Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Internet as Oracle

What if, after all the other metaphors and branding efforts had faded with faint yawns, it turned out that the way one bit of data from among the billions entered by people around the globe ended up randomly presented next to another bit was actually a means for our collective subconscious to tell us things. To present answers to questions. Like some online oracle of our own making.

Yeah, I know it's silly, but in scanning the contents list of news stories on Artinfo today, I couldn't help but notice that right above a headline about how the Harlem School of Arts needs $50,000 to remain open...here's that story...
Just when it seemed safe to believe that the string of recession-based closings of art institutions was coming to an end — or at least slowing down — the Harlem School of the Arts announced last week that it would be closed until April 10, by which time the nonprofit’s board will have decided if the institution will be closed permanently due to lack of funding.

The H.S.A. has provided dance, music, theater, and visual art classes to the Harlem community since 1964, offering instruction to about 3,000 students a year, some of whom received scholarships or attended at no charge. The institution has a reputation for placing students at top arts schools like Julliard, and alumni have performed on Broadway and appeared in feature films.

Board chairman Christopher Paci said that the school will need at least $500,000 to stay open through the end of the academic year. The institution's closing comes two weeks after the school announced the layoff of five of its faculty members.

...there was a headline announcing that the "Ford Foundation Revs Up $100 Million Arts Initiative"...
The Ford Foundation announced today that it plans to spend $100 million over the next decade to support arts groups throughout the United States. The new program, Supporting Diverse Arts Spaces, will offer grants to finance the creation of new spaces, the development of new programs, and the renovation of existing structures.

Ford Foundation officials says they hope the initiative not only helps the arts organizations themselves but spurs broader improvements in the neighborhoods where they are based. In a statement, Alison Bernstein, vice president for education, creativity, and free expression at the foundation, said the program would allow for the sharing of “best practices that will have an enduring effect on the cultural dynamics of American neighborhoods.”

In New York, the foundation has already been active in making grants to community organizations, presenting a $1 million grant to El Museo del Barrio to help pay for its recent expansion and providing funds that helped the Pregones Theater expand its facilities and programming in the Bronx.

Now it may not be feasible under the Ford Foundation's own guidelines to assist the Harlem School of the Arts unless the money went specifically to "the creation of new spaces, the development of new programs, [or] the renovation of existing structures." But with $100 million at their disposal, and the Harlem School of the Arts needing but a tiny fraction of that to stay open, you'd hope that some sort of accommodation would be possible. You'd hope.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently read how the funding for the $25 million Jeff Koons LACMA train fell through. LACMA had already spent a couple million on preliminary studies. Something about that whole deal really disgusts me.

4/06/2010 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Mead McLean said...

Let's hope that the Ford Foundation can define "existing structure" as "existing curriculum" or "existing program". My guess is that lawyers would be involved, and they tend to be sticklers for precise definitions. Or the Harlem School could propose some expansion and get more money if they don't fit the official definition. Of course this would be a waste of money that's not needed, but that's how it seems to work.

4/06/2010 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger astorian said...

While I have tremendous respect for the Ford Foundation’s new commitment to supporting arts institutions, this does not address the problems facing HSA and other cultural organizations in NYC and all over the country. Supporting new spaces and the renovations of existing spaces will do just that. What happens to those spaces after the grant money runs out? How can HSA and its peers keep their doors open, cover operating costs, and continue to serve their various constituencies? Vibrant non-profit cultural programs can only stay vibrant with the sustained commitment from institutional, government, and individual donors. On another note, what is clear from the NYT article is that HSA has major infrastructure problems, ranging from governance to fundraising. Even if they received the $500K to cover costs until the end of the school year, this funding alone would not fix their serious long-term operational challenges.

4/06/2010 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Mamta Vivett said...

It would be nice if all the schools in the city ran fund raisers for museums. Kids walking around asking for donation from family etc....
In return the museums could offer schools visiting incentives and children would get more art education. This would make the arts an important part of education in this country from now on.

4/06/2010 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

After reading this the only thing that comes to my mind to say is: WHAT THE F*&%!!!

On second thought, apart from the Ford Foundation, how about asking Jeff Koons or some other millionaire artist to give something back to the community in the form of saving a school for the arts???

Geesh...

4/07/2010 09:25:00 AM  

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