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The Great Thing About Art? It Isn’t Just About You

By | July 6, 2017

This essay was originally published by The Chronicle of Higher Education on September 15, 2014.
A decade ago, arts leaders faced a crisis in America. National data indicated significant declines in attendance at venues for virtually every art form—classical music, dance, theater, opera, jazz, museums. Bill Ivey, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and I offered a counternarrative in 2006: We saw a renaissance …

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Turning Low-Income Housing into Art in Houston’s Third Ward

By | July 5, 2017

Project Row Houses is an art space in Houston’s historically black Third Ward. Its success, going on a quarter of a century, is a powerful argument for committing first to your neighborhood and community, and then to art lovers at large—rather than the vice-versa approach in which many large institutions find themselves rooted.
 
Artist Rick Lowe founded Project Row Houses in 1993 with several other local …

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Rescuing the Vanishing Music of Belize’s Garifuna People

By | July 5, 2017

What reggae is to Jamaica and samba is to Brazil, Garifuna music is to my country of Belize, a small Central American nation wedged between Guatemala and Mexico.
 
This vibrant music was brought to Belize by the Garifuna, or Garinagu, people, descendants of shipwrecked African slaves and Carib and Arawak Indians who were uprooted from their homeland in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1796 …

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A Mexican Cultural Center That Builds Bridges, Not Walls, with the U.S.

By | July 3, 2017

Each culture absorbs elements of cultures near and far, but afterward it is characterized by the way in which it incorporates those elements.
                                                                  -Umberto Eco
It seems that talking about borders and walls in …

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Dancing in New Orleans to Overcome Division

By | July 3, 2017

Five years ago, I moved from New York to New Orleans. The reasons included a need to escape from the New York grind, a lover’s terminal brain cancer, and a best friend from Philadelphia’s presence here.
I didn’t fear much about the transition. I felt confident that I could find a job in the education world, make new friends, and build a new personal community. …

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By Engaging Our Emotions, Art Can Strengthen Our Democracies

By | June 30, 2017

Can the arts be a stimulus for democracy? The question may seem strange because, in principle, there does not seem to be a relationship between the arts and democracy. What do theater, dance, cinema, and painting have to do with democracy? Or rather, what do these artistic manifestations have to do with politics?
The short answer: They have a lot to do with each other, and …

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How an Ancient Indonesian City Built a Thriving Cultural Scene

By | June 30, 2017

The city of Yogyakarta, which sits between the Indian Ocean and the volcanic mountain Merapi at the heart of Java island, has long been known as one of the arts and culture capitals of Indonesia. It is the capital of the ancient Javanese kingdom of Yogyakarta, a descendant of the Islamic Mataram Kingdom.
Since the 1990s, especially after the fall of President Suharto in 1998, …

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In L.A.’s Boyle Heights Neighborhood, a Theater Provides Space for Community Healing

By | June 29, 2017

Community theater never has been a dirty term for me. To me, community theater is about engaging your community and telling its stories. If the actors, writers, or directors get discovered along the way, by other theater companies or Hollywood or whatever, that’s great. That’s sort of what happened to me when my comedy-drama screenplay, Real Women Have Curves, was made into a 2002 feature …

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Singing Complaints Aloud, and Other Tips for a Harmonious Society from Finnish Artist Tellervo Kalleinen

A little more than 10 years ago, someone emailed me a video of the Helsinki Complaints Choir, a group of people very seriously singing about complaints that were both mundane and funny and large and significant. I watched it over and over. A few years later I saw a film about the artists behind the group, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, who were organizing Complaints …

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Killing Your Audience Members Can Really Keep Them Engage with Your Art

By | June 28, 2017

One of the most common pieces of advice given to new writers is “Kill your darlings.” The Australian writers Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman have turned this advice on its head. They’re not interested in killing their darlings, but they have become very interested in killing their audience.
In 2015, Kaufman and Kristoff published Illuminae, a sci-fi novel they’d spent the past few years working …

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