National Parks Artifacts among Newest Additions to Google Cultural Institute

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Not sure when you’ll make time to visit the national parks? Google is prepared to take you there—virtually—both for scenic views and for close-ups of the art and artifacts you’d see. According to The Verge, Google, which has been “building out an online museum for the past five years,” is now adding nearly four thousand works of art, artifacts, and records as a result of a partnership with the National Park Service. These, along with almost sixty new Street View exhibits (50 outdoor park views and eight interior views of museums and historical locations), are part of the National Parks Collection on Google’s vast Cultural Institute site

Google Cultural Institute, which in just a few years has amassed images and information gathered from more than 1,000 groups from around the world, contains more than 730 art and cultural collections from sites and museums large and small. On one end of the spectrum are the world’s most visited institutions, including the Smithsonian, the British Museum and The Hermitage; on the other end, some that are very specialized, such as the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum and Japan’s Seto Inland Sea Folk History Museum.

New features and collections are being added at a dizzying pace. Google’s partnership with The British Museum was announced in November; one with the Guggenheim focusing on its architecture was announced in late January; in the first week of February, the site We Love Budapest announced partnerships with museums there. On a Lilliputian scale, there’s news from Hamburg, Germany, about Google capturing scenes fromMiniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway museum. This last was ingeniously done by putting a Google Street View camera on tiny toy cars and other vehicles and driving them around the model village exhibit, capturing hidden angles of streets and buildings too small or not visible to the naked eye.

Not everyone is a fan, of course. Last fall, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote in a piece entitled “The Google Art Heist” that “the more playful Google gets, the more paranoid I get.” Conceding on the one hand that the collection, containing “the most famous paintings of the Uffizi to an archive of South Korean film to virtual galleries of the pyramids,” is impressive, Ms. Dowd also pointed out questions that have been posed elsewhere about whether the “project will lead to people prowling museums from the comfort of their couch, filtering and missing out on actual visits.” Copyright concerns have also been raised, as the Washington Post reported last year, saying, as with Google’s Books project, “Google’s grand cultural efforts have been dogged by suspicion and property-rights claims.”

And, lest any area of the arts think that this couldn’t apply to them, take heed. Just two months ago, a Wall Street Journal article said the Google Cultural Institute proved that “practicing—or buying a ticket” are no longer the only ways to get to Carnegie Hall, or to more than 60 other performing arts venues around the world. Now, you can go virtually to meet famous performers, get a backstage tour, and even “be thrust in the middle of the action.”

Really, with all this, how will we find time to actually go anywhere that isn’t virtual? Except maybe the gym, until Google finds an armchair solution to burning calories…and that can’t be far off.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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One Million Children Forced from School by Boko Haram

Nigerian Lives Matter / Garry Knight

Nigerian Lives Matter / Garry Knight

Attacks by Islamist military group Boko Haram have “forced more than 1 million children to abandon their studies and closed at least 2,000 schools in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring countries,” according to Bloomberg News. Neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger are also now experiencing violence as well.

In a story this week following a UNICEF report, Bloomberg News said, “Schools have been hit by attacks as Boko Haram, which means, ‘Western education is a sin’ in the Hausa language, pursues a six-year-old campaign to establish its version of Islamic law in the region.”

Boko Haram gained world attention last year following the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls—most of whom still have not been found—from their dormitories in the town of Chibok, which sparked the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign championed by Michelle Obama and thousands of others. Most of the girls haven’t been found. Associated Press reports that overall, “Boko Haram’s insurgency has killed about 20,000 people and displaced 2.3 million, according to Amnesty International and the United Nations.”

Since starting its war on the Nigerian government in 2009, “Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted schools, students and teachers,” reports The Guardian. Further, the New York Times adds that while “hundreds of schools in northeastern Nigeria have reopened in recent months…many classrooms are overcrowded or are used as shelter for those displaced.” Security continues to be a challenge; the instability has kept teachers from returning to class, given that as many as 600 teachers have been killed during the six-year insurgency.

“Schools have been targets of attack, so children are scared to go back to the classroom,” Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director in West and Central Africa, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Yet the longer they stay out of school, the greater the risks of being abused, abducted and recruited by armed groups.” In fact, the Bloomberg story said, “In Nigeria, 10.5 million children are out of school,” making it the highest in the world.

And there are increasing fears lack of education will fuel further radicalism. Yan St-Pierre, terrorism analyst at Modern Security Consulting Group in Berlin, said, “There was already a problem with getting kids to school on a regular basis that simply became worse once Boko Haram emerged.”

Between bloody raids and incessant suicide bombings, Boko Haram has severely damaged what little infrastructure existed in Nigeria’s impoverished northeast at a time when the commodity-dependent country is facing a cash crunch thanks to plunging oil prices. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had given the military there a December deadline to beat back the group. But, according to the site Foreign Policy, “Even with some assistance from the United States, United Kingdom, and France, that goal looks increasingly unrealistic. A multi-regional military task force has dismantled some of the group’s strongholds, forcing the extremists to rely on asymmetric tactics. Those attacks, in turn, are increasingly involving children.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Critics Blast New Forms of Public Art as It Goes Mainstream

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Street and public art is having a heyday here and abroad, thriving in once-desolate parts of cities. And while it’s exciting to see an art form that harkens back millennia to the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, there’s a question of whether its power and its artists are being coopted by gentrification.

New York Magazine senior art critic Jerry Saltz is quoted in Vulture as saying he worries that the cultural forces responsible for “something like a new golden age of public art,” also support soulless and synthetic art and architecture that he loathes. And UK curator and author of The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti, Rafael Schäcter, prompted a flurry of discussion last month on the site The Conversation when he claimed that street art has moved from “dissident to decorative,” and sold out.

Schäcter explained in his piece, “Street art—as well as its artistic forebear graffiti—are often thought of as radical, rebellious aesthetic practices. Both the artists and their works are portrayed as the very definition of “edgy”; dangerous and dissident, but also creative and avant-garde. Yet within the last five years or so, street art…has been commandeered by the corporate interests of the ‘creative city’.”

Schäcter describes the creative city doctrine as “one in which public space is privatized and monetized.” City authorities in these cases look to “draw the emerging creative class to their sites” by marking themselves out “visually and recreationally to entice the key demographic of well-educated professionals and ‘bohemians’ (the coders, the designers, the “knowledge-based” professionals) who form the basis for a post-industrial economy.”

At or near the top of Saltz’s list of offenses in New York City is the High Line project, which he calls “that stretch of elevated rail lines strung through the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea, and the Hudson Yards, refurbished with private money a dozen years ago as the spine of the massive luxury redevelopment of each of those neighborhoods.” The mile-long public park, which snakes over and across a section of New York has, since it opened in June 2009, “had more than 27 million visitors.” And with annual attendance in excess of 6 million, it’s more popular than the city’s Museum of Modern Art or Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now developers have even more ambitious projects for art and entertainment centers to construct at either end of the High Line—Pier 55, at the southern end of the High Line, and the even bigger Culture Shed, at the northern one.

Saltz is not at all a fan, and he can envision problems of epic scale for these centers, the larger of which he calls a behemoth projected to cover 200,000 square feet (roughly the size of 3.5 NFL football fields). “The hubris of all this will be how costly these spaces are to build and maintain—predicated as they are on the belief that there will always be enough money for crews and equipment to come in at night and restore them for the next day’s audiences and merrymakers,” Saltz said. “It’s fitting that when this cycle of abundance recedes, these caprices may become the very “ruins” that inspired them.”

Saltz envisions the following dilemma: having new opportunities for putting art in the public sphere is good, but the creation of environments that mix experiencing art with planned programming and entertainment may change the dynamic in ways that aren’t beneficial.

He sees the High Line as a “harbinger of a bad pathogen now transforming public space into fussy, extra-busy, overdesigned, high-maintenance mannered playgrounds, curated experiences, and crowd-pleasing spectacles.” He admits that the “semi-privatization of public space has produced some of the best public art the city has seen in decades,” but at the same time he worries that “the money people who make major projects happen” are too interconnected.”

For his part, Schäcter believes this “transformation is due, in part, to the steady rise of the street-art festival. From Miami to Manila, these festivals have given institutions a way to establish the ultimate delivery system for creative city policies. They make and market “place”, turning physical space into a branded commodity. The “edgy authenticity” of street art makes it the ideal fit for this task: it is just perfectly, marvelously edgy enough.”

He continues,

“Much of the street art pumped out through the festival apparatus provides an aesthetic of transgression, while remaining perfectly numb to the social realities of its setting, treating public space like a blank canvas, rather than a site already loaded with cultural, historical and personal significance.

“It appears political while in fact being perfectly non-partisan. It performs a charade of rebellion and insurgence, while being officially sanctioned by commission and invitation.”

It’s not hard to see just how mainstream “street art” has come. One has only to look to Madison Avenue, which has just come up with an Instagram campaign for the color-trend-setting company Pantone. To gain consumer awareness for its #ColorOfTheYear (actually two colors this year), it’s having street artists “with large social followings in Los Angeles, New York City and Miami” create art installations to “showcase the colors’ harmony and their dominance in fashion, art and design.”

And in Toronto, a children’s art studio just announced it will be offering “Express Yo Self,” graffiti classes for kids, to introduce them to street-art techniques. Purists will certainly find this unsettling.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Well-Placed Subversive Art Slams Business Rhetoric at Paris Climate Talks

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Eighty artists from around the globe took to the streets of Paris recently to plaster over 600 corporate ad spaces owned by ad firm JCDecaux with pieces of protest art to air fears about climate change.

According to NPR, the protesters have “gotten much attention,” particularly because “the French government—in response to the terrorist attacks—banned mass gatherings.” The “subversive art campaign…is replacing outdoor advertising spots with art posters indicting big corporations for their role in climate change.”

In doing so, world leaders were bombarded with images challenging the corporate sponsors of the United Nations summit and with art installations around the city designed to remind leaders the world is watching closely.

Calling the action “subvertising,” the initiative was mounted by the UK organizationBrandalism, which since 2012 has been mounting a “revolt against corporate control of the visual realm” and claiming to be running “the biggest anti-advertising campaign in world history.” According to the World Post, Brandalism is looking to highlight the hypocrisy “of allowing corporations to sponsor the climate talks when their products contribute to global environmental problems such as over-production, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.” Brandalism Spokesperson Joe Elan said in the press release, “By sponsoring the climate talks, major polluters such as Air France and GDF-Suez-Engie can promote themselves as part of the solution—when actually they are part of the problem.”

Resulting media coverage has shown a variety of posters, but one that has garnered the most attention, and which NPR called “especially damning,” targets Volkswagen and the recent revelations that the company had circumvented government emissions standards. The ad reads, “Now that we’ve been caught, we’re trying to make you think we care about the environment.”

Other corporate targets include Air France and Motorola.

According to Gizmodo, there’s also been an organized art festival in Paris “devoted to climate change installations, called ArtCOP21, responsible for work from street artists like JR and Shepard Fairey to the filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. […] Together they’ve transformed Paris with work that ranges from beautiful, infuriating, and sad, to very, very clever.”

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One, entitled The People’s Climate March, depicts “20,000 pairs of shoes, arranged in perfect lines around the Place de la République.” It’s meant to stand in for the protesters who couldn’t march in Paris. Another, called The Standing March, at the Assemblée Nationale, depicts the “intense stares of 500 strangers from around the world” and is “a piece by the street artist JR and the filmmaker Darren Aronofsky.” Together, they took 3D scans of 500 different people and tiled them to create a “dynamic, moving audience on the façade of the neoclassical landmark.” They say the piece is meant to “remind leaders that the world is watching as they gather to negotiate a deal aimed at keeping global warming below 2°C.”

In another art installation “not far away from the Eiffel Tower, on the side of the American Center for Art & Culture, the artist Andrea Polli is using projection mapping to show the exact levels of air pollution in the city for a piece entitled Particle Falls.”

The point of having these strong artistic messages front and center during the summit, rather than simply corporate product ads, is that it gives voice to the masses who will be impacted by the decisions made, rather than, as Elan says, to those who just “have the most amount of money” to advertise.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Diversity is Critical to the Success of the Arts—and Arts Education is the Key

Diversity-millennials

Calls for increased diversity are no longer episodic or quixotic; they are regularly heard across our business and cultural landscapes. And, if trends we see currently with Millennials continue, the need to cultivate diverse arts audiences will increase.Advertising Week this year identified the need to focus on diversity as a main theme, pointing out that while Millennials represent our “largest (and most diverse) generation, most marketing decisions and campaigns are run by alarmingly non-diverse groups.”Science News reported, too, that Americans are growing more genetically diverse, “choosing mates with ethnic backgrounds different from their own.”

In the arts, the desire for change bumps up against a number of challenging realities. One is that there are fewer non-white artists and organizations in traditional areas of the arts, such as classical music, and it takes time and a commitment to arts education to effect a change. Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, president and artistic director of the nonprofit Sphinx, and her husband, Aaron Dworkin, who is a MacArthur fellow who served in the Obama administration, have been working to change that for quite some time. Sphinx, headed by Ms. Dworkin as president, operates programs that reach “over 100,000 students, as well as live and broadcast audiences of over two million annually.” Last week, for example, Syracuse, which has “the highest rate of concentrated poverty among black and Hispanic communities” in the U.S., benefited by having the Sphinx Virtuosi ensemble perform at schools throughout the city and at the Red House Arts Center at Syracuse University.

Dworkin, whose organization is based in another struggling city, Detroit, and who runs yearlong programs there, has seen the impact arts education can make, providing “a place of refuge and a place where [children] can feel confident, where they can have fun and have a break from their everyday challenges.”

As in other traditional areas of art, “classical orchestras tend to be overwhelmingly white. According to a 2012 report by the League of American Orchestras, only 4.5 percent of orchestra musicians are black or Latino—hardly representative of the general population, which, according to the 2010 census, was 13.6 percent black and 16.3 percent Hispanic or Latino.” Sphinx has been responding to that in a variety of ways, including providing free violins and lessons to elementary students in underserved communities, hosting a summer camp to work with aspiring young musicians who “demonstrate aptitude toward classical music but lack resources and access,” and by sponsoring an annual national string competition for Black and Latino youth. Red House Arts Centerhas worked similarly on the local level in Syracuse, to help underserved populations by “creating opportunities…and bringing the arts to students in struggling Syracuse elementary schools reaching 2,200 kids each day.”

“In the Syracuse City School District, about 10 percent of students in kindergarten through eighth grade play instruments, and about 65 percent participate in choral ensembles. In high school, students generally choose one or the other, or participate in art classes,” according to the Syracuse New Times. Sarah Gentile, supervisor of fine arts there, has been working had to improve that, but that type of change requires funding, parental and community support.

A big part of the equation is the value placed on arts education and the arts by the society overall. According to Americans for the Arts, “In America, the arts are often seen as a luxury. They are the first thing to go when school boards cut budgets, and successful arts policy is seen as the exception, not the rule.” As Creatiquity, a research-backed news site that explores issues in the arts, said in an article entitled “Why Don’t They Come,”

People with lower incomes and less education participate at lower rates in a huge range of activities, including not just classical music concerts and plays, but also less ‘elitist’ forms of engagement like going to the movies, dancing socially, and even attending sporting events.

Jennifer Swan reported on this for the NPQ Newswire at the beginning of this year,outlining findings from three National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) studies. The article concluded with a quote from NEA Chairman Jane Chu:

“The implications from this research are significant. The findings show that there is great diversity in how people engage in the arts, and this gives us a framework to use our creativity to innovate new ways to reach these audiences.”

At a time when funding and support for arts and cultural nonprofits is on a decline, it is more important than ever to prove their importance to our representatives, communities, and leaders. With reports like these, and other arts advocacy groups like Americans for the Arts, we are evolving from a perspective of “art for art’s sake” into one of “art for business’s sake.” No longer are arts and culture something “extra”—they are an economic driver with an impact on our neighborhoods, our jobs, our employment, and, as always, our creativity.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Oh, The Place You’ll Go in 2016: The Seuss Museum, in Springfield, MA

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

In an effort to ensure no other city will claim Dr. Seuss for its own, Springfield Museums has announced it will create “the first museum dedicated to the life and legacy of (Springfield) city native Theodore Seuss Geisel.”

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum is scheduled to open in 2016 at the Quadrangle, precisely two blocks away from the real-life Mulberry Street, the site of Dr. Seuss’s very first picture book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The museum will also be only a few blocks from the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, where sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, Geisel’s stepdaughter, created bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and some of his most beloved characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Lorax, and Yertle the Turtle.

The new museum will feature all those characters and many more, and include a mural of an illustration from that first book, “which launched Geisel’s career as the most recognizable in children’s literature.” The first floor of the museum will open in 2016, and a second floor, which will include a “recreation of Ted Geisel’s studio,” is scheduled for completion the following year. The Springfield Museums has raised more than three million dollars toward the project, which includes “funds from donors, foundations and $1 million grant from the state.”

As WAMC-Radio reported, “The Dr. Seuss Museum will include interactive exhibits featuring the classic characters from the children’s books,” which “include references to many local landmarks.”

Like the hugely successful Eric Carle Museum not far away in Amherst, Massachusetts, the new Dr. Seuss Museum will promote both its namesake and children’s literacy overall. Dr. Seuss’s books are sold in 17 languages in 95 countries, making this development important for tourism and as a place to promote and cultivate a love of children’s literature. Museums officials, citing the worldwide popularity of Dr. Seuss, expect the new museum will result in a 25 percent increase in visits to the Quadrangle. They also believe it will help advance the cause of literacy in their community and beyond. In Springfield, currently “only 40 percent of the city’s public school students are proficient readers.” City officials hope to double that percentage over the next year by the time the new museum opens.

Springfield Museums President Holly Smith-Bové said at a meeting of the editorial board of the Republican, “With input from the Davis Foundation, educators from the Springfield public schools and Square One early childhood agency, the museum will also be a place where children can practice the basic reading skills including letter recognition, vocabulary and rhyming.”

This is important for all visitors, because, to quote another Dr. Seuss book, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Libyan Antiquities Feared as Next ISIS Target

Leptis Magna, Libya

With the horrifying images still fresh from ISIS’s attacks last month on rare, precious artifacts and statuary in the Mosul museum, Newsweek is reporting that officials and experts around the world fear the antiquities of Libya are in imminent danger.

Stating that “ISIS holds an intolerance towards items that are deemed jahili (pre-Islamic) and antiquities that depict humans,” Dr. Hafed Walda, the pending deputy ambassador to the permanent Libyan delegation at UNESCO, has said “Their eyes are on big museums which have fine collections of Greek and Roman sculptures…. This, coupled with the fact that ISIS’s power has grown substantially in Libya, particularly along the Mediterranean coastline, has brought the group closer to sites of historical significance.”

Among the sites cultural and government leaders believe are most vulnerable in Libya are the ancient Roman theatre, Leptis Magna, just outside of Tripoli; the coastal town of Sabratha, a former Phoenician trading post with the remains of an amphitheater, temples and a basilica; and the archaeological site of Cyrene, considered one of the most impressive Greco-Roman sites in the world. ISIS militants have also proclaimed the city of Misrata, which houses a museum, a Roman forum, and a great basilica, as one of their primary targets.

Issandr El Amrani, director for International Crisis Group’s North Africa Programme, doesn’t hold much hope for securing the “completely unprotected” sites. He says, “ISIS is driven to a large extent by doing things that have a propaganda value more than a practical military value so, yes, they could be tempted to [attack the sites], to create the narrative that they are fighting anything that is jahili.”

Responding to the wreckage in Mosul, Iraqi archaeologist and associate fellow at the London-based Institute of Archaeology Lamia al-Gailani Werr said in an interview with Reuters that “the militants had wreaked untold damage” and that at stake was “not only Iraq’s heritage; it’s the whole world’s.” She and others have compared the devastation to the 2001 dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Afghan Taliban.

Other militant groups have done the same over the centuries, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Nazis in Germany, and many more. As has happened many times before, the motives are shock value, undermining the cultural identity and heritage of others and, more practically, for the monetary gain of the terrorizing group, selling what has been pillaged on the international black market.

According to National Geographic, “Experts outside of Iraq are now engaged in remote triage, watching the footage frame by frame and trying to create a list of the real artifacts that were destroyed.”

Those on the ground in Libya and who watch from around the world say it will take a massive joint effort to head off future violence. Newsweek Reporter Jack Moore concluded:

“As the North African country continues its slide into chaos, becoming a magnet for foreign fighters, and an embryonic extension of ISIS’s caliphate, there seems to be little hope for Libya’s cultural legacy. […] In the aftermath of the Mosul attack, UNESCO’s director general Irina Bokova told a press conference that the UN’s cultural body ‘does not have an army’ and ‘there is not much we can do’ to prevent the looting and damage of antiquities in war-torn areas. But, for Libya, Dr. Walda disagrees with Bokova, proposing tough security measures as a solution to protect his country’s rich history. ‘We have to fortify the museums,’ he says.”

Experts, including Al-Gailani Werr, concur, saying, “This as a cultural tragedy with a global impact. These things are part of the history of humanity. If you destroy them, you’re destroying the history of everyone.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Co-ideate, Co-fund, Co-produce: The Growth of the Sharing Economy

co-ideate art

America is the land of ownership – we like to own our house, our business, our cars, our tools and our tech toys. But more and more, that model is being challenged by new ways of thinking about products, property and what works today and what may work in the future in business and personally.

Examples are everywhere – from crowd-source funding entities like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to share-a-bike and share-car companies that we’ve come to appreciate like Bike Share and ZipCar,  we’re becoming accustomed to thinking about how convenient it can be to have others help us shoulder the load, particularly in a tough economy.

It’s fun to explore what you can share and to think about how that might apply to your life and to your business. While the idea of couch surfing or house swapping may have seemed a stretch for a lot of people, AirBNB has made the idea of renting someone’s extra room for far less than the cost of a hotel, seem very appealing and quite do-able. In fact, an artist I spoke with recently said AirBNB made a big difference in making it viable for her to travel to teach around the country for an affordable speaking fee because she had the benefit of earning extra income while people stayed at her home. For help with work, there’s the concept of virtual offices and virtual service providers. Like them or not, Odesk and  Elance and other companies can connect businesses with specialized workers at competitive rates. For help at home, there’s TaskRabbit, which you can turn to for help getting errands done.

There is a growing number of sharing business models challenging the traditional ways we think about consuming. There’s Feastly, where you could go to someone’s house for great food rather than to a restaurant, and Leftover Swap, if you don’t want to eat your own leftovers, but think others might. Will you need a place to park? There’s ParkatMyHouse for parking spaces at homes here and abroad.

Perhaps you have tools you rarely use, but are willing to share, you can think about starting a tool library in your community as other places have done. KitchenShare in Portland and the recently launched, The Kitchen Library, in Toronto do the same for kitchen appliances.

There are complications to be sure, as discussed in an October Chicago Tribune article by Ameet Sachdev in which he interviewed New York University’s Stern School of Business Professor Arun Sundararajan, who is a leading expert on the subject. Furthermore, giants like Hertz and Avis (which now owns ZipCar), large hotel chains and others are doing corporate acquisitions and launching sharing programs of their own to compete with companies challenging their space.

But for business owners and consumers, this is still a very interesting time to consider new options and opportunities both for shared services you need, and for considering the skills and products you have that you could share. To learn about more companies pursuing this space, check out the collaborative economy master list compiled by Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group.

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Arts Funding Cuts May Push Growth to the Fringe (Festival)

Leila Ghaznavi, Founder, Pantea Productions

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Silken Veils, Pantea Productions
performed at Edinburgh & Philadelphia Fringe Festivals

As organizations and artists gird for another round of cuts to arts funding, communities may want to take a page from cities like Cincinnati, Rochester and Wilmington where the arts get a boost from city fringe festivals. Financed by the participants, fringe festivals provide the added benefit of supporting Main Street and the larger community, and bringing visibility to area artists.

Many rightly associate the fringe with the granddaddy of them all, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which began in the late 1940s. But today, there are an increasing number of festivals throughout the country and internationally. The United States Association of Fringe Festivals lists more than twenty. Some of the best known are the New York International Fringe Festival, the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival,  and the more recent Hollywood Fringe Festival. There are also the London Festival Fringe, the Toronto Fringe Festival , and the Adelaide Fringe Festival

“The value of the fringe is that it can provide ready-made audiences for artists and companies that might not be able to attract high-volume crowds on their own, “says Leila Ghaznavi, Founder of Pantea Productions, a multi-disciplinary theater company. Ghaznavi’s taken her own productions, including Silken Veils and Beyond the Light, to fringe festivals and has advised individuals and organizations on how to successfully market their performances at the festivals. She also helps groups evaluate whether the fringe can be a good fit for their needs.

“Many kinds of performances can work in a fringe environment, and it’s excellent for collaborating across disciplines. So you can mix dance with theater and spoken word, or music and performance art with videography. It’s about having quality over quantity, doing experimentation and looking for new ways to engage.

“The more innovative the show is the better because that’s what the audience at a fringe expects. There are performances done in short bursts, at non-traditional venues, and also as site-specific work, where the audience moves from place to place following a narrative as part of experiencing the event. Events can range from a fully cast play at a large performance venue , or I’ve seen a performance where the it was done in an elevator with the elevator going up and down.

“I advise people to think carefully about what they want to gain from being part of a fringe. Some want to test new work and get audience feedback. Others are further along and are prepared to make a big splash. When someone wants to make a splash, I tell them to bring their “A” game and plan to do a lot of advance marketing.

“You need to do more than just the basics – giving out postcards, posters, fliers, and local advertising –to get noticed. You also need to find ways to get directly to consumers; everything from walking the streets in costume to offering creative prize promotions and giveaways – anything to help you stand out from the crowd.

“I remind them of the old marketing adage about the ‘Rule of 7,’ which says that a prospect must hear your message seven times before they’ll buy or take action.”

Leila Ghaznavi who recently spoke at the Puppet Festival R(e)volution conference, is an Iranian-American playwright, actor, puppeteer and the founder of Pantea Productions. Her father immigrated to the U.S. from the village of Rahaghi with fifty dollars and a prayer rug. Her mother grew up in West Virginia and is a daughter of the American Revolution. She has an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in music composition and is a graduate of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater. Much of her work explores the rights and roles of women across the globe. Her other talents include acting, directing, writing, aerial acrobatics, puppetry and clowning.

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Artful Original Thoughts: Artist Joann Mettler

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Joann Mettler has followed her artistic passion through a variety of mediums and has found some surprising and delightful subjects along the way. From whimsical pigs and cows to bowls full of flowers with hidden images; from the contents of her colorful shoe closet to capturing facial expressions and making them into a crowd of people-sized faces on wheels, her work is playful, discerning and insightful.

For her, being an artist involves active engagement with the process and her emotions as each work evolves. Here she shares some of her thoughts, entitled My String of Pearls.

 MY STRING OF PEARLS

Artful original thoughts – Joann Mettler

I paint to lift the human spirit.

Love empowers (a work of art). It’s all bits and pieces but in the end it is something that is deeper than the surface.

You are limited only by your imagination.

Painting is like a lottery ticket; scratch the surface and you’ll find a painting.

I try to find what is in a painting rather than putting it there.

I never know where my work is taking me…I just keep watching, working and following its path.

Creating is like walking through a cloud.

Painting is a process where you construct, deconstruct and then reconstruct.  What’s left is the painting.

To make art YOU need all of your emotions to make sense of your senses.

Artist choices tell the story of themselves; completely personal and inspired by all they have touched, felt and seen.

Art is visual thinking.

Paintings need quiet places.

Painting is my silent music.

In painting, you can’t get away from being yourself.

If you’re not you then who are you?

Your painting is your humble opinion.

Respect your creative hands and don’t expect perfection.

Don’t make it so right that it’s wrong.

I do what I do for you (the viewer)

Your art shouldn’t reveal everything.

A state of mind:  Just being there, No dimensions, No before, No after.

Clouds are like patterned smoke.

It’s not simple to keep life simple.

Is this the rest of your life, or are you resting for the rest of your life?

It’s not what happens to you in life rather it’s how you react to what happens to you.

A sale purchase unneeded is expensive.

Don’t make a decision if you don’t know what decision to make.

I’ve smiled a lot through the years and they’ve made some impressions.

There will never be another you.

Common sense adds up to more than dollars and cents.

I always read the fine print; it is here that you find some important information.

If I didn’t see out of the corner of my eye I wouldn’t see anything.

I try to show you something other than reality.

New isn’t necessarily better; better is better and not necessarily new.

YOU are responsible for your own boredom.

Be there for yourself

So much damage can be done with the turn of a screw.

For every curve there is an opposing straight on the human body.

I’ve seen the power of courage.

Death is the resolution to life.

I COLLECT SHAPES they give me information to recognize an object.  Simple shapes are distillations of objects which become metaphors for the actual objects and can be very descriptive.  I don’t paint things as they are, rather, I paint my perception of how they are. I take shapes out of context.  The outside shape doesn’t have to be related to the inside.

©Joann Mettler 2013

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