The Debate Around Life and Death in the Arts | by Devon Smith | Medium

Your Arguments

Here are some of the most common or substantive themes that I’ve heard across all of the social conversations to date:

“You don’t define what ‘failing’ ‘effective’ ‘arts’ or ‘institution’ actually mean, so it’s too vague of an argument to agree/disagree.”
In debate prep, we (moderator Shannon Daut, ‘disagree-side-advocate’ Aaron Dworkin) chose to define the arts as essentially nonprofit visual and performing arts organizations. It was with them in mind that we all constructed questions and arguments. But it’s a point that needs to be made crystal clear: I believe that (some) of these failing nonprofit arts organizations can die, and we can still retain the beneficial value of the arts through other media (e.g. other forms of art and culture), or other business models (e.g. for profit, co-working, fiscal sponsorships, etc). Defining failing and effective is far more difficult. And is the very first issue I brought up in the post-debate Q&A about where we believed the weaknesses in our argument were. We can’t be quite so pedestrian as “we know it when we see it,” especially when so much is at stake to a given failing/effective institution.

“You mixed real facts with made-up assertions, so I can’t believe anything you’re saying.”
I wish there was better research to support some of my assertions. How much time we spend with “traditional art” versus how much time we spend with “non-traditional art” just isn’t an area where a lot of funders and researchers are willing to spend time. The people in the “non-traditional” industry don’t care, because for many of them this argument is too inside baseball and doesn’t reflect how they operate or think of themselves. The people in the “traditional” industry have a lot to lose by comparing themselves to these more populist traditions. But ask yourself, for the average American, the average person: add up the time they spend in a given week attending a play, opera, symphony, dance, chorus, museum, or similar. Now compare that to the time they spend engaging with television, film, a busker in the subway, graffiti art under an overpass, a particularly compelling/thought provoking video game, marveling at the architecture of a building, and so on. I bet the second far outweighs the first, regardless of whether it’s 2x or 20x or 200x. Why do I get to compare organizations across this “traditional versus non-traditional” spectrum? Because A) consumers increasingly don’t make the difference between them; B) i believe they can be substitutes for each other when comparing the impact that “arts and culture” has on the world; C) artists float between these industries more and more; and D) most of the things in the first bucket are underpinned by institutions, while most of the things in that second bucket are not, and thus my advocacy for the death of failing institutions, not failing art forms, or artists. But none of those 4 assertions are sourced, so you don’t have to believe in the argument.

“Boards are responsible for killing/keeping alive these organizations. They have the power, and they should keep it. Not outside institutional funders, or individuals, or the IRS.”
I believe the second thing out of my mouth in the debate Q&A was my discomfort with giving any more power to institutional funders or the IRS, or allowing them to make these decisions, given potential conflicts of interest. However, this starts getting us into political policymaking. I would love to leave it up to individuals, whether in the community, the Board as representatives of that community, or those individuals within the organization. But in too many cases, Boards are not actually reflective of their community, and they’re not making responsible decisions on behalf of that community. And individuals have no plausible way to collect themselves into a decision making body and actually shut an organization down. I proposed a few ideas in the original blog post, but they’re a stretch at best. We need a body with significant purse strings, a (relatively) objective point of view, and frankly, power.

It’s like choosing to support the bill that you know isn’t the ideal version of the regulation, because you know you can actually get the votes for it. We don’t get to choose the “mythical best.” We have to look at what kind of “regulation” would actually “pass” so we can move on with the doing, and stop with all the discussing.

“You can’t compare everything to for-profit companies. The parallels don’t exist, or you’re proving your own point that those industries have in fact failed.”
I often find myself comparing nonprofit arts industry to other for profit, and non-arts industries to try to find a new angle, a new point of view, a new way of looking at the same old problems. Too often, we take for granted that our industry is a special snowflake, and the issues we’re dealing with are so different, and so much harder, than other industries. I think that’s bullshit. We talk ourselves in circles when we only consider what has already been tried within our own industry.

And those other industries can be our test case studies for how to (and not to) adapt. The general public is more informed on a wide range of foreign and domestic issues, even though many local newspapers and radio stations have gone out of business. Even as record companies die, indie musicians are still making a living, choosing to be musicians, and continuing to push the art forms of rock, and rap, and blues, and folk forward.

Art inspires personal reflection, empathy, economic development, aids in reforming the criminal justice system, provides aesthetic and aural beauty to the world, preserves our history, employs a diverse set of artists and administrators, and on and on. But so do other industries, and other business models. Sometimes better than the nonprofit arts. If they can do those things better than we can, from a rational point of view, money should flow towards them. If arts peg their value to economic revitalization, but it turns out opening a restaurant is more effective at doing that than opening an art gallery, I want my tax dollars (and tax incentives) to go to that restaurant.

Because this debate took place in Nashville, AFTA took pains to include a wide variety of Nashville artists in the discussion of the arts sector, so was I. AFTA sponsored an “arts tour” I attended to an arts co-working space that had screen printers working alongside motorcycle repair shop, next to a darkroom, with a skateboard shop on the side. We went to a hat-shop, and a leather-making studio, and a distillery. Those are all valid forms of art. To me.

“New arts organizations won’t step in, if the ones we have now fail.”
A long time ago, I worked at Intiman, and was crushed to see it fail. But the Seattle arts community has stepped in to fill the gap, where it’s been needed. The death of one institution can be a blessing for a community, by reallocating resources more effectively across the organizations that remain.

A funder from the San Jose arts community attended the debate, and during the Q&A spoke about the frustration the community at large felt that this organization hadn’t responded to the changing demographic of their potential audience, and even after millions of dollars in emergency funding, and an army of consultants and advisers, they couldn’t make the business model work. Why should that failing organization continue to receive funds from the city government, when there are more worthy arts organizations standing ready to better use those resources?

“Why do you have to kill them? Why not transform them?”
I’m totally on board with this one. Death and radical rebirth are equivalent in my mind. I believe that radical change is often needed to “give birth” to a new organization, and that it often requires new leadership, a new business model, or new programming. If there is an institution that is failing, but we can use its infrastructure (its building, its assets, its cashflow, its artistic capital, its influence in the community, its institutional knowledge) to create something new and more relevant, all the better, and that absolutely deserves an opportunity to compete for the resources and attention of the community and of institutional funders.

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Mean Girls’ Jonathan Bennett to star in Hallmark’s first gay Christmas film

Mean Girls star Jonathan Bennett is set to star in Hallmark’s first ever gay Christmas movie, and we are already waiting patiently under the mistletoe in anticipation.

Bennett, who played Cady Heron’s dreamy love interest Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls, will star in The Christmas House, which will debut on the Hallmark channel on Sunday, 22 November.

The actor, who is openly gay, will play Brandon Mitchell, while his husband Jake will be played by Brad Harder.

The Christmas House will follow Mitchell family matriarch Phylis (played by Sharon Lawrence) and father Bill (played by Treat Williams) as they summon their grown-up sons home for the festive season to help recreate the magic of Christmas past.

Bennett plays one of the adult sons, who returns to his family home with his husband for the Christmas season.

Jonathan Bennett said he is ‘so proud’ to be a part of Hallmark’s first gay Christmas film.

The film will follow the couple as they anxiously await a phone call about their plans to become first-time dads by adopting a child together.

Sharing the news on Instagram stories, Jonathan Bennett said he was “so proud” to be part of the “amazing project”.

The Hallmark Channel has a stellar reputation among Christmas lovers for its enormous line-up of original festive films each year.

The films are so widely loved that they have spawned countless memes, as each year, people across the world tune in to watch the predictable but addictive line-up.

However, LGBT+ fans have long been crying out for a queer festive film – and this year, they have finally been granted their grown-up Christmas wish.

Hallmark confirmed details of the film on Wednesday (23 September) following months of speculation that the channel would introduce its first queer Christmas film in 2020.

“For more than a decade, Hallmark holiday movies have represented the gold standard that many aspire to replicate,” said Wonya Lucas, CEO of Hallmark’s parent company Crown Media.

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“What we bring to the table and what truly sets us apart is an immersive holiday experience that has become a pop culture phenomenon for millions of fans.”

The company previously said they would release an LGBT+ themed film this year.

Michelle Vicary of Crown Media added: “Our holiday table is bigger and more welcoming than ever. This year’s movies reflect our most diverse representation of talent, narratives, and families, including The Christmas House, featuring a storyline about a gay couple looking to adopt their first child.

“Our movies are rooted in warmth and positivity, meaningful connections, family gatherings, and seasonal traditions – a winning formula we hope will bring our millions of viewers much needed levity and holiday cheer at the end of a tough year.”

In July, queer Hallmark Christmas fans were sent into a frenzy when the company confirmed that LGBT+ Christmas films were on the way.

The company had initially faced backlash when it announced details of 18 new Christmas films – all of which focused on straight characters.

However, Crown Media spokesperson George Zaralidis later said: “I can confirm that we will include LGBT+ storylines, characters and actors. We are in active negotiations and look forward to announcing more details when we can.”

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The Best Celebrity Poker Players In Hollywood – Poker News

From all my years playing in high-stakes cash games and rounding several Hollywood home games I often get asked the question, “Who is the best celebrity poker player you’ve ever played with?” And although I almost always avoid answering this question with any real detail, today is the day that I’m finally gonna spill a big fat can of Hollywood beans!

Before I start naming names, we need to establish some rules. First off, how do we define a “Hollywood Celebrity” who I have played poker with? Well, there is the obvious record of A-listers who have played in the games from time to time, but in Hollywood, celebrity does not necessarily mean the person has to be an actor, rock star, or sporting idol. Tinseltown also celebrates the movie mogul producers, tabloid headline makers, run-amok trust fund types, billionaires, captains of industry, and frankly, anyone who can get seated on the patio at the Ivey in Beverly Hills when there are no reservations left, or be ushered past the lines and straight to the VIP bottle service at the hottest clubs in town.

There’s a ton of sucking up to be done in Hollywood and plenty of people are puckering up 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the intention of kissing the right person’s ass. If you really want to know who the hottest celebs are in Hollywood, just follow the paparazzi around… they know all the dirt. But as far as poker playing celebs, you’ve come to the right source.

I’ll be eliminating two celebs from the list due to what I would call “over qualification.” If you’ve read my book or my previous columns, you can probably guess one of the celebs being eliminated is my former partner in crime, Tobey Maguire. Why? I consider Tobey to be far beyond the level of a casual or even passionate Hollywood celeb poker player. I’ve played in many big cash games with some of the top pros in the world from the famous to the infamous, and Spider Man can hold his own with pretty much anyone.

Secondly, I am eliminating Jennifer Tilly, simply because I feel she has now officially become more of a “poker personality” than an actor. Her core business these days seems to be poker related, whereas none of the other celebs on my list can make such a bold claim.

My primary criteria for this list is that I have had to have played with these players multiple times in a serious cash game setting. While I’ve played in tournaments and/or enjoyed conversing about poker with players such as Jason Alexander, Ray Romano, or Don Cheadle, without tangling in a serious cash game I wouldn’t have enough information on their ability to make a fair assessment of overall skill.

I could have easily done a top 10, but for the sake of time and space, I kept it to five. Some honorable mentions would definitely include actor Hank Azaria, tennis legend Pete Sampras, and film director Steve Brill.

James WoodsNo. 5 James Woods

Coming in at no. five is Oscar-nominated thespian James Woods. Woods was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Best Actor for his work in Oliver Stone’s Salvador and for Best Supporting Actor for Rob Reiner’s Ghosts of Mississippi. He is the recipient of two Primetime Emmy Awards for the television movies Promise and My Name Is Bill W. My two favorite Woods performances would be his role in Contact alongside Jody Foster as the skeptical Michael Kitz and of course his role as the scumbag hustler/pimp, Lester Diamond in Scorsese’s masterpiece, Casino opposite Sharon Stone, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci. I’ve spent an ample time at the table with Jimmy. He is a fun, super tight, yet very skilled player to play against.

Woods went to MIT, and is probably the most intelligent celebrity I’ve spent time with on the felt. The one thing about Woods that makes him tough to play with is his uncanny ability for table talk. Woods can talk your ear off when you are in the middle of a decision. I’ve seen him distract players through conversation causing them to make horrible plays. All the while, his own choices at the table are very always methodical and well-executed.

One thing that makes James Woods much like any other poker player is his passion for telling bad beat stories. One time I was walking through the Bellagio and he spotted me from the center of the poker room and flagged me down. After making his way through a sea of tables and fans who wanted his autograph, he proceeded to share about 30 minutes’ worth of bad beat stories from his last two hours at the table. But hearing James Woods share a bad beat story is decidedly much more entertaining than listening to your average rent-grinding pal who just lost his lunch money. The money means nothing to Jimmy, but winning means everything… and he’s a formidable opponent.

Todd PhillipsNo. 4 Todd Philips

My number no. 4 pick is acclaimed writer/director Todd Phillips. Todd is probably one of the hottest directors in Hollywood right now. We remember him for movies like Old School and Road Trip, but it was the incredible gamble he took when making The Hangover that really put him on the map. Todd gave up a $7 million dollar director’s fee in order to have casting control and the freedom to make a R-rated comedy. The result was the largest R-rated comedy in movie history and a more than $100 million dollar payout for Todd. If that wasn’t enough, he recently directed the no. one rated-R film of all time with The Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix, which has grossed over $1 billion.

I’ve played with Todd for years, starting back in my Hollywood Park days when he would drop by from time to time to play pot-limit. Much like the way Todd has taken strategic gambles in his career, he does the same at the poker table. He is not scared of a huge bluff or even slow playing a big hand if the circumstances are in line for a big payout. Todd was one of the founding members of our original game (that the film Molly’s Game was based on, and that my book Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist is about). It was during the run of our game that he also finished fifth in the 2005 WPT Legends of Poker championship event, bringing him a cool $250,000 cash along with some serious home game bragging rights. Todd’s biggest weapon at the table is his incredible sense of humor. He is so damn funny that he can make a player forget they are playing for tons of money.

Ben AffleckNo. 3 Ben Affleck

In terms of legitimate A-list movie stars, Affleck is definitely the best aside from Tobey Maguire. Affleck’s antics at the poker table have been widely reported. We know he has been banned from casinos for counting cards at the blackjack table, and he too has a legit tournament cash from winning $356,000 and the title for the 2004 California State Poker Championship held at the Commerce.

To those who feel that one or two cashes isn’t that much to write home about, consider this. Guys like Affleck and Phillips don’t play tournaments nearly as often as the average semi pro, so their cash percentage by comparison is impressive. I was there when Ben was learning the game and getting schooled by cash pros like Gabe Thaler, up to his first high-stakes private games in Beverly Hills with myself, Pete Sampras, Asher Dan, and Rick Fox. But it wasn’t until Ben became a regular in my game with Tobey that he became a serious threat at the table. I don’t think Ben picked up the game as quickly Tobey did, but over time he has steadily become one of the most feared actors to sit down at the table. He’s not afraid to make the big call or the big bluff and from what I’ve seen, he’s been more right than wrong when lots of money was on the line. Ben was definitely a winner in our game.

Nick CassavetesNo. 2 Nick Cassavetes

For those of you who don’t know who Nick Cassavetes is, let me start be explaining that this guy hails from pure Hollywood royalty. His mother was legendary actress Gena Rowlands and his father was actor and legendary film director John Cassavetes, the guy who basically invented the “independent” film genre by casting a rotating group of his close friends into personally financed films including his wife, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, and Seymour Cassel. Much like his father, Nick’s reputation as a director has garnered him much praise from the film community. He directed The Notebook which is probably one of the most famous romantic films of all time, but it was Nick’s grittier films that gave him a daring reputation as a film maker. This was personified in the TV series Entourage when Cassavetes played himself and pushed Vincent Chase to do his own dangerous life-threatening stunts. In the same series, there were scenes featuring Nick as well as Rick Salomon playing poker on set, which is pulled straight from real life.

Aside from what we know as “Molly’s Game,” the biggest game in town was always held at Nick’s house and is still going off every week to this day. While Nick’s game didn’t play quite as big as our main game, it was huge and always a good time. Nick has a very commanding presence, standing six-foot-six with a menacing giant skull and crossbones tattoo across his chest. Nick is not afraid to gamble and he absolutely hates to lose! He once won a big prop bet with Tobey who bet him he couldn’t get six-pack abs in a short amount of time. Nick pulled his shirt off right at the table in front of everyone and Tobey was forced to admit defeat.

Nick’s personality is such that many players don’t like to play big hands with him for fear of upsetting him. He’s not the kind of guy you want to see pissed. I never played soft against Nick but we always liked each other, even though my style of play put me on the second tier of his weekly invite list. One time, Nick and I chopped up Brandon Davis before the game started in a classic two on one hustle that I will never forget.

Rick SalomonNo. 1 Rick Salomon

Beyond the shadow of a doubt Rick Salomon takes the top spot on my list. He was responsible for putting the final nail in my coffin when I lost a million dollars in one night, a scene more-or-less recreated in the movie by Harland Eustice, the character based on me.

Rick is, of course, the guy who filmed the underground sex tape of himself and Paris Hilton titled One Night In Paris, but that’s not the half of it. He’s also been married to Shannon Doherty of Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed fame, and was also famously married and divorced from Pam Anderson, not once, but twice! The guy is affectionately called “Scum” by his friends. He’s famous for being a bad boy, but known by the Hollywood A-listers and elites for being a man of his word. If you shake Rick’s hand over any amount of money, it’s just as good as signing a contract in blood. And that is something you rarely see in Tinseltown these days.

His wild drug antics are also the stuff of legend. Hell, the night he took me down he had done more cocaine in 10 minutes than I had ever seen in my life up to that point. But somewhere along the line, Rick said to himself, “If I ever smoke crack again, I’m checking myself into rehab for a year.” And that’s exactly what he did. If you’ve read my book and think I’ve lived a colorful life, I promise you… the book Rick Salomon could write would be like an action-packed roller coaster thrill ride into the world of Hollywood and high-stakes gambling. The dude has no fear, and when his discipline is on go mode, Rick is as skilled as any cash pro I’ve ever met.

Andy Beal, the billionaire banker who took on the Corporation for millions of dollars and was chronicled in the book The Professor, The Banker And The Suicide King by Michael Craig, reportedly lost $40 million to Rick, causing Pam to sue to him for her share. It’s all true, but it isn’t even half the story behind Salomon’s true tales at the table! Maybe one day he will let me share the rest of his mind-blowing exploits… but until then, you will have to trust me when I tell you, Rick Salomon is hands down the best Hollywood celeb I’ve ever played against.

In my next column, I’ll be spinning tales about the top 5 WORST celebrity poker players I’ve ever played with! You might be surprised and shocked to see the names on that list! Trust me, you won’t want to miss it. Be sure to check out all of my Card Player supplement videos at my KardSharp website.

And remember… stay sharp! Stay Kardsharp!

Houston Curtis Houston Curtis, founder of KardSharp.com and author of Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist has lived a successful double life as both a producer and card mechanic for nearly 30 years. His credits include executive producing gambling related TV shows such as The Ultimate Blackjack Tour on CBS, The Aruba Poker Classic on GSN and pioneering the poker instructional DVD genre with titles featuring poker champion Phil Hellmuth.

Barred for life from Las Vegas Golden Nugget for “excessive winning” at blackjack, Houston is one of the world’s most successful card mechanics and sleight-of-hand artists of the modern era. Curtis, who rarely plays in tournaments, won a 2004 Legends of Poker no-limit hold’em championship event besting Scotty Nguyen heads-up at the final table before going on to co-found the elite Hollywood poker ring that inspired Aaron Sorkin’s Academy Award-nominated film Molly’s Game.

Curtis resides in Phoenix, Arizona where in addition to running a production company and independent record label, he is also a private gaming/casino protection consultant to clients across the globe seeking insight into master level card cheating tactics via advanced sleight-of-hand technique. To reach Houston for a speaking engagement, consulting or production services send email to stacked@Kardsharp.com.

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Richard Alston Dance Company review – a thrilling farewell | Stage | The Guardian

To watch Richard Alston’s choreography is to think that there is goodness in the world. And light and reason and modesty, harmony and grace. When there’s so much darkness about – in the aesthetics of contemporary dance and the world at large – it is all the more regrettable that this is the last outing for the Richard Alston Dance Company after 25 years as a cornerstone of British contemporary dance.

The company is closing due to a funding gap rather than any lack of appetite from the 71-year-old choreographer, and he’ll continue to work independently. His sense of forward motion is on display here in an array of recent and new work.

Isthmus, from 2012, is the oldest piece on stage, albeit one that feels timelessly modern. The dancing is smart, beautiful, clear as a ringing note struck on the side of a glass. It is also a great example of Alston’s famously musical choreography, which doesn’t laboriously mimic melody or pulse but dances alongside it, providing a counterpoint and catching certain tones and turns of phrase.




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The 2015 duet Mazur makes the bill in order to give a proper farewell to pianist and longtime collaborator, who plays a selection of Chopin mazurkas on stage. A dextrous, sensitive player, his dynamic shifts underscore the dance. Alston’s steps are so fluently arranged it’s like being on your best conversational form. Swift chainé turns and grand jetés are absorbed into deft phrases, the difficulty of a series of jumps where the body changes direction are effortlessly underplayed; it’s dance that wears its intelligence lightly.

Another nod to an important collaborator comes in Martin Lawrance’s A Far Cry. Lawrance started as a dancer in Alston’s company in 1995, before becoming rehearsal director and associate choreographer. The work brings intoxicating speed, with the dancers’ clarity in quickly unfolding angles never compromised.

The new piece Shine On was made as Alston faced the reality of losing his company, and it’s a subdued yet defiant work, the dancers facing the audience as soprano Katherine McIndoe sings WH Auden’s text in Benjamin Britten’s On This Island: “Let the hot sun / shine on, shine on.” The performers serious-faced and resolute, they open and close the piece in strident, certain unison, etching the elegant figures of Alston’s choreography with its deeply classical sensibility. There’s a poignant central duet for Niall Egan and Joshua Harriette, made of tender strength, careful grip and small details.




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The evening and the company itself closes with Voices and Light Footsteps, another fine new work that is Alston at his best. Set to a mix of Monteverdi, the dancers fly, swoop and lunge in light glancing leaps and gently tilted lines. (It shares a title but none of its steps with a Monteverdi piece Alston made in the 80s.) There is a spellbinding solo by Monique Jonas, a young dancer of great composure and singing lines. Alston has always nurtured talented performers, and this current company has a rich mix of styles and physiques yet they dance with a truly unified voice. They will all, no doubt, go on to rewarding careers elsewhere. As, hopefully, will Alston himself. As a company, though, they will be much missed.

At Sadler’s Wells, London, on 8 March.

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[Watch] Buhari Signs N10.8 Trillion Budget Into Law

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President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the revised N10.8 trillion 2020 budget into law. The appropriation bill was sent to the National Assembly for approval after it was revised to comply with the current economic realities caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
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Nigeria Leader Rebuke Bill Gate’s Wife, Over Statement On Africa,

Please SUBSCRIBE to Voicetv Nigeria YouTube channel. For more stories visit www.voicetvnigeria.com

Voice TV Nigeria is an online community of reporters and social advocates dedicated to bringing you news reports from a Nigerian-African perspective.

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