Shulamith Firestone (1945-2012) Leading feminist thinker and activist has died at 67

NEW YORK—Shulamith Firestone, a leading thinker of second-wave feminism and co-founder of the New York Radical Women group, was declared dead August 28 at age 67, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed.

Firestone, a radical feminist and activist, was the author of the groundbreaking 1970 book,The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. She left politics in the early 1970s and later fell into obscurity.

August 31, 2012

University of Montreal suspends classes targeted by striking students

MONTREAL—The University of Montreal has suspended classes in the departments that have been targeted by student protesters since Monday, when a winter make-up term began at all Quebec universities hit by student strikes earlier this year.

The university issued a notice Tuesday evening that it would suspend classes for the remainder of the week in the departments of anthropology, film studies, art history, East Asian studies, video-gaming studies and comparative literature.

There are 47 suspended classes in total, all in the departments in which student associations voted to continue their strike. Filion could not say how many students in the suspended courses have been turning up for class since Monday and how many were outside the classrooms protesting, although he said about a thousand students are affected by the university’s decision.

Ten people face charges after a second day of disrupted classes and clashes with riot police Tuesday at the Jean Brillant building, where many of the university’s arts classes are held. Seven people will be charged for allegedly assaulting police or university security guards, two with obstruction of justice and one with disturbing the peace.

August 30, 2012

Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum names Aimee Shapiro Director of Education

MICHIGAN—The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University today announced that Aimee Shapiro has joined the museum staff as Director of Education. Shapiro will oversee a wide range of programming for the Broad MSU, including family programming, a new docent training class, collaborations with university departments, and community-based programming that reflects the diversity present in today’s learning and creative environments.

Shapiro was most recently the Artists in Education Program Manager at Southern Exposure, a non-profit visual arts organization based in San Francisco. Prior to that, she served in several capacities at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), facilitating art integration with area teachers, developing standards-based curriculum based on exhibitions and SFMOMA’s permanent collection, and working with high school students to create a mural project with internationally renowned artist Kerry James Marshall.

Shapiro is from New York City and holds a BA from Oberlin College and an MFA from the Mount Royal School of Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is also an independent illustrator and photographer.

August 30, 2012

Two Pussy Riot activists ‘flee Russia’

MOSCOW—Two members of the punk rock collective Pussy Riot who took part in February’s controversial cathedral protest have fled the country, according to the band’s Twitter account. The women are “recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new actions,” said the tweet. The husband of jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova noted that 12 to 14 members of the group remain in the country.

August 27, 2012

Ethan Lasser Named Associate Curator of American Art at Harvard Art Museum

MASSACHUSETTS—Ethan Lasser has been named associate curator of American art at Harvard Art Museum in the division of European and American art, effective September 18. Previously, Lasser acted as curator of the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, a research institute dedicated to advancing progressive scholarship in American art through exhibitions, publications, teaching, and public programming. During his term there, he notably reinstalled the foundation’s permanent galleries at the Milwaukee Art Museum, a 13,000-square-foot exhibition space for American paintings and decorative arts. He was also adjunct professor at University of Wisconsin–Madison in the department of art history. Thomas W. Lentz, director of the museum, notes he is a timely addition to the curatorial team during a “pivotal period” of growth for the museum: “He is already establishing his presence, contributing work on the plans for the reinstallation of the American collection in the galleries of our new facility.” The renovated Fogg Art Museum building, the future home of the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler museum collections, is slated to reopen in 2014.

August 27, 2012

Botched Restoration of Jesus Fresco Shocks Spain

MADRID — A case of suspected vandalism in a church in a northeastern village in Spain has turned out to be probably the worst art restoration project of all time. An elderly woman stepped forward this week to claim responsibility for disfiguring a century-old “ecce homo” fresco of Jesus crowned with thorns, in Santuario de la Misericordia, a Roman Catholic church in Borja, near the city of Zaragoza.

Ecce homo, or behold the man, refers to an artistic motif that depicts Jesus, usually bound and with a crown of thorns, right before his crucifixion. The woman, Cecilia Giménez, who is in her 80s, said on Spanish national television that she had tried to restore the fresco, which she called her favorite local representation of Jesus, because she was upset that parts of it had flaked off due to moisture on the church’s walls.

The authorities in Borja said they had suspected vandalism at first, but then determined that the shocking alterations had been made by an elderly parishioner. The authorities said she had acted on her own. Ms. Giménez said she had worked on the fresco using a 10-year-old picture of it, but she eventually left Jesus with a half-beard and, some say, a monkeylike appearance. The fresco’s botched restoration came to light this month when descendants of the 19th-century artist, Elías Garcia Martínez, proposed making a donation toward its upkeep.

The Borja authorities said they were now considering taking legal action against Ms. Giménez, although they insisted that their priority was to try to return the work to its original state, under the guidance of art historians.

August 23, 2012

Russia’s rights ombudsman decries Pussy Riot verdict

MOSCOW—Russia’s human rights ombudsman on Thursday called the prison sentences handed down to three women from punk band Pussy Riot “excessive” and warned that the case was igniting dangerous tensions within society. The trio were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred by a Moscow court on August 17 after belting out a profanity-laced anti-Putin song on the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral in February.

Vladimir Lukin, who was originally nominated for his advisory role by President Vladimir Putin, said he might challenge the sentencing of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich if their jail terms were upheld on appeal. “It is a misdemeanor that in a normal, civilized European state, whichRussia is, is handled in administrative rather than criminal proceedings. That’s why I think the ruling on those women is excessive,” he told a news conference when asked about the case.

August 23, 2012

Quebec CEGEPs closed to protect ‘personal safety’

MONTREAL—Wednesday, facing students protesting outside as part of the province-wide demonstrations on the 22nd of the month, a Montreal CEGEP cancelled classes, reversing an earlier decision not to suspend teaching.  Collège Bois-de-Boulogne, a CEGEP in the Ahuntsic borough, said in a statement on its website that it was taking the step to “avoid any situation that might compromise personal safety.”

The day’s regular classes will be held Saturday, Sept. 15, instead. Continuing education courses scheduled for before 5 p.m. were also been cancelled, while those starting after 5 o’clock went ahead. Several dozen students were picketing Wednesday morning outside the north-end school. They unfurled a banner and stood on a set of entraceway steps, but there were no reports of confrontations.

The CEGEP’s students had voted last Thursday to end their five-month-long strike, but with a one-day exception for Wednesday to join the day of student-movement protests across the province. Bois-de-Boulogne’s administration, however, initally refused to cancel classes and as a result was targeted by picketers.

About 43,000 post-secondary students are still taking part in a general strike in Quebec, down from a peak of 150,000 in the spring, but not at any CEGEPs, which have all voted to go back to class. The 22nd of each month is a symbolic day for student demonstrators, however, and 10 CEGEP student unions representing nearly 50,000 pupils opted for a one-day strike to take part in Wednesday’s rallies.

Quebec student leaders are urging people to question every political party in the upcoming election and say they are confident the Jean Charest’s Liberal Party will not be reelected on Sept. 4.  It’s estimated more than 10,000 people gathered at Montreal’s Place du Canada — as they have been doing on the 22nd of every month since March — to protest the government’s planned tuition increase on Wednesday afternoon and to denounce Law 12, formerly known as Bill 78. Protesters walked through the city’s downtown core, as they have been doing since the student strike movement began in February of last year.

August 23, 2012

Three buses burned as Chilean students stage protest

SANTIAGO—Police used water cannons to break up a protest in Chile’s capital Wednesday by thousands of students demanding free education, and hooded vandals set ablaze three city buses amid violence that left dozens arrested and injured. The crisis over education reform in Chile remains unresolved despite more than a year of demonstrations by students, teachers and families. The marches have mostly been peaceful but often end with clashes between police in riot gear and groups of vandals armed with sticks that loot shops and hurl rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Chile’s government said student leaders cannot be exempt from responsibility for the burning of the Transantiago mass transit system buses in Wednesday’s protest, during which 75 people were arrested and 49 policemen were injured. “The leaders are opening the doors to vandalism and delinquency,” presidential spokesman Andres Chadwick said. “How much more should we put up with these illegal marches that call on school takeovers and that threaten a violent August? What does that have to with education?”

Santiago’s municipal government had banned the students from flooding the streets of the capital, fearing the protest would turn violent. The transportation ministry said damages to the public buses would cost Chile’s capital about 400 million pesos ($836,000). Raw footage shot with a cellphone camera of an attack on one bus showed passengers crawling on the floor while hooded vandals hurled rocks at the windows. The government has said the previous most recent protest in late June turned out to be the most violent, with 472 demonstrators arrested and 36 police officers injured.

Politicians and students have toughened their stance, but the system still fails families with poor quality public schools, expensive private universities, unprepared teachers and banks that make education loans at high interest that most Chileans can’t afford. President Sebastian Pinera’s approval ratings have plunged with the protests that have focused Chileans’ attention on academic and economic inequality.

August 22, 2012

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