I've spent the last eight weeks on a "blogcation" so I could focus on the birth of our new baby, Rocket. MUCH appreciation to the incredible guest authors who helped me out: Stefania Van Dyke, Beck Tench, Julie Bowen, Adrienne Berney, and George Scheer. And thanks to you for engaging with their posts and with the reruns from the Museum 2.0 vaults. I may not exactly be "refreshed," but I am thrilled to be writing again.
This week, I thought I'd ease back in by offering a roundup of five of the most interesting bits I've encountered online in the past two months.
IF YOU READ NOTHING ELSE... read The Northwest London Blues - a gorgeous essay by novelist Zadie Smith about libraries, British politics, and changing perspectives on community space. She knits together nostalgia and activism with a level of nuance rarely found in debates about the value of museums, libraries, and other cultural spaces. Here's a taste:
And the thing that is most boring about defending libraries is the imputation that an argument in defense of libraries is necessarily a social-liberal argument. It’s only recently that I had any idea that how a person felt about libraries—not schools or hospitals, libraries—could even represent an ideological split. I thought a library was one of the few sites where the urge to conserve and the desire to improve—twin poles of our political mind—were easily and naturally united.Give yourself a long afternoon and read it.
OR IF YOU HAVE A SHORTER ATTENTION SPAN... you may share the common opinion that baseball is too damn slow. In a useful post, Doug Borwick suggests that art is like baseball: declining in relevance. Doug offers analogies between the challenges faced by Major League Baseball and those of traditional arts institutions: a legacy practice that has gotten more commercial but not more connected to real people and real communities. Check out the comments for more unlikely connections between Mao and the American national past time.
SPEAKING OF RELEVANCE... the NEA has just released the highlights reel of the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, featuring increases in arts engagement via electronic media, art-making and sharing, movies, and reading, and decreases in attendance to visual and performing arts. There's a lot more to unpack here; Reach Advisors took a first stab from a museum-centered perspective with a rousing call-to-action in response to declining attendance. Again, the comments are meaty and worth reading.
AND SPEAKING OF DIGITAL PARTICIPATION... ArtsFwd is hosting a national innovation summit for arts and culture October 20-23 in Denver. It appears that the in-person event is limited to participants from fourteen cities (funder-selected?), but they are offering a virtual live stream for free. Strangely, it's not easy to figure out who is speaking on which topic, but the topics and format look compelling. Full schedule here. Update: you can find the speakers here and they are truly awesome.
NAKED, BLEEDING THIEF BREAKS INTO MUSEUM, SPENDS THE NIGHT REARRANGING ITS STORAGE FACILITY. This is mostly just a really great headline. Though the curator's quote is pretty fabulous, too.
I'll be back next week with a longer essay. Happy reading!