• BY   December 19, 2008 at 1:00 PM EDT

    I want to thank all of you ‘first responders’ who’ve written here and reached us in other ways with comments on our new Art Beat blog. The positive feedback has been very gratifying and encourages us to go forward with this effort. I apologize for not being able to respond to everyone individually, but please know that we’re reading your comments and pondering your suggestions. Keep them coming!

    I also want to take a moment to thank the small but energetic team that’s doing all the real work — especially Tom LeGro, Mike Melia, Vanessa Dennis, Meghann Farnsworth, Molly Finnegan, Katie Kleinman, Zoe Pollock and Zack Seward.

    It’s been interesting to me to see the first batch of stories we’ve posted. I’ve been especially happy to learn of several people — Bryan Bell, for example — of whom I knew very little. That’s what I hope will continue for all of us. As I said on the NewsHour that first day, this is a chance to expand our arts coverage, share more stories and speak with more people who help shape our cultural lives.

    I’ll try to write every Friday with a preview of what’s to come. Next week, among other things, we begin a “poem of the week” feature and we’ll have a story on stop-motion animation. We’ll also have a conversation I recorded today with film writer David Thomson, a longtime favorite of mine, about his new book, “Have You Seen…?” and some of his favorite new films. And, coming soon, we’ll have a look at the new production of David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow” and a conversation with sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.

    Thanks again for joining us on Art Beat.


  • BY   December 19, 2008 at 12:54 PM EDT

    The board of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art postponed an official decision on two competing proposals aimed to stabilize its financial situation. After meeting Thursday, the board released a statement saying: “The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees is continuing to review the options presented to the full board today. MOCA anticipates making a further announcement as early as next week regarding the outcome of these discussions.”

    The Los Angeles Times reports the board is leaning toward accepting a $30 million donation from billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad that is contingent on the museum raising an additional $15 million from other sources. The Times, citing unnamed sources at the meeting, also reports that LA MOCA Director Jeremy Strick plans to resign.

    Earlier in the week, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art proposed a merger with MOCA. On Thursday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sent a letter to MOCA’s board urging it to take 30 days to weigh its options and appoint a panel of “contemporary art experts” to review the situation.


  • BY   December 17, 2008 at 4:07 PM EDT

    The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is struggling to keep its doors open and hold onto one of the world’s best collections of post-World War II art. The museum’s board of trustees will meet Thursday and is expected to decide among two competing rescue offers.

    The financial troubles for LA MOCA were brewing well before the recent global economic downturn. Since 2000, the museum has overspent by $1 million a year on average and has been forced to dip into its endowment to cover operating costs. The museum has refused to release current financial figures, but it has been reported that the endowment that once sat near $40 million in 2000 is now as low as $7 million.

    On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a larger institution on the other side of the city with a much healthier endowment, proposed a merger to stop MOCA’s immediate short fall, while preserving the independence of both museums. Michael Govan, director and CEO of LACMA, said in a statement: “The exhibition of its [MOCA’s] extraordinary permanent collection, the continuation of its renowned exhibition program and its commitment to living artists are of paramount importance for the cultural life of Los Angeles. Our proposal is structured to achieve these goals.”


  • BY   December 16, 2008 at 2:43 PM EDT

    Architect Bryan Bell likes to quote a certain statistic: Only 2 percent of homebuyers work with an architect to design a home that fits their needs. In other words, shelter is a necessity, architecture is a luxury.

    Bell is looking to change that. He is among a growing number of architects and designers who want to combine community service with their aesthetic training to make design more relevant to more people’s lives. It’s not an accident that people know their neighborhood doctors and lawyers but not their neighborhood architect, Bell says.

    Bell’s North Carolina-based non-profit Design Corps -whose motto is “designing for the 98 percent without architects” – provides architectural and design services for communities that can have their needs addressed by situation-specific solutions. The work is characterized by the desire to work with and listen to the people they are serving, acknowledging that clients know their needs better than anyone else.

    One project Bell is particularly proud of is a bus shelter in his hometown of New Orleans. Using input from city and neighborhood officials and from members of the community, Design Corps’ design and construction is as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional.

    (Narrated slide show: View photos and listen to Bell talk about the Freret St. bus shelter.)

    In November, Design Corps was featured at the 2008 Venice Biennial for hurricane-resistant housing designed for migrant workers in Florida. Bell also co-authored the recently published book, “Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism,” a collection of essays that document the challenges of socially, economically and environmentally-driven (SEED) architecture.


  • BY   December 16, 2008 at 10:58 AM EDT

    In case you missed it Monday evening, here are correspondents Jeffrey Brown and Judy Woodruff talking about Art Beat on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.


  • BY   December 15, 2008 at 5:50 PM EDT

    Welcome to Art Beat, a new blog covering news, issues and events in art and entertainment, brought to you by NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown and NewsHour reporters. You will find interviews with authors, artists and musicians, coverage of art exhibitions and concerts, and multimedia features such as videos and narrated slide shows.

    We expect Art Beat to widen our arts coverage by serving as a home for additional reporting on arts pieces you may have seen on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Extended interviews and bonus footage or images from performances or shows will all be here.

    Please sign up for the podcast, feeds as well as the e-mail alert, which will let you know when an arts piece will air.

    Most of all, please leave comments. We want to hear what you think. Enjoy!


  • BY   December 15, 2008 at 3:38 PM EDT

    Three years after Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed the city of New Orleans, the rebuilding effort continues and there is an enormous amount of work left to do. The city’s population is 25 percent lower than it was before Hurricane Katrina — a figure that includes many displaced artists, of course.

    Tonight on the NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown reports on the city’s efforts to rebuild its art scene and its tourist industry through Prospect.1, an exhibition of contemporary art billed as the largest of its kind ever held in the United States. Works by some 80 artists from around the world are on display at sites throughout the Crescent City.

    Below is an extended interview with Dan Cameron, the man behind Prospect.1. The veteran international curator began visiting New Orleans in the 1970s for JazzFest and ended up making the colorful city a second home.

    You can see some images of the works in this slide show and by visiting the Prospect.1 Web site.

    UPDATE: Here is a link to Jeffrey Brown’s report on Prospect.1.