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2017 Week in Review Highlights

Thank you to our amazing 2017 Week in Review bloggers: Tiombe Tallie Carter, Anna Stowe DeNicola, Eric Lanter, and Michael Smith.

Below are some "Best Of 2017" from our bloggers:


Soviet Soviet and South by Southwest

A spot to perform at South by Southwest (SXSW) is coveted by national bands as well as international groups. So one can imagine the anguish that members of Soviet Soviet experienced when they were deported from Seattle last March before arriving at the Austin megafestival. The three-member Italian postpunk band was booked to play at SXSW, as well as in Los Angeles and Long Beach. However, their Department of Homeland Security Visa Waiver authorizations (ESTAs) were deemed insufficient for travel. Under President Trump's newly instituted immigration enforcement, the intricacies of the Visa Waiver program proved troublesome. The trio had authorized ESTAs, in addition to an invitation from SXSW organizers, and a letter from the U.S. record label Felte Records, which is usually enough documentation to allow international bands to travel. Yet there was one small glitch. The band had stipulated on its application that its performances were promotional only, as it would be performing in the U.S. for free. Since SXSW doesn't pay bands to perform at the festival, the ESTA application was authorized. However, it was discovered that at some of Soviet Soviet's other U.S. performances, attendees would be charged. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested the trio, interrogated them individually for four hours, and took them to jail without phone privileges before they were deported. This was the first prominent detainment and deportation incident affecting international performers, and illustrated the far-reaching effects of the newly minted immigration policies. Independent artists and small labels will be faced with the burden of navigating the new rules.

Fyre, Fire!

The Fyre Festival is one for the books. Many are still trying to fathom how Billy McFarland, Ja Rule, and the rest of the festival organizers thought it could work. There are fast talkers in the world of entertainment, but Frye goes beyond a typical overhyped concert. We're talking about bringing hundreds of people to an island with no potable water, sewer lines, or reasonable transportation. Six weeks before the festival was scheduled, the lauded beautiful beach was infested with sharks and swarms of sand flies. According to Chloe Gordon, an event producer, "the festival site was a development lot covered over in gravel with a few tractors scattered around...No vendors had been secured, no stages rented, no transportation was arranged...There was not enough space to build all the tents and green rooms necessary. Plus, the billed artists were complaining of not receiving their typical deposit payments." Yet the decision was made to proceed, allowing hundreds of festivalgoers to fly to the ill-prepared island of Exumas. Less than a week after, lawsuits were filed. One was by personal injury attorney John Girardi, for breach of contract, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation on behalf of festivalgoers. The first multi-million dollar class action lawsuit was filed by attorney Mark Geragos, for his client Daniel Jung. That suit accused the organizers of fraud, citing the festival's "lack of adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees--suddenly finding themselves stranded on a remote island without basic provisions." A second class action suit defined the class into three categories of harm: those who bought tickets or packages but did not attend after being made aware of the conditions, those who bought tickets and tried to go to the festival but didn't make it to Exuma because flights were canceled, and those who made it to the festival and were confined on the island for any amount of time. Finally, there is the criminal wire fraud case against McFarland for producing fake documents to induce investors. At least two investors invested $1.2 million in his companies, in addition to reports of more than 80 investors. No crisis management public relations company will be able to erase the infamous aftermath of the Fyre Festival.

Rapper Meek Mill (whose legal name is Robert Rahmeek Williams) has seen his share of legal troubles. The Philadelphian native was convicted of guns and drugs possession in 2008. After serving eight months in prison, he was placed on five years' probation. Judge Genece Brinkley, who has overseen Williams' case, sentenced the rapper to two to four years in prison due to various violations, including two arrests for an airport fight and reckless driving, plus scheduling concerts in barred locations. These types of cases are not altogether uncommon, although the sentence may be heavy-handed. However, it is atypical that the overseeing judge would request to be put in an artist's song. According to Williams' attorney, Joe Tacopina, Judge Brinkley not only asked Meek Mill to add her name to one of his songs, but also gave him unsolicited career advice on who he should hire as his manager. Tacopina is appealing the decision on Williams' behalf.

For Diehard Fans, Iran's Zumba Ban Will Not Stop Them

The Iranian government issued an edict: Zumba was illegal and contrary to Islamic precepts. The country recently went through a fitness revolution, with both men and women flocking to the gym to exercise. Women in particular were participating in group fitness classes, and Zumba quickly took off and gained a cult following. The Zumba craze highlighted the tension between leaders of Iran and its evolving middle-class. Shiite Muslim clerics codified hundreds of regulations that are meant to deter sinful activity, which they believe undermines families. Though punishment can be harsh, the laws are seldom enforced, and in many cases are tolerated as long as the "sins" are committed out of the public eye. Zumba has been taught and practiced for years in Iran, and it was a surprise to many that suddenly Sports for All Federations issued a letter stating that Zumba was not an accepted sport, and citing the ban on dancing as the basis. The instructors who have built the Zumba craze are passionate and dedicated, and despite the ban, vow to return to the gym and proceed with their scheduled classes.



Trove From Nazi Era Art Dealer To Go On Display in Bern and Bonn

In November, sister exhibits in Bern, Switzerland and Bonn, Germany will feature works from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer who had concealed a collection of 1,200 - 1,500 works in his apartment in Munich and house in Salzburg for decades. The exhibits are scheduled in the wake of a Munich court ruling that held that Gurlitt had been of sound mind when he bequeathed the collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern. No works with an unknown or incomplete provenance will be included. A German-lead task force, created after the discovery of the works, continues to investigate the provenance of the works in the collection, and along with the Kunstmuseum is committed to returning any looted works to their rightful owners.


Christo Walks Away From 'Over the River' in Protest Against President Trump

Said to be the art world's largest protest yet over President Trump, Christo announced that he will abandon the 'Over the River' project, and along with it 20 years of planning and $15 million of his own money. The project was subject to multiple lawsuits from environmentalists who claim the instillation would endanger wildlife and disrupt habitats. Despite prevailing in every lawsuit, Christo stated that since the land upon which the project was to be installed is owned by the federal government, he will walk away. The project was slated to be the largest Christo project attempted in the United States.


Gaping Gender Gap in Leadership Roles at Top Museums

The Association of Art Museum Directors released a study of gender in leadership at museums, which shows that only three out of 20 of the largest museums in the U.S. are lead by women. While that percentage is alarming, the great news is that out of all the art museums in the country, 48% of them are lead by women. At the smallest museums, the number of women leaders increases to 54%. Smaller museums lead in offering comparable salaries between genders. However, as the budget size of the museum increases, the study revealed that the gender salary gap widened. Notable among female leaders at top-tier museums is Anne Pasternak, Director of the Brooklyn Museum. She was a unique and unconventional choice to lead a large museum, not having risen through the traditional ranks. The Board and Search Committee of the Brooklyn Museum was comprised of a large percentage of women, which may explain the Board's willingness to think outside the box and hire an unconventional candidate. Generally, women who aspire to a museum directorship often enroll in curatorial leadership programs. Alumnae of these programs have been successful in securing top posts at museums across the country. The hope is that these graduates, and now museum leaders, continue to feed into the pool of executives for some of the larger posts. Of course, the most attractive opening of all is currently vacant, with many watching who will fill the role at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Philanthropist Agnes Gund Establishes a Criminal Justice Fund, Seed Funding From the Sale of a Lichtenstein

At an event this week at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the new Art for Justice Fund was announced by Agnes Gund. Gund, a prominent arts philanthropist and president emerita of MOMA, started the fund with $100 million of the proceeds from the January sale of Lichtenstein's "Masterpiece." The sale netted $165 million and was sold specifically to start this fund, which will be administered by the Ford Foundation. Gund is hoping that the fund will inspire other arts philanthropists to follow suit - and she has challenged the philanthropic community to match her $100 million over the course of the next several years. The idea of using art collections to "advance social justice" is new in arts philanthropic circles. Already committed to the cause are Laurie M. Tisch, Kenneth and Kathryn Chenault, Jo Carole Lauder, Daniel S. Loeb, and Brooke Neidich. The Art for Justice Fund will give grants to leaders and organizations that have an established record in criminal justice reform. The inspiration for the Fund came from within Gund's family - six of her grandchildren are African-American. Michelle Alexander's book on mass incarceration of African-Americans and Ava DuVernay's documentary, "13th," inspired her to take steps to impact change in the criminal justice system. Many people, including Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, hope this fund will "energize" support over criminal justice reform and the role philanthropists can play in effecting change.


In a Rare Showing, Members of Venezuela's El Systema Movement Take to the Streets in Protest

Venezuela's El Systema program has been celebrated world-wide as an incredible system that has transformed the country, and has given hundreds of thousands of children the opportunity to learn an instrument and become global ambassadors. Despite years of growing unrest in Venezuela, the program and its members have maintained a neutral façade and refrain from expressing political viewpoints. However, a young violist named Armando Cañizales was recently killed in the middle of a protest, and musicians trained in the program are speaking out en masse, instruments in hands, and denouncing the increasing violence. Many people protest under cover, but others bring their instruments and play amidst the fighting. El Systema has been Venezuela's pride and joy for four decades. After the 2013 death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the country faced serious inflation and lack of basic resources that are now affecting the program, from drops in teacher salaries, to concert halls and instruments that are not properly maintained. The death of Mr. Cañizales shocked the El Systema community, which now is showing a greater willingness to take a public stand against the current Venezuelan government.


Remembering David Rockefeller's Arts Philanthropy

Besides being the head of Chase Manhattan Bank, an internationally revered businessman, a stalwart in New York black tie gala social circle, and the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller, David Rockefeller was a prominent arts philanthropist with a legendary art collection of about 15,000 works. He served as Chair of the Museum of Modern Art and used his influential role in the business community to encourage corporations to purchase and display art in their buildings and offices, and to subsidize local museums. Rockefeller joined the Board of the Museum of Modern Art in 1940, replacing his mother, who had helped found the museum in the 1920s. He spent time wooing art dealers, and coordinated a syndicate to buy Gertrude Stein's modern art collection. Works from his own collection remains on permanent loan to the Museum.
In addition to his arts philanthropy, Rockefeller was a strong voice in the development of lower Manhattan. He founded and served as Chair of the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association. He recommended the construction of the World Trade Center and established Chase's headquarters in the Wall Street area, providing financial stability and leverage to complete the World Trade Center project. When the city began defaulting on loans and bonds in the mid-1970s, he was instrumental in pulling city leaders together with federal and state officials to compose an economic plan for the city. Two presidents offered him the position of Treasury Secretary, but he turned the job down both times.

Later in his life, Rockefeller pledged a $100 million bequest to the Museum of Modern Art. Energetic until his last days, his 90th birthday celebrations included a celebrity-filled gala with a price tag of up to $90,000 for a table. More than 850 people clamored to celebrate his life and impact on New York City. His lasting philanthropic endeavors and contributions will be felt for generations to come.



In Spain, A Surprising Boost for Girls Soccer

A Spanish soccer team comprised of 13- and 14-year old girls recently clinched the championship in a league comprised mainly of boy's teams. Efforts in Spain to promote women's and girl's soccer lag behind other countries, and clubs that include girls' rosters often focus their time and resources nurturing the boys. One club, AEM Lleida, has been focusing on girls for a decade, and recently capitalized on a Spanish soccer federation rule that allows clubs to put both boys and girls at play - including mixed teams - for junior league competition. Parents were reluctant in the early years, but have united behind the effort, as they experienced the girls' success. The club believes a large part of the that success is discipline - players absorb feedback from their coaches and do what is asked of them. The club is currently raising money specifically for the coaching program, as sponsors are slow to get behind girls' and women's teams, and their success has increased female membership in the club by 25%.


Hyperandrogenism Again in the Forefront at the Court of Arbitration for Sport

In 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport temporarily suspended an international track and field rule that prohibited women with naturally-elevated testosterone levels from competing against other women. The rational was that it presented an unfair advantage - and in order to compete with women, they had to take hormone-suppressing drugs or have surgery to limit testosterone production. In the wake of the temporary suspension, female athletes, like Indian track and field star Dutee Chand, could compete freely and without having to undergo therapy or surgery. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body for track and field, spent the past two years compiling data about competitive advantage and naturally-elevated testosterone levels in women. Its report, due to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, shows that the competition advantage associated with elevated testosterone varies according to the event. The largest advantage was in the hammer throw, where a 4.53% advantage was shown. Other events where elevated testosterone created an advantage include the pole vault, 400-meter hurdles, and the 400-meter and 800-meter sprints. However, all were well below the 10-12% threshold generally recognized as the natural performance difference between men and women. Furthermore, the Court said in 2015 that the IAAF should reconsider its ban on women with hyperandrogenism if the advantage was found to be "well below" 12%. Experts in the 1990s suggested that women with hyperandrogenism should compete as women if they were raised as women - and that it should be considered a natural genetic advantage, like Usain Bolt's long stride or Michael Phelp's large feet. This issue, however, will continue to challenge the sports world as gender continues to become a more fluid concept with "nuanced distinctions."


Medal Reallocation Ceremonies - Attempting to Right a Wrong in Track and Field

Track and Field is riddled with doping scandals, to the point that fans and athletes are no longer shocked by doping revelations. Retroactive testing of samples, now with better technology to detect banned substances, has caused many athletes to be stripped of their medals. In an effort to make things right, the IAAF has been conducting medal reallocation ceremonies to finally recognize the achievements of those athletes who engaged in clean competition. Many athletes that are just now receiving medals described the ceremonies as "awkward and bittersweet." Athletes are grateful for the recognition, but note that the ceremonies serve as a reminder of doping's pervasiveness throughout the sport. In addition to these ceremonies serving to bring the doping conversation back to the forefront, sprinter Justin Gatlin's surprise win over Usain Bolt also sparked debate. Gatlin served two suspensions for doping violations and has been seen (perhaps unfairly) as an athlete representative of the problem. As for addressing the systemic problem, the IAAF has been firm in its resolve to address the problem and enforce suspensions.



In Effort to Wire Rural Communities, Microsoft Attempting to Harness Unused Television Channels

10 years in the making, Microsoft announced its plans to tap into "white space," or unused television channels, as a vehicle to provide Internet access to rural parts of the country that are without access to broadband service. Called "super Wi-Fi," the technology behaves like Wi-Fi but instead of using broadband technology, it uses low-powered TV channels. Super Wi-Fi is more powerful than traditional wireless access because the vehicle, TV channels, cover greater distances than wireless hot spots. It also is more powerful than cellular technology because it can penetrate concrete barriers and other obstacles. Over 24 million people in rural areas are currently without Internet access, and Microsoft believes this is an untapped market ripe for development. There are many barriers to this effort, including the current prohibitive cost of white-space technology. Devices compatible with white-space technology cost upwards of $1,000. Rural areas don't provide economies of scale to incentivize device makers to find ways to reduce costs. Microsoft has four devices it believes can be produced at a cost to consumers of $200 each. The bigger hurdle, however, may be regulatory. Microsoft is seeking approval from federal and state regulators to guarantee the use of the unused television channels. Television broadcasters are fighting back against white-space technology, which they argue causes interference with broadcasts being run on neighboring channels.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 31, 2017 3:59 PM.

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