier this month that MSU has raised more than $34 million for the museum, which is expected to open next spring.

April 25, 2011

Pakistan celebrates 17th death anniversary of Professor Ana Molka Ahmed

ISLAMABAD- The Pakistan National Council of the Arts and Ministry of Information & Broadcasting joined together to observe the 73rd death anniversary of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the Poet of the East, and 17th death anniversary of Professor Ana Molka Ahmed, one of the first notable female painters in Pakistan and an eminent art educationist at the National Art Gallery.

Students from various colleges participated in the celebration and a presentation on Iqbal and Ana Molka was given by Zarar Haider Babri.

Babri said Molka’s works, especially The Day of Resurrection and Heaven, as well as her criticism on the role of artists in Pakistan, contributed significantly towards building the structure of Pakistani art world. Molka was also instrumental in solidifying art education in Pakistan.

He urged the students to come out of the confines of studio bound art and follow the path of artists like Molka, who “are the founders of Pakistani art.”

April 25, 2011

CalArts professors create robot orchestra

LOS ANGELES- Ajay Kapur and Michael Darling, both instructors at California Institute of the Arts recently launched KarmetiK Machine Orchestra (after karma and kinetic), a futuristic endeavor that combines elements of artificial intelligence/robotics, electronic music and theater. The Los Angeles Times reports that professors have worked with students to create robots programmed to improvise with humans and play music on stage. The robots were designed and built by students who play with them on customized computerized interfaces.

On May 12, the orchestra will perform a mix of world fusion, modern electronic, experimental, groove-oriented beats and Indian classical music during an immersive audio-visual installation concert.

“It’s about new ways of making noise,” Darling says. “There’s things you can do with them that humans can’t do.”

The upcoming performance will be fully interactive, complete with miniature ‘bots flying through the air and brightly colored, sound-activated animation dancing overhead,” says Darling. “It’s sure to be a sonic and visual treat – in a “Frankenstein goes to his first rave” kind of way.

April 25, 2011

University of Pennsylvania exhibits Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly

PHILADELPHIA- The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania is now showing David Wojnarowicz’s film, A Fire in My Belly, in protest to the Smithosian’s decision to expel the work from The National Portrait Gallery, after the Catholic League denounced it and Republican House leaders threatened to pull congressional-funding.

Wojnarowicz film is part of the exhibition, Unsettled: Photography and Politics in Contemporary Art, that is on view through August 21 in the Perelman Building.

The centerpiece of the show is a complete suite of Wojnarowicz’s Sex Series (1988-89), a recent gift to the museum that has never been shown there.

The show also features photo montages by Barbara Kruger, the tinted portraits of black people by Carrie Mae Weems, a Klansman portrait by Andres Serrano, imagery of Lorna Simpson, and street scenes by Zoe Leonard, Peter Hujar, and Nan Goldin.

April 22, 2011

Victoria and Albert Museum appoints Martin Roth as director

LONDON- The Guardian reports Professor Martin Roth has been appointed director of the V&A, replacing Sir Mark Jones.

Roth, who is currently director general of the Dresden state art collections, will take up the role in September after being appointed by the V&A board of trustees and the prime minister.

Paul Ruddock, chairman of the board of V&A trustees, said Roth “has a strong record of leading and managing complex arts organisations and brings experience of working in museums and cultural organisations around the world.”

Roth, 56, was curator at the German historical museum in Berlin, and director of the German hygiene-museum in Dresden, before being appointed to oversee the Dresden state art collections in 2001.

He was awarded the French ‘Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ in 2007, which recognises significant contributions to the arts.

“The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design and I am honoured and delighted to be appointed as its new Director,” Roth said.

April 22, 2011

Syria’s ‘spontaneously’ organised protests

SYRIA–While the Syrian army deployed overnight to the restive city of Homs, preparations were under way in dozens of towns and cities across Syria to make this Friday’s protests the biggest yet.  Small committees in neighbourhoods and mosques – formed over the last few weeks – came together discreetly to plan when and where to protest.  Meanwhile, an informal army of cyber activists swung into action – sharing information between the towns to keep the momentum going.

On Twitter, the account of @SyRevoSlogans, created on 18 April, offered a flood of slogans for people to use during demonstrations across the country – many suggested by fellow Twitter users.  User @syrianjasmine spread news of “thugs” being bussed into the town of Daraya, while @wissamtarif kept track of student protests and arbitrary detentions in the capital Damascus.

The Facebook page of ‘Syrian Revolution 2011′, with its 120,000 followers, called on people to take to the streets for Friday protests. It said they have no excuse not to join now that the barrier of fear has fallen.  With almost no foreign reporters allowed into Syria, it called on anyone with pictures or videos to send them to International media can contact the page to confirm details or talk to eyewitnesses, it adds.

These are the two layers of the movement – the people on the ground who organise day-to-day events at a local level; and the online community, which helps give the protests a sense of cohesion on a national level.

April 22, 2011

Peter Vetsch resigns From Art Forum Berlin

BERLIN– Peter Vetsch resigns From Art Forum Berlin.  The director, who was hired away from Art Basel along with Eva-Maria Häusler to co-direct Art Forum Berlin 2009, has said that he is leaving the fair for personal reasons.  Häusler will continue to direct Art Forum Berlin, alongside longtime
project director Kirsten Günther.

April 22, 2011

Under close watch: UC Davis students react to administrators for allegedly spying

CALIFORNIA– The University of California Davis administration has been accused of spying on and infiltrating peaceful student protests during the past year as students continue to rally against tuition hikes.  After California Gov. Jerry Brown announced a $1.4 million cut to higher education in January, students and faculty at UC Davis began voicing their thoughts and opinions through peaceful protests.

Just a decade ago, tuition was $3,000. Today, tuition is $13,000, and financial aid continues to be cut, said Eric Lee, a junior political science major and a self-proclaimed spokesman for students against rising fees.  But at one of these peaceful protests on March 2, a student questioned a woman dressed in plain clothing about her position. The woman said she was an administrator. Later, students looked up the woman’s name and discovered she was, in fact, a police officer, Lee said.

This led to students accusing the UC Davis administration of spying on their protests throughout the past year.  UC Davis students received a 280-page document from the university, accessed after filing a public records act request, that confirmed university and police authorities have been organizing for more than a year by holding orientation meetings over the summer and on weekends.

Cres Vellucci, a member of the Board of Directors of the Sacramento County American Civil Liberties Union, said the document “showed a chilling picture of a university, saying it wanted to ‘help’ students, but the unmistakable tenor suggested that UCD wanted to monitor and control free-speech activities.” Vellucci has been helping students with their struggles against the university.

And although walkouts and rallies run by infuriated students continue on campus, the main concern is the students’ rights to privacy and free speech, Lee said. The students are not satisfied with the information received in the document and are filing another request for more.

April 21, 2011

Detained artist Ai Weiwei offered Berlin university post

BERLIN–Detained Chinese artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei has been offered a visiting teaching post at the Berlin University of the Arts, the university said on Wednesday.

The prominent artist and critic of China’s ruling Communist Party was stopped from boarding a flight to Hong Kong from Beijing on April 3 and detained by border police.

His detention has sparked criticism from Western governments over the treatment of rights activists.

Chinese police said the 53-year-old Ai was under investigation for “suspected economic crimes” and reports from government-controlled media alleged he avoided taxes.

The university’s offer had been in the works since December. Last month the artist said he planned to open a studio in Berlin as his European base.

His work “Sunflower Seeds,” an installation of millions of handmade porcelain seeds, is currently on show at Britain’s Tate Modern museum. A 100 kg pile of the porcelain seeds fetched 349,250 pounds ($570,800) at auction in London in February.

April 21, 2011

Sharjah Call for Action-Update

Sharjah–“Following the abrupt dismissal of Sharjah Art Foundation’s Director, Mr. Jack Persekian, members of the local, regional and international art communities were quick to mobilize, rally support and draft a petition condemning the manner of this dismissal without consultation, discussion, explanation and the subsequent removal of art works in the Biennial one month following the opening.

The petition is a collective effort authored by a group of anonymous artists, writers and curators who have had varying degrees of engagement with the infrastructure and platforms for artistic production and critical thought that the Sharjah Art Foundation has nurtured over the years.

Our call for action to boycott stems from our indignation, disappointment and refusal to accept that the hard work of creating a transnational and local arena for artistic practice and debate from within Sharjah could so quickly, arbitrarily and unilaterally be annulled, that internal politics were allowed to reign over this matter at the expense of a much needed conversation, and that artworks in the 10th Sharjah Biennial were altered without the minimum of transparency on behalf of the Foundation.

Over 1500 people have signed the petition to date, including prominent local and international artists, curators, critics and scholars, arts institutions, academic departments, and many participants in past and present editions of Sharjah Biennial. This speaks volumes about what the Biennial has offered and accomplished and what it stands to lose in the present and the future, especially in the event of further monocratic engagement with artistic and cultural production.

Sharjah Art Foundation, through its specially hired New York based private public relations firm Fitz and Co., has orchestrated a series of reactions to this mobilization by discrediting the content of the petition, denying its claims and circulating a statement attributed to Mr. Persekian, claiming that he distances himself from the petition’s principles and its call for boycott.

The statements in the petition are true. Invaluable, long-term employees have indeed resigned as a form of protest, and the Foundation cannot silence that protest by simply refusing to accept the resignations in question. In additional some artworks were in fact closed for viewing, removed and declared ‘under review’. One artwork has been permanently altered, all without prior consent from or notification to the artists.

Sharjah Art Foundation’s response to the petition and its circulation of Mr. Persekian’s statement are irrelevant to this call for boycott: in fact they miss the point. This action was taken out of principle and in solidarity, and would have readily occurred elsewhere had these same events taken place in this fashion. We maintain the demands of the boycott, which we deem clear and forthright:

1- A public acknowledgment of the events that occurred and the exact manner in which they took place, and

2- A guarantee that safeguards the intellectual independence of Sharjah Art Foundation’s multiple productions including the work of the artists involved with the Foundation.

We believe these steps to be prudent measures by which to salvage the credibility and integrity of Sharjah Art Foundation’s myriad activities, and the only way to ensure the liberty of artistic expression and cultural production in Sharjah and the region at large, all of which has even more seriously been jeopardized by this latest turn of events. We are certain that should Sharjah Art Foundation choose to do nothing about this situation, they are already in the midst of a boycott by default, regardless of whether it is officially announced on our part or not.”

April 20, 2011

Intern Nation

U.S– The debate over unpaid internships is complex. Students want the experience, but not all can afford it, especially when they’re required to pay for the (sometimes mandatory) corresponding academic credit.   Ross Perlin, a veteran of the unpaid internship and a researcher for the Himalayan Languages Project, in China, decided three years ago to investigate some of the issues that arise when these conflicting interests collide. What he found can be inferred through the title of his new book – Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy (Verso).

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Perlin cited research from the College Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University and the research firm Intern Bridge, which found that 3/4 of the 10 million U.S. four-year college students will have internships before graduating, and between a third and half of them will be unpaid. He also noted that laws prohibiting racial discrimination and sexual harassment do not apply to unpaid interns.

A year ago, after the U.S. Labor Department released guidelines clarifying the requirements that private businesses must meet under federal law when hiring unpaid interns, 13 college presidents protested that the government risked doing more harm than good. The guidelines, which apply a six-part test from the Fair Labor Standards Act, state that such interns must benefit from the job; work under close supervision; not displace regular employees; not provide an “immediate advantage” for the employer and possibly even impede the employer; not necessarily be entitled to a post-internship job; and understand, as should the employer, that he or she is not entitled to wages.

The presidents, among them Mark G. Yudof of the University of California and John Sexton of New York University, stressed the growing importance of the real-world experience that internships provide. “The Department’s public statements could significantly erode employers’ willingness to provide valuable and sought-after opportunities for American college students,” they wrote.“While we share your concerns about the potential for exploitation, our institutions take great pains to ensure students are placed in secure and productive environments that further their education. We constantly monitor and reassess placements based on student feedback. We urge great caution in changing an approach to learning that is viewed as a huge success by educators, employers, and students alike, and we respectfully request that the Department of Labor reconsider undertaking the regulation of internships.”

(The vice president of the Economic Policy Institute sent the department a scathing response to the presidents’ letter, accusing the colleges of asking the department to “look the other way and condone violations of the law, when they ought to be working closely with you to ensure that their students are protected by regulations that are vigorously enforced.”)  Indeed, the regulations appear to be affecting internship providers. According to an annual recruiting trends report out of the College Employment Research Institute, 60 percent of the more than 4,500 employers surveyed said they would hire interns during 2010-11. But employers also reported having to decrease or eliminate opportunities in light of the labor guidelines because they couldn’t afford to pay interns. They also cited as a challenge “connections with academic institutions for finding the right students and scheduling the experience.”

April 20, 2011

Suicides at Kaist University raise concerns about Scholarship Policies

KOREA - While Kaist’s board of trustees met in Seoul on Friday to discuss reforming school polices, the campus in Daejeon, dotted with colorful cherry blossoms, was quiet and peaceful – no demonstrations, no student rallies and no big debate over whether the university’s president, Suh Nam-pyo, should step down.  Everything, in fact, seemed calm, despite the recent outcry over the suicides of four students and one professor. “Until Tuesday, the campus was full of discussion about the suicide crisis, but now everything seems to have settled down,” a 25-year-old senior said on the condition of anonymity.

Since January, four students and one professor have killed themselves, drawing public alarm. Tired of the media attention, most of the students interviewed Friday by the Korea JoongAng Daily did not want their names used when they talked about the recent suicides and Suh’s controversial policies, seen by some as playing a role in the deaths.

A 21-year-old sophomore who was friends with one of the students who died said, “I guess he died because of his own personal reasons, not because of Suh’s policies. But I think it is true that under Suh’s competition-encouraging policies, most students are unable to take care of each other, which I find regrettable.”
Byun Kyu-hong, a 23-year-old student leader, said that while students overall seem to be satisfied with their Kaist education, they are competing against each other not to be labeled as an “abnormal” students.

About 70 percent of Kaist students today receive full scholarships, according to the university.  “Under the previous full-scholarship policy, students could develop their creativity from participating in extracurricular activities, not only from lectures. And many graduated with low GPAs, but they still contributed brilliant ideas to society,” Byun said. “But now, most students concentrate on getting better grades for fear of being labeled lazy and abnormal.”  “Money is also a matter of concern to students,” he said. “A friend of mine has about 15 million won [$13,761] of debt right now.”

Meanwhile, the university’s board met on Friday but did not call for Suh’s resignation.  Amid the criticism over the current scholarship policy, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has launched an investigation into the policy to determine whether the university violated the human rights of students on campus.  The commission will issue a recommendation to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology if the probe finds changes are necessary.

April 20, 2011

Grass-Roots Cultural Council awards $75,000 in grants

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Cultural Council has awarded grants totaling $75,195 for New Bedford arts and cultural programs.  In announcing the awards, Mayor Scott Lang and Lynne LaBerge, chairwoman of the New Bedford Cultural Council, said the grants will support programs in New Bedford that promote education, diversity and excellence in the arts, humanities and interpretive sciences.

The grants were awarded from a pool of funds distributed to the city by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency that supports public programs and educational activities in  the arts, sciences and humanities.Grant recipients include ArtWorks!, New Bedford Open Studios, Day of Portugal, Cape Verdean Recognition Committee, New Bedford Historical Society, Summerfest, AHA! and New Bedford Festival Theatre. In addition, grants were given to many of the schools in the city for field trips through the Performing Arts Student Series program of MCC.

The New Bedford Cultural Council is part of a grass-roots network of 329 local councils that serve every city and town in the state. The state Legislature provides an annual appropriation to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which then allocates funds to each local council.  Statewide, more than $2.34 million will be distributed by local cultural councils in 2011.

Decisions about which activities to support are made at the community level by a board of municipally appointed volunteers.

April 20, 2011

Congress cuts federal funding for District of Columbia Art Groups by over 70%

WASHINGTON DC- Congress cut the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program that serves the District Columbia by $7 million from $9.5 million in the last agreement for fiscal 2011.

The NCACA grants local groups unrestricted funding in place of state appropriations. It was started in 1985 to fill that gap since the District is not a state.

“What is particularly cruel is that most arts organizations live in states, which give the groups money. We don’t have the same infrastructure, we don’t have the rights, we don’t have the recourse,” said Dorothy M. Kosinski, the director of the Phillips Collection. The Phillips, one of 24 recipients in 2010, received $423, 801, or 3.5 percent of its operating budget.

Noting the fragile economy of most arts group and the city itself, Morey B. Epstein, executive director of institutional development at Studio Theatre, said “his blood pressure was boiling. For the city as a whole, it is a terrible shock.” Studio received $343,111 in fiscal 2010, or 6.3 percent of its budget. “The benefits of this program are so visible, and dance, theaters and museums have thrived. It helped develop a number of organizations, not just a few.”

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which administers the program, hasn’t received confirmation of the exact amount it will be able to distribute. “It will be a substantial cut, depending on the size of the organization. It will hit some harder than others,” said Thomas Luebke, the commission’s secretary.

In 2010, the Kennedy Center received $650,000, the National Symphony Orchestra $624,284 and the Washington National Opera $650,000. GALA Hispanic Theatre had a $296,384 grant, 18.6 percent of its budget. Arena Stage had a $430,000 grant, 3.4 percent of its income.

The federal grant was so essential that the Washington Ballet is facing a deficit after it learned it had not qualified this year for the program. It will end the 2011 fiscal year with a $250,000 shortfall, the exact amount of the NCACA grant in 2010. “We are already cutting things left and right,” said Alyssa Porambo, public relations manager for the company. “My best advice is not to rely on that kind of funding.”

April 19, 2011

UK Art Schools face uncertain financial future

LONDON- University of the Arts London (UAL) and other major arts colleges are forced to look elsewhere for financing due to a collapse in public funding. Set to lose more than £50 million in public funding by 2015, the university, which comprises six colleges, is looking to set up courses in China and the Middle East while expanding its range of more lucrative postgraduate degrees.

While the postgraduate Royal College of Arts plans to increase student numbers by 50% over the next three years to increase its income, UAL faces the greatest challenge. Not only is it set to lose almost all its public funding for teaching over the next three years, but like other universities set up after 1992, it has already lost millions of pounds of research funding.

“There is a complete collapse of funding for universities like this,” says Carrington. “We have to assume we are being privatised. We will have virtually no public funding at all by 2015. We have £52m of teaching funding at the moment. We expect all but £1 million-£2 million of that to have gone by 2015.”

Over the last three years, he says, the institution has been hit hard by pretty much every budget cut, including a loss of just over 34% of its government funding for the coming academic year.

Last week, UAL announced its undergraduate fees would be £9,000 a year from 2012. Carrington says there isn’t much choice; by 2015, 75% of its income will come directly from its 20,000 students and only about 5-7% will come from the public sector.

As well as expanding its overseas and postgraduate provision, plans include scaling back loss-making courses (including art foundation courses); amalgamating technical and support services, and expanding its short taught courses, which bring in about £10 million a year. But Carrington admits that moving from “a public sector institution into an entrepreneurial institution” won’t be easy.

“There’s a danger we could dismantle art education in response to market demand. To be honest, I think everyone is in a state of shock,” says Mark Dunhill, the dean of fine arts at CSM. “I don’t think anyone believed this could happen. It’s such an assault on the success UK art schools have demonstrated over the past 20 years.”

April 19, 2011

Terra Foundation awards $3 million grant to Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

CHICAGO- The Terra Foundation for American Art has awarded a $3 million grant to the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art to support another five years of the Archives’ digitization project and to fund a new position that will create and oversee related online scholarly and educational outreach initiatives. With this second grant, the Terra Foundation has committed more than $6.6 million over a ten-year period.

Over the next five years, a substantial number of the Archives most-requested documents will be prepared, scanned and made available on the Archives’ website. Grant monies also will enable the Archives to further develop Web technologies to support various social media formats and digital humanities scholarship.

Historically, the public only has been able to consult collection documents at the Archives’ Washington, D.C., headquarters, or access selected holdings through interlibrary loan or at affiliated Archives research centers. Through a wholly redesigned website made public in January 2011, the Archives now provides unprecedented access to online exhibitions, oral history transcripts, audio highlights, encoded archival description finding aids and guides, selected digital images and collections, and other research services.

“This new round of support from the Terra Foundation underscores the major success of our digitization efforts and the effect this project has had on bringing our resources to a global audience,” said John W. Smith, director of the Archives. “The staff and the board of trustees of the Archives are deeply grateful for the foundation’s enormous commitment to this endeavor and the partnership we have forged as a result. But the true beneficiaries of the foundation’s support are the thousands of researchers around the world who now have immediate access to our rich and diverse collections.”

April 19, 2011

Canadian Prizes for the Arts still on hold

QUEBEC- The twenty-five million dollar Canada Prizes for the Arts and Creativity, announced in 2009 as part of the Conservative budget, have yet to be allocated, says Heritage Minister James Moore. The prizes were to be bestowed on top international artists in various disciplines at theToronto’s Luminato Festival.

According to CBC, outrage erupted in Quebec, where arts groups and politicians were already upset over $45 million in federal cuts to arts spending the year before – cuts that cost the Conservatives many votes in the province. As a result, the Harper government announced last spring the Canada Prizes would be administered by the Canada Council for the Arts.

A CBC Radio News investigation has discovered the $25-million endowment fund for the Canada Prizes has yet to be transferred to the Canada Council.

“It is tricky, it’s complicated,” Moore told CBC Radio.”We’re talking about a lot of money and we’ll get it right. We want to make sure the prizes grow; we want to make sure the Canada Council has a robust private-sector fundraising arm to make sure the prizes start at $25 million and grow from there.”

Opposition politicians remain skeptical.”The Canada Prize is just so typical of how the Conservatives operate,” said Charlie Angus, former NDP heritage critic.”They came out with this big bang and we’ve seen nothing but sizzle. It’s pretty much a huge vanity prize and then the money’s not spent, there’s no accountability, we can’t seem to get any answers on it. They treat arts this way, other sectors this way, but it raises fundamental questions about their credibility.”

Moore insists the Canada Prizes will be a “win-win” for everybody.”This is the largest multi-disciplinary prize for arts and culture in Canadian history and one of the largest in the world, and we want to get it right.”

April 19, 2011

Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design art building at Stanford

NEW YORK- Stanford University has selected architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design its new home for the art and art history department.

The 90,000-square-foot Burton and Deedee McMurtry Building will serve as an interdisciplinary arts hub and further develop the university’s “Arts District” at the entrance to the campus. The building was named in honor of two alumni who donated $30 million toward the project.

The building will consolidate the department’s programs in art practice, design, art history, film and media studies, and documentary film, which are now dispersed on campus. In a statement, Mr. McMurtry praised Diller Scofidio + Renfro — which redesigned Lincoln Center — for its “creative process of exploration, experimentation and informed risk-taking.”

Adjacent to the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford’s visual arts museum, the new building will contain studios, screening rooms, gallery spaces, classrooms and the art and architecture library. Construction is expected to begin in 2012.

April 19, 2011

The end of Sharjah’s Biennial?

BEIRUT– More than 1,200 people joined a protest against artistic censorship in Sharjah this week, within 48 hours of a petition being posted online Monday night.  The Sharjah Call for Action – signed by scores of local, regional and international artists, critics, curators and scholars, including such prominent figures as Mona Hatoum and Sophie Calle – is the latest in a series of dramatic, rapid-fire developments stemming from the 10th edition of the Sharjah Biennial, which opened on March 16.  The petition includes a pledge by signatories to boycott the biennial, the foundation, and all cultural initiatives in Sharjah if demands for public acknowledgement and discussion of censorship are not met. Kickstarted by writers in Beirut, it also highlights this city’s penchant for political activism.

The petition comes in direct response to events set in motion on April 6, when Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah, abruptly dismissed Jack Persekian from his post as director of the biennial and its umbrella organization, the Sharjah Art Foundation.

Persekian was reportedly fired due to public outcry over the work “Maportaliche/Ecritures Sauvages” (It Has No Importance/Wild Writings) by the Algerian artist Mustapha Benfodil.  Installed in a wide public square located in Sharjah’s heritage area, the work includes walls strewn with graffiti, a sound system booming Maghrebi hip-hop and 23 mannequins dressed as two football teams and a referee.  The T-shirts on each of the mannequins are printed with literary texts penned by Benfodil, a playwright, novelist and poet as well as a visual and performing artist.

The Sharjah Biennial was established in 1993. What began as a relatively traditional and folkloric affair was radically revamped 10 years later, when Sheikha Hoor al-Qasimi, the ruler’s daughter, returned home from art school in London and complained of the event’s lack of vision. Her father gave her the chance to do something different.  The irony, of course, is that the current edition – titled “Plot for a Biennial” and curated by Salti, Aivazian and Suzanne Cotter – is by far the strongest biennial to date, including a preternaturally high number of stunningly beautiful, sensitive, pleasurable and provocative works.

The curators assembled the exhibition around key words such as treason, insurrection, corruption and devotion, shot through with a cast of imaginary characters including the traitor, traducer, translator and collaborator.  The result is a thicket of rich and redolent ideas. The biennial is thorny, complex, deeply contentious and occasionally contradictory. But coming at this particular moment in time, the emphasis on betrayal and subversion seems to have pushed the biennial to its breaking point.

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April 18, 2011

Federal cultural-grants agencies to lose 11.2% of their funding under budget deal

LOS ANGELES- The three federal agencies devoted to making arts and cultural grants will take an 11.2% collective hit under the budget deal that institutes the largest spending cut in U.S. history.

The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be faced with reining in their grant making between now and Sept. 30, when the 2010-11 budget year ends. Their spending for the coming fiscal year will depend on a budgeting process that is expected to turn into a titanic battle between Republicans who are calling for massive cuts and no tax increases, and the Obama administration and its Democratic allies in congress, who want a combination of cuts and higher tax payments for high-income earners.

The NEA and NEH each will take a $12.5-million cut this year, from $167.5 million to $155 million -– a 7.5% reduction. Spending at the IMLS will decrease from $282.2 million to $237.9 million, a drop of 15.7%.

The National Gallery of Art saw its $111-million allocation reduced by $8 million, a 7.2% cut, and the State Department’s spending for “educational and cultural exchange programs” aimed at improving the nation’s foreign relations was reduced from $635 million to $600 million, a 5.5% cut.

The advocacy group Americans for the Arts issued a statement Tuesday saying it was “heartened” that cuts to the NEA and NEH were “more sensible and proportional” than the 26% reduction that House Republicans passed earlier this year, but which the Democratic-controlled Senate did not OK. Also, Americans for the Arts noted, an “Art in Education” program that had been in danger of elimination has survived, albeit with its budget reduced from $40 million to $25.5 million. While acknowledging current constraints, the group said, “the nation would be better with a more robust investment in nonprofit arts” than what’s left following the cuts.

Funding was not affected at the Smithsonian Institution, whose $761-million allocation is by far the largest federal investment in the arts and culture, or at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where this year’s federal support for operations and renovations totals $36.8 million.

April 18, 2011

Ai Weiwei arrest protests at Chinese embassies worldwide

LONDON- Demonstrators all over the world gathered outside Chinese embassies on Sunday demanding the release of the detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Hundreds of protestors brought chairs onto the street to call for the immediate release of Ai, and in support of the rights of all Chinese artists. In Hong Kong there were scuffles as 150 protestors came up against lines of police, with reports of at least one detention. In Berlin, about 200 people took part in a largely silent protest. There was also a gathering outside the Chinese embassy in London.

Ai was arrested on April 3 at Beijing airport and is being investigated by the Chinese authorities for tax evasion, bigamy and spreading pornography on the web, according to a Hong Kong newspaper. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Ai’s sister, Gao Ge, doubted the protests would help her brother, “but I don’t think they will make his situation any worse,” she told the German news agency, dpa.

Inspired by one of Ai’s installations, a Canadian curator appealed to artists worldwide via social networking sites to take chairs out onto the street and sit in silent protest. In his 2007 installation, Fairytale, Ai took 1,001 Qing dynasty wooden chairs to the German city, Kassel, along with 1,001 Chinese citizens for the Documenta 12 exhibition.

“It’s crucial to exert pressure now, before they come up with a verdict,” said curator of the Kassel show, Roger Bürgel. “It’s really important for the people to realize they have the power to change things. German politicians are being lazy and the west is too easily seduced by China‘s economic clout. The regime needs to be confronted,” he said.

The protest had a special significance for Berlin artists. Ai had intended to open up a studio in the German capital and had an exhibition planned for the end of the month.

In growing political embarrassment for Berlin, two days before Ai’s arrest, Germany‘s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, opened The Art of Enlightenment exhibition, at China’s National Museum on Tiananmen Square.Westerwelle has demanded Ai’s immediate release, but critics say the exhibition should be cancelled.

“The red line has been crossed. They need to bring the paintings back,” said Agataki, a young Berlin artist at the sit-in. “The Chinese set them one trap after another,” said Inge-Ruth Markus, a Berlin pensioner with fiery red hair. “We are ashamed by the blindness of the German delegation in Beijing.”

April 18, 2011

Philippine school creates arts ambassadors

MANILA- The Philippines’ premier public school for the arts is advancing its efforts to create the country’s future cultural ambassadors. Despite the nation’s coffers being nearly bare, it spends an average of 300,000 pesos (6,976 dollars) a year on each student. This is about thirty times the amount allocated for students at a regular public school.

Students accepted into the competitive state-funded Philippine High School for the Arts follow a rigorous twelve-hour daily routine of academic study, music, dance, theatre, visual arts and creative writing.

The school began as an informal haven for young artists in the 1970s. It was established by former first lady Imelda Marcos, who lavished much time and money on the arts during the twenty-year rule of her husband, Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos,  best known for his authoritarian corruption, political repression and human rights violations. In 1989 former president Corazon Aquino signed an executive order establishing it as an official public high school for gifted children, a third-world replica of New York’s famous Juilliard.

The students at Makiling are now carefully chosen from thousands of applicants who audition for just over 30 slots a year. The 145 students get free board and lodging, and the school appoints a special tutor or master for whatever discipline each of them wants to pursue.

“Our dream and goal is to ennoble the Filipino spirit – that we are good, that we can excel,” the school’s executive director and Jesuit priest, Carmelo Caluag, told AFP. “We are doing this because art and culture are the windows to the soul of the people, they nurture our spirit.”

April 18, 2011

Thousands may sue over police kettling at G20 protests

LONDON–High court rules way in which police kettled up to 5,000 demonstrators at G20 protests in April 2009 was illegal. Thousands of people found by the high court to have been illegally detained for hours by police at a central London protest may sue Scotland Yard for false imprisonment.

Judges found that the force used by police was “unjustified”, criticised “imprecise” instructions given by senior officers about releasing innocent people, and said the mass detentions for five hours were an unlawful deprivation of liberty under article 5 of the European convention on human rights. The case was brought by Josh Moos and Hannah McClure, who were among the crowd held by police.

The judgment does not strike down the police tactic of kettling, or mass detention, but it will be seen as a rebuff to the Met and places police chiefs on notice that the courts will intervene in favour of the rights of protesters over claims that draconian tactics are necessary to prevent violence. The Met announced it would appeal against the judgment.  The solicitor who brought the case, John Halford, said the ruling opened the police up to thousands of lawsuits seeking damages for the unlawful behaviour. He said: “Everyone in the kettle has a claim for false imprisonment and damages as they were detained against their will.”

April 15, 2011

California responds to budget cuts in higher education

LONG BEACH— More than 10,000 people marched, waved signs and occupied buildings at college campuses across California on Wednesday in a show of opposition to state budget cuts to education that could lead to higher tuition, larger class sizes and lower enrollment.

The rallies were part of a day of protest planned for all 23 California State University campuses. Similar events took place in states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey, where legislators are slashing education spending to close huge budget shortfalls.

In California, students peacefully occupied administration buildings in protest on at least six campuses, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California Faculty Association, which worked with students and employees to organize the demonstrations. He estimated about 12,000 students, faculty members and others participated in the rallies statewide.

April 14, 2011

New Concerns over Plagiarism in German Politics

Germany–A senior German liberal politician, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, is under scrutiny for possible plagiarism in her university thesis, echoing the scandal that hit the former defence minister.  The University of Heidelberg is re-examining Ms Koch-Mehrin’s academic work on currency unions. She is a vice-president of the European Parliament.

The MEP, a leading member of the Free Democrats (FDP), allegedly failed to source the 227-page thesis properly.  The FDP is in the ruling coalition.  An investigative website called VroniPlag Wiki raised doubts about Ms Koch-Mehrin’s 2001 thesis, called Historical Currency Unions between the Economy and Politics.  She has not yet commented on the allegations.

The same website exposed plagiarised passages in the doctoral thesis of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who resigned as defence minister on 1 March after being stripped of his PhD.  Mr Guttenberg is a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).  The University of Bayreuth, which had awarded him the doctorate, concluded that he had “violated scientific duties to a considerable extent”.  He has said he will not try to block publication of the university’s findings about his thesis.

April 14, 2011

1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei

A question posted on Facebook about what we, as an arts community, can do to support the safe release of Ai Weiwei sparked great ideas, including one by curator Steven Holmes to reenact Ai Weiwei’s project Fairytale: 1,001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs—an installation which was comprised of 1,001 late Ming and Qing Dynasty wooden chairs at Documenta 12 in 2007 in Kassel, Germany—in front of Chinese embassies and consulates around t…he world. This Sunday, April 17, at 1 PM local time, supporters are invited to participate in 1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei, by bringing a chair and gathering outside Chinese embassies and consulates to sit peacefully in support of the artist’s immediate release.

Artist and activist Ai Weiwei is an internationally regarded figure who has fought for artistic freedom and for freedom of speech throughout his distinguished career, envisioning and shaping a more just and equitablesociety through his work. He has been missing since his arrest on April 3rd in Beijing. Referencing the spirit of his work, 1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei calls for his immediate release, supporting the right of artists to speak and work freely in China and around the world.

Local embassies and consulates:

New York:
Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China
520 12th Avenue

Kinesiska ambassaden
Lidovägen 8
115 25 Stockholm

Chinesse Embassy
49 Portland Place , London W1B 1JL

Chinese Embassy
11, av. George V, 75008 Paris.

For more details

April 13, 2011

Neighbors lose suit to halt shift of Art Institute

Cambridge– A state Land Court judge has ruled against residents suing the city of Cambridge and Lesley University over plans to relocate the Art Institute of Boston to the site of a historic church in Neighbors of North Prospect Church filed the suit in 2009, asking the court to overturn new zoning laws that enable Lesley to move the church to the south side of its Massachusetts Avenue property to make way for a new four-story building for the institute. But in a decision issued April, Land Court Judge Alexander H. Sands, III, struck down the neighbors’ suit, including a contention that the Cambridge City Council engaged in illegal spot zoning on the church site.  Bracken said Judge Sands ignored the history of the church site when he ruled it was not a case of illegal spot zoning.

Bracken said the city had included the church property at 1797-1893 Massachusetts Ave. in a residential district for more than 100 years and the City Council’s decision in 2009 to switch the site into a business district was illegal spot zoning. Bill Doncaster, Lesley University spokesman, said the school is pleased by the judgment. The university plans to break ground on the site next spring, he said. Last month, the Cambridge Planning Board granted Lesley a special permit needed to move forward with the project.  Lesley purchased the church in 2006 and plans to move it to the corner of the property. It will be renovated, converted into a library, and connected to a modern glass building that will be erected on the property. Together, the buildings will house students from the institute, which merged with Lesley in 1998.

Lesley will then sell the institute’s Beacon Street building in Boston’s Kenmore Square, Doncaster said.  Neighbors who filed the suit have said they do not object to moving the institute to Lesley’s Cambridge campus, but they do object to the plans for the church site.  Bracken said his clients are also suing the Historical Commission for endorsing the project and moving the church, even though it has been declared a landmark by the city.  The church was built in 1845 on the site of what is now Harvard University’s Littauer Hall. It was moved to Porter Square in 1867 by a team of oxen.

April 13, 2011

Support for Ai Weiwei at Harvard

BOSTON–At Harvard, Ai Weiwei’s detainment was marked last week. Ai is among three artists invited to create site-specific installations for a new exhibition entitled The Divine Comedy, co-organized by Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and the Harvard Art Museums. On Friday, a panel discussion was held with the other two participating artists, Tomás Saraceno and Olafur Eliasson, and exhibition curator/GSD professor Sanford Kwinter. Following the introductory remarks, a woman came forward and added a fourth chair next to Kwinter, calling attention to Ai Weiwei’s absence. She then placed a long military green coat lined with red silk, designed by an artist who worked with Ai Weiwei in Beijing, on the empty chair. The audience and panelists applauded the gesture. Partway through the discussion, someone else left his seat in the audience, went to the front of the room, donned the coat, and went to stand in the back of the room. Kwinter paused in deference before picking up where he had left off. A few minutes later, someone else approached the front of the room, placing a second nearly identical coat, this time lined with yellow silk, on the seat, carefully folding the arms in front. While Ai Weiwei was not scheduled to participate in the event, the intervention, conceived by art students from Harvard and MIT, acknowledged Ai’s current situation.

In another element of the tactical action, a sheet of paper was also distributed to several audience members as they entered the auditorium. The page contained provocative questions directed at the Chinese detainee, all of which began “Mr. Ai, we did not plan to see you here. But now your absence is impossible to ignore.” “Is your disappearing act part of your minimalist aesthetic practice, or is it the result of your ‘economic crimes’?” they inquired. “Do you think the Chinese government has more interest in selling your work for profit or obliterating it from the face of the earth?” “Can political aims be achieved through practices that leverage the very conditions that they attempt to critique?” The protesters hoped the questions would be asked during the Q&A period, although time constraints limited the number of questions asked and theirs were not among them.

Ai’s installation in the Northwest Laboratory building at Harvard is part of his recent engagement with the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the alleged corruption scandal involving the poorly constructed Sichuan schools that collapsed during the seism. A powerful memorial to the schoolchildren who died, Untitled (2011) consists of 5,335 identical school backpacks, representing the exact number of children who were killed. A sound piece entitled Remembrance (2011) recites the names of each victim in a continuous loop. While government-sanctioned media outlets broadcast optimistic coverage of rescue operations, Ai filmed his own footage of the devastation, interviewed parents of dead or missing children, and recorded his impressions on his blog, which has recently been published by MIT Press as a book entitled Ai Weiwei’s Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants (2006-2009).

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April 12, 2011

Ai Weiwei held for ‘obscene’ political art

CHINA- Artist Ai Weiwei was detained after an obscene satirical work he drew enraged Communist Party leaders and handed a gift to security hardliners conducting the toughest crackdown on dissent in more than a decade.

International calls for Ai’s release have been ignored and there was no official explanation for his detention by police at Beijing airport last week. But rights activists and journalists in Hong Kong say one of Ai’s visual critiques of the party crossed a censorship line.

It shows the artist naked except for a toy horse concealing his genitals. The caption has a double meaning in Chinese, so millions of internet users have seen the six characters interpreted as: “F . . . k your mother, the party central committee.” In one of the few comments on his case, a party-controlled newspaper said: “The law will not be bent for mavericks. Ai Weiwei always likes walking on the edge of the law and doing things others dare not.”

Ai, 53, has won global attention by combining a talent to outrage with civil rights campaigns. His friends fear his fame and the obscene nature of his latest work may have made him a target for the crackdown.  His disappearance has put the spotlight on a campaign of repression that started after news of the Arab revolts spread on the internet in China.

April 11, 2011

Students of Egypt’s American University question its ties to Mubarak’s regime

EGYPT–Upon Mubarak’s overthrow and days after the American University in Cairo (AUC) resumed classes, an anonymous group of AUC students circulated a petition questioning the university’s constitution, which states that “students are prohibited from engaging in non-academic religious and political activities, as well as any unauthorised group formation within the university.” The students argued in their statement that “AUC identifies itself as, above and beyond all things, Egyptian, and insists that it is apolitical, when its behaviour indicates that it is precisely the product of the outgoing regime and its institutions.”

The group says that as an institution the university claims to be neutral towards politics, while its positions are highly political and have been very much connected to Mubarak’s toppled regime. Anthropology professor, Hanan Sabea, says that while many students and professors were present in Tahrir Square during the early days of February the university expected them to resume classes.

The Chronicle of Higher Education mentions that the AUC president sent an email to all faculty that read that if they do not show up by the opening date of the university their absence would be considered an ‘immediate resignation’, which “angered many faculty members.” After Mubarak was forced to step down by the millions of Egyptians that had taken to the streets AUC requested that each department contribute to the success of the revolution academically. Sabea says “we were asked to collect

AUC has lately been suffering criticism triggered by worker strikes and demonstrations within the university demanding higher wages. It has also been accused of “corporatizing” its institution after it named several rooms, buildings and areas on its new campus after the names of corporations, despite it being a non-profit institution.

April 7, 2011

Gerrit Rietveld Academie
The Hong Kong Institute of Education
School of Visual Arts
Vermont College of Fine Arts