Reply: On Putin, petitions, and cultural leadership
The Clyde Fitch Report, 8/12/13
The press coverage of the petition and the controversy so far is lacking. For while we know Gergiev and Netrebko have in the past supported Putin, we don't know that they're maniacal homophobes. Netrebko published a statement on Facebook that disavows homophobia. Is it perfect? No. Is she a lying bitch? No, probably not. [But] she's living in a totalitarian state. Maybe she's in the unenviable position of wanting to practice her art without alienating the repressive government that lets her to do so? We are not offering excuses -- Elia Kazan and Jerome Robbins were cowards, not heroes -- but we're not reading a lot about the context of the situation, either. And so we return to an old conundrum: Can we divide art from the politics of the artist? Richard Wagner remains the gold standard for this topic, one Alex Ross revisited in the New Yorker last year. McLennan blasts the Met for refusing to admit that art is political. And yet. In quiet rooms, perhaps it can be further argued that the Met's reply to the petition is in fact a counterintuitive example of cultural leadership after all. Let's say the Met did dedicate its gala to the "support of LGTB people." What would it prove? That gays can bully the Met? What's next? Wait, we already know: the Met must cancel its contracts with Gergiev and Netrebko. Then the Met would be prioritizing politics over art, something as morally repugnant as the Met politicizing its art and then denying it. Why can't the politics of art speak for itself? But back to the petition. We suggest it's the wrong one to pursue. A smarter petition would demand Gergiev and Netrebko interact in public, abundant and frequent ways with as many members of the LGBT community and its supporters as possible. Don't just dedicate a gala to "the support of the LGBT community." Dedicate proceeds from every performance, including part of all artist and management fees, to a different LGBT charity each night. If what you want is to push the Met to make a statement, then push the Met to make a statement. Dare the Met to act like the cultural leader that we, McLennan and you know they are.
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Commentary: Arts orgs that will thrive will be ones that address social issues
Thomas Wolf and Dennie Palmer Wolf, WolfBrown e-newsletter On Our Minds, 8/9/13
[At] WolfBrown, we've been building the argument that, in the 21st century, the cultural institutions that thrive will be the ones that help their host communities call out and address major challenges. Many of the guiding concepts of this work are summarized in a new publication from the National Guild for Community Arts Education, More than the Sum of the Parts, co-authored by Dr. Thomas Wolf and Gigi Antoni of Big Thought. In terms of large-scale organizations, we have been partnering with Carnegie Hall's Musical Connections program to document the positive role music can play in the juvenile justice system. We've also been partnering with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and with Yo-Yo Ma, who has been working to promote the concept of Citizen Musician -- an expansion of the definition of artist to include the role of first responder, a person who places his or her skills at the service of their communities: in schools, hospitals, prisons, or as part of public ceremonies and memorials. In terms of smaller, community-based organizations, we have been partnering with City Lore, a pre-eminent folk and traditional arts organization in New York City. Their programs teach young people to love and investigate the city in which they live, insuring that children take the subway, visit studios, museums, gardens and bakeries, and develop an intense curiosity about the lives around them - experiences which build cosmopolitan citizens for a new century.