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Seeing Art From a Local Perspective in Hyper-Global Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Museum of Art, where I work, is 55 years old this year. Though we have changed a lot over the years, we still hold to a special “hybrid” vision that fits our city and dates to the museum’s founding on the top two floors of City Hall.
Since that time our location has changed to a separate building; Hong Kong stopped being …

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Bob Dylan’s Nobel Speech Reminds Us That Songs Are for Listening, Not Reading

By | July 14, 2017

“Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.” Homer’s opening to the Odyssey is one of the most well-known lines of what we call literature—but the Greeks called song. This particular translation—by Robert Fitzgerald with an added “oh”—puts Homer somewhere between singing and storytelling. And now, taking his seat next to Homer, at least according to the 2016 Nobel prize committee for literature, is Bob …

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California Can Reconceive the Arts by Offering More Choices and Ways to Participate

By | July 13, 2017

California is undergoing massive changes in technology, demography, the nature of work and, thus, in leisure activity. So is its cultural sector, with consequences for how Californians experience art and for how California organizations and artists deliver the arts and engage their audiences.
Over the last three decades, the term “arts participation” has essentially been understood as arts attendance within the non-profit arts field. The field’s …

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How Milagro Theater Company Brought a Pan-Latin Flavor to Portland

By | July 13, 2017

It may appear surprising or counter-intuitive to operate a bilingual, Latino-centered theater company in a city that is less than 10 percent Latino.
But for me, my wife Dañel Malán, and our colleagues at Milagro, establishing our artistic home in Portland, Oregon, has afforded creative and community-building opportunities we might not have had if we’d settled in Texas, California, or some other state with a …

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What Grandaddy Taught Me About Race in America

By | July 13, 2017

I lived most of my childhood convinced that my grandfather, Calvin Muldrow, was Superman. On summer evenings, I’d perch atop his knee as we sat on the creaky back porch of his red brick house in North Little Rock. He’d weave elaborate tall tales about his magical excursions gliding over the jungle canopies of Sierra Leone, or wrestling boa constrictors, or floating aloft past my …

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A Small Slovenian Innovation Wants to Democratize the Art World

By | July 12, 2017

The art trade broadly, and art criticism more specifically, badly need a Reformation. The institutions of art are too much like the medieval Catholic Church.
Just as the Church has always been run by a tiny group of white men who have the power to determine what is worthwhile and what is not, the art trade’s tiny group of “influencers”—gallerists, managers, a few artists, high-end high-visibility …

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A Partnership Between Art and the Public to Design San Francisco’s Future

By | July 12, 2017

Who gets to design the future of life?
This is a question that we posed recently at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where I am very proud to work. Focusing on inquiry and our promise to be the creative home for civic action, we invited people—artists, designers, planners, and more—to discuss and debate that question. And by gathering diverse perspectives around this …

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The Weather Scientists Who Can Forecast a National Security Threat

By | July 12, 2017

You’ve probably never heard of the Air Resources Laboratory. I hadn’t until two years ago, when I was hired to preserve a trove of oral histories recorded in the early 1990s. Those audio cassettes held a history of hidden science, full of amazing stories about nuclear explosions, air pollution, and volcanoes. I encountered scientists whose research had strengthened national security, improved emergency response, and protected …

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As a Performer and Arts Consultant, I Learned That Arts Should Serve People—Not the Other Way Around

By | July 11, 2017

Recently, as I was walking home and mulling over what to write for this essay on arts engagement, I saw a multi-colored pinwheel stuck to a signpost on a street corner, titled “Hidden Fortune Wheel.” Underneath, a sign gave the following instructions:
Spin the wheel until it stops. For the next ten minutes try to feel what it would be like to be in someone …

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In the Overheated Art World, Social Media Give Millennials New Tools for Engagement

By | July 11, 2017

Even a few years ago, galleries and museums that showcased their collections via Instagram were a minority. Now Instagram is ubiquitous. Cellphone cameras have officially replaced sketching among museum-goers. Social media mediates everything. And many art institutions have acknowledged the role of social media as a key aspect of audience engagement. To shape that role, art engagement, branding, and promotion all deserve a thorough …

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