A round up of top 2013 Local and National Art Stories

Local and national common threads include advocacy, aplomb, and access. Oh, and Amazon. December 5, 2013 was a huge news day. First up, let’s start with advocacy.


The word “Creative” -- Replacing the noun ‘artist’ with ‘creative’ is nearly mainstream.

National news, December 5, 2013: No, not Art Basel. Not the sale at Christies. It’s the Arts impact on the GDP! The National Endowment for the Arts and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis released results of their joint report announcing that the creative sector (2011) added 500 billion to the United States Gross Domestic Product. With this base number at last in place, the arts impact on GDP can be measured annually from hereon. The GDP measures the nation’s production of goods and services. Putting the pressure on and leading the stats, contributors included Hollywood film industry, cable TV production, advertising, broadcasting, the performing arts, publishing, independent artists, and design and architectural services. Other measurable indicators include production output and workforce. Analysts estimated the production output for the creative sector to be greater than 900 billion (where arts education including college departments joins the list), and 2 million plus folks working in the creative sector.

How much is art worth and what does that mean? Prodigious amount of 2013 stories boil down to questions swirling the value of art or art as an asset, and inevitably we’re not talking dollars. Trying to monetize irreplaceable art and heritage isn’t new and isn’t pretty. In 2013 it ballooned into major crossover news segments as it often does. For Massachusetts and the art world bubble, it seems only yesterday that we breathed a collective sigh of relief when Brandeis could not close Rose Art museum to sell its collection to fill recession coffers. Fast forward to 2013 as the world is rubbernecking the bankruptcy wreckage of the City of Detroit and the firestorm arts media coverage for the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The world is reliably fickle. At the very same time Detroit is savaged, an anonymous telephone bidder purchased Edward Hopper’s East Wind Over Weehawken from Christies for $40.5 million dollars, a record for this artist (Carlo Allegri photo/Reuters file). The kicker (besides the price and Christie’s involvement with both this sale and the DIA appraisal): the owner was the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, selling (and not for the first time) from its own art collection to bolster an endowment for ‘name’ contemporary artist acquisitions. Along with other organizations, PAA endorsed advocating for Detroit. Massachusetts, please, please continue to fight for our heritage and collections, and pursue contemporary art. Both/And. Not cannibalize one over the other. Since PA dropped the ball to keep in state, perhaps NJ can step up and coax the new owner to extend a loan to the Newark Art Museum. If any collection is selling a Gloucester image by a major American artist, remember marshalling funds so that the Cape Ann Museum can acquire it first, ok?! Remember the local in locale.

Greater moral and material concerns surfaced when masterpieces of Nazi looted art were oddly uncovered in Cornelius Gurlitt’s Munich apartment. Hitler’s famous 1938 law deeming Modernist works “degenerate” is bizarrely still on the books and may apply to a third of this massive collection. That leaves 2/3 likely ripped away or sold due to unimaginable pressure scenarios. Understandably this story has reignited media attention on issues of provenance and Holocaust restitution and the ongoing tangled research, ownership and lawsuits involving collections, museums and governments worldwide. (Incidentally, the Detroit Institute of Arts is one example of an institution that has returned confiscated art to individual heirs without going to court.)

Tricky/odd monetization and ownership issues come up with small dollars and contemporary art as well. For 2013 see Bansky’s New York public art-- the range of response included individuals covering one drawing with cardboard and charging $20 to view; the reactions from all sides to Five Pointz; and Marina Abramovic Institute’s famous student, Lady Gaga. Reports tracked the increase of airport storage for collected valuables. The original Ports Francs (Geneva’s Freeport warehouse since 1888) has competition across the globe with airport build outs in Luxembourg, Monaco, Singapore, and one planned for China, all vying for brisk business. Galleries open right inside and amenities as well, no need to leave the tarmac.

Chicago: inspired civic ambition by Chicago artist, Theaster Gates, his Dorchester Projects, was recognized in 2012; coverage of his vision continued in 2013. Keep watching. Not just Gates. Chicago up again.

Rhode Island was dubbed State of Art for saying see ya later to sales tax related to art. Offering exemptions statewide for any sales by writers, composers and artists, as of December 1

Massachusetts: Working together…worked! MCC, MOTT, MA Smart Growth, Essex National Heritage, MA Audubon, MA gov HED, Historic New England, Trustees of the Reservation, Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and more...please KEEP AT IT!

Massachusetts: Many more residents now know the term “Massachusetts Cultural Council” and its mission. As of December 2013, nineteen (19) towns in Massachusetts have earned a Cultural District designation*, and Gloucester became the first and only municipality to earn 2 districts: Rocky Neck and the downtown’s Harbortown. *Joining other states, and with teeth, Massachusetts legislated the designation of Cultural Districts in 2011, thanks to the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Art lobbying dusts off MASScreative is a privately funded lobbying group that is registered in Massachusetts to advocate for the creative economy. 2013 featured building brand, traction, and picking up speed. Currently pushing an excellent on-line petition, Stop the slide! “Twenty-five years ago, the Commonwealth invested $26 million in the creative community; 10 years ago that investment was $19 million. Today, the MCC budget stands at $11.1 million.” Sign it. I love the oomph and data capacity building. MASScreative works with the Massachusetts Cultural Council but can do things MCC can’t. (Similarly, the American for the Arts Action fund works with American for the Arts / NEA). After two years of discussion, research and preparation (including Senator Bruce Tarr on council) and with funding from the Boston Foundation among others, MASScreative hung its shingle in 2012. MASScreative went on the road to towns across the state and its impact snowballed. For 2013, one standout was the Mayoral forum on the arts September 9, 2013 at the Paramount theater and Create the Vote. MASScreative’s Director Matt Wilson’s previous experience includes He is currently a SAAN council member which is great news for MA, too! I hope every state changes their advocacy name to ‘(insert state)creative’ and we continue to streamline and share information.

Gloucester, MA: The Gloucester Committee for the Arts raised money for the first phase of restoration on many of the city’s historic WPA-era murals with more to come.

Gloucester, MA: Currently researching grants and other options to raise funds, Veronica Morgan, pursued inspired artist/senior residency solutions for Gloucester. She’s aiming to lure prestigious Artspace to come spring 2014 and finally grab its first spot in MA. Morgan follows an inspired path of Gloucester resident/private/public partnerships: Cape Ann Farmers market continues to expand and its beautiful Backyard Growers, too; the HarborWalk; the dog park; windmills; New Balance Track & Field at Newell Stadium; and so much more that is positive here in Gloucester.

Gloucester is a contender for top example of a MA Mayor and City reinforcing its position as a leader for the arts. Congratulations to Mayor Carolyn Kirk, the administration and City Council. What other small town of this size manages two cultural districts and sets grant money for contemporary artists?