Friday, October 07, 2005


(from Barry's Arts Blog and Update)

Barry Hessenius, former California Arts Council Director (back when it had actual funding from the state budget), used to send out weekly emails from his office. I was never impressed with his weekly emails, and so when I heard he was starting a blog, I shrugged. BUT:

"The Hessenius Group," a take-off on The McLaughlin Group television show, is a brilliant use of his blog. He assembles a team of top mover, shakers, and thinkers in arts administration, and fires off questions. Being online, it's not as fiery or as spirited as McLaughlin's show, but still, it's like being set down at an arts administration conference post keynote hallway conversation.

Okay, you really have to be interested in arts policy and nonprofit management to enjoy this... but the model is impressive. Well, after one episode, anyway.

This panel discusses the effect of a possible repeal of the Estate tax on the arts world.

And more interesting is the question: "ARE we seeing the precipitous decline in the presentation and support for alternative arts performances?"

In addition to suggesting that the term alternative means a zillion different things, the panelists suggest several factors, all of which I find fascinating:
1) the cultural conservatism of the last 20 years has shrank the audience for art;
2) the economics of art, especially of the last 20 years, is making it harder to produce art;
3) co-option of edgy art by for-profit which is actually making edgy material a mainstream source of revenue (i.e. HBO, Sundance) in broadcast media;
4) the arts funders have neglected the distribution channels of niche art forms
5) the Web is providing a new distribution channel and outlet for alternative voices and providing direct competition with previous forms of art-- not only for distribution-- but competing with the "values" of live art ("Digital media can be expected to challenge increasingly each of the special powers and values of live art (sensory immediacy, stagecraft, the communal experience, etc.) increasingly."

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