Thursday, November 19, 2009

NEA Webcast on How Art Works in the US Economy

The National Endowment for the Arts Presents
a Live Webcast of its
Cultural Workforce Forum on
Friday, November 20, 2009

Debate has raged for decades on how art and culture contributes to America's economy. Some of us, myself included, think the emphasis on the economic impact of the arts misses its real role in society, but that is an argument for another day.

In our WalMart economy, run by the bean counters, everything of importance is reduced to a commodity in the United States, and that is just the way it is. Once again we go through the exercise of being forced to consider the arts from an economic standpoint, despite the fact that the same arguments can be made by the Army, the makers of SUV's and even the chemicals that go into Twinkies.

So it comes as no surprise that the National Endowment for the Arts has scheduled a conference that is all about the arts and the economy. One can only hope that something new, something compelling might be dredged up. Failing that, perhaps the organizers can get Congress to listen. Maybe we would be better off simply hiring lobbyists. Still, one can hope for that breakthrough moment at the conference.

Though that is unlikely as no real artists will take part in the discussion.

"You can't expect the government to give money to artists. Our trillions are needed to support the bankers, GM executives, mortgage derivative scam artists and fraudulent insurance company executives."

From the NEA press announcement, we find that on Friday, November 20, 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will present a live webcast on of a forum about America's artists and other cultural workers who are part of this country's real economy. Academics, foundation professionals, and service organization representatives will come together to discuss improving the collection and reporting of statistics about arts and cultural workers, and to develop future research agendas and approaches.

9:00 a.m.
Opening Remarks and introductions
Joan Shigekawa, NEA Senior Deputy Chairman and Sunil Iyengar, NEA Director of Research & Analysis

Panel One: What We Know About Artists and How We Know It
NEA Research on Artists in the Workforce
Tom Bradshaw, NEA Research Officer
Artist Labor Markets
Greg Wassall, associate professor, Department of Economics, Northeastern University
Artist Careers
Joan Jeffri, director, Research Center for Arts and Culture, Teachers College, Columbia University
Artist Research: Union Perspectives
David Cohen, executive director, Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO

Panel Two: Putting the Research to Work
Cultural Vitality: Investing in Creativity
Maria Rosario Jackson, senior research associate, The Urban Institute
Artists and the Economic Recession
Judilee Reed, executive director, Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC)
Teaching Artists Research Project
Nick Rabkin, Teaching Artists Research Project, National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago
Strategic National Arts Alumni Project
Steven Tepper, associate director, the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy, Vanderbilt University

Panel Three: Widening the Lens to Capture Other Cultural Workers
Artists in the Greater Cultural Economy
Ann Markusen, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
Creative Class: Who's in, Who's out?
Tom Bradshaw, NEA Research Officer
American Community Survey: An Emerging Data Set
Jennifer Day, assistant division chief, Employment Characteristics of the Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, United States Census Bureau

Comments and questions from panel participants

Discussion: Summary and Recommendations for Future Research
Moderated by Sunil Iyengar and Tom Bradshaw
Lead discussants: Holly Sidford, president, Helicon Collaborative and Paul DiMaggio, professor, Department of Sociology, Princeton University


In addition to the above presenters, the following respondents will participate in the NEA Cultural Workforce Forum:

Randy Cohen, vice president of local arts advancement, Americans for the Arts

Deirdre Gaquin, consultant

Angela Han, director of research, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

Ruby Lerner, president, Creative Capital Foundation

Judilee Reed, executive director, Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC)

Carrie Sandahl, associate professor, Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago

Mary Jo Waits, director, Social, Economic & Workforce Programs Division, National Governors Association

An archive of the event will be available on the week following the forum.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Nation of Misled TV Addicts

Television's main purpose is to keep you watching the commercials.

The latest Nielsen statistics are out. The average American household is exposed to 2.75 hours of commercials per day, out of a 8 hours, 21 minutes in front of a television.

That's pretty scary considering that in 1991, the first year Nielson did such a survey, the typical home only spent 1 hour, 50 minutes in front of the boob tube.

This increase in viewing may be due to a tight economy with frugal households trying to save money by not going out. Of course, it is a bit of a false economy since tv was once free, and these days most people pay for tv - still with commercials - through cable or satellite.

These services average $71.00 a month. It is quite a rise from $43.00 in 2005.

TV is a black hole into which billions of dollars are sucked out of the economy for products we could live without.

Young people can not believe that television was actually free in its first few decades of existence, and that the amount of commercials have almost doubled since its inception.

It is the cable channels like AMC with "Mad Men" and FX's "Damages" that are getting the additional eyeballs for content that is surprisingly good compared to the reality and talk shows the networks have increasingly used to fill their time slots.

Interestingly, prime time television growth is flat, while the off peak times is where the audience is growing. This could be because of the increasing number of people who are surviving with part time jobs, or are out of work.

TV depresses brain function and creativity.

The brain waves seen during hypnosis are quite similar to those measured in people watching television. Television advertisers have seized on this effect of television and brain function for their television commercials. When people watch most television programs, they are quite suggestible. Thus a claim made in favor of a specific product, on some level, causes the person watching television to be more apt to believe it.

The net effect of all this television watching has been a seismic shift in how American's view life, work and buy products. It has also changed the way we elect our officials and view the democratic process, most of which has coarsened both public discourse and interpersonal behavior.

Television is a mixed blessing. But that is a story for another day.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thomas Pynchon and Inherent Vice

A fascination with the hot cars of their day.

Writer Thomas Pynchon is fascinating, and not just because we grew up on opposite shores of Long Island. He was a North Shore beat guy, me a South Shore clamdigger a few years younger, but with aspirations. His writing tends towards offbeat themes: oddball names, sophomoric humor, illicit drug use and paranoia.

Pynchon in a rare photo from his younger days.

He was Hunter Thompson before Rolling Stone was a magazine. And he was gonzo before Charles Giuliano coined the word. He holds the same fascination for me as did Jean Shepherd whose storytelling abilities are almost cinematic. The ability to draw word pictures and conjure up mental images is a special gift that not every writer masters. Pynchon does this with a sparing use of words, not volumes of them.

His latest book, released this past summer is Inherent Vice and the video below gives you a good taste of his work. The voice over is allegedly done by the reclusive Pynchon himself.