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The following letter comes from Brooke Wooldridge of the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC). A cooperative digital library for resources from and about the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean, dLOC provides access to digitized versions of Caribbean cultural, historical, and research materials currently held in archives, libraries, and private collections.

There has been significant confusion as to the state of the four main patrimonial libraries in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake on January 12, 2010. Based on information that I have received from the Digital Library of the Caribbean partner libraries in Haiti, all four of the following library buildings are standing:

  • Archives nationales d’Haïti
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit / San Martial [though the collection will need to be evacuated, as the building cannot be salvaged]
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne / Saint Louis de Gonzague
  • Bibliothèque nationale d’Haïti

Importantly, the library at Saint Louis de Gonzague (FIC) was NOT destroyed. The reporter that stated the library had fallen was incorrect.

According to the director of the National Library, Mme. Francoise Thybulle, the structures must be inspected before the local staff can assess the situation and prepare detailed plans that will certainly ask for international assistance. While the buildings are standing, this does not diminish what will be the very real need for assistance once the local leadership is able to assess the situation. All of the library directors have asked that interested parties work together to help preserve the collections [and] bring these libraries/archives back into service.

Many institutions and individuals have expressed an interest in supporting the Haitian libraries/archives as they begin to rebuild. The outpouring of support and interest for the preservation of Haitian patrimony is unprecedented. Many of you are already in contact with colleagues regarding ways to help. I am trying to serve as a clearinghouse for the Haitian libraries of the different people, institutions or groups that would like to offer support to the libraries. Once I have feedback from the partner libraries in Haiti, I will share a working document of the projects I am aware of and an online survey for interested individuals to complete via www.dloc.com. Feel free to contact me personally at dloc@fiu.edu or preferably via the dLOC Facebook Group if you are already planning a project locally.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean has been working with partners in Haiti since it began in 2004. The National Archives in Haiti was a founding member of dLOC, and in the last few years we have developed strong relationships with both the National Library and the Fathers of the Holy Spirit (San Martial) Library. As more information becomes available from the local leadership, I will share it as widely as possible. I have been hesitant to send a large response until now because of the many conflicting reports. This information is confirmed, and comes from the directors of each library/archive.

As the many researchers that have worked in these four libraries know, their directors are completely dedicated to the preservation of their national patrimonial collections. All four have been fighting to preserve these collections for decades, and I am confident with support from the international community these collections will be preserved and accessible for many years to come.



Filed under: Advocacy, Cultural Heritage, Libraries — Tags:

While most news updates in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12 are rightly focused on rescue efforts, information about losses of the country’s artistic, architectural, and cultural life have begun surfacing.

A report from the Rutland Herald, published a few days after the quake, told us about the death of Flo McGarrell, a thirty-five-year-old artist who had been the director of FOSAJ, a nonprofit art center in Jacmel, a French colonial town in southern Haiti.

The Biblical murals at the Cathedrale of Sainte Trinite (also known as the Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral) by some of Haiti’s best-known artists “are now largely dust,” according to Lesley Clark of the Miami Herald. The Centre d’Art, founded in the 1940s by a group of Haitian artists and writers in collaboration with an American educator, is badly damaged as well, and the Culture Creation Foundation has lost its offices and eighteen years of work.

Clark details other significant losses, including the private collections of Carmel Delatour, who herself perished in the quake, and Georges Nader. Nader and his wife survived, but hundreds of paintings by Philomé Obin and Hector Hyppolite, among many other artists, did not. About 100 of his 15,000 works were salvaged from the Musée d’Art Nader, which was part of the collector’s home. (Other sources number 50 surviving works from a 12,000 piece collection.) There is some good news: his son’s Nader Gallery in nearby Pétionville was barely touched.

Clark also reports that a Quebec-based Haitian critic and curator, Gerald Alexis, is working to mobilize arts groups to help preserve surviving works, and the Waterloo Center for the Arts in Iowa, which has a large collection of Haitian art, has established a relief fund. In addition, the Haitian government has deputized Daniel Elie, a former minister of culture, to conduct a nationwide inventory.

For the Wall Street Journal, Pooja Bhatia describes the loss of the Sacre Coeur church, including its stained-glass windows, as well as the National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. She also provides a biography of Nader and an account of the Haitian art scene before and after the disaster. Bhatia notes that none of his works was insured.

Marc Lacey of the New York Times mentions the destruction of the Supreme Court building and the National Palace, a French Renaissance–style building that was home the Haiti’s president. Although no permanent collection of art and artifacts were housed there, the status of works in the ceremonial rooms is unknown. Some believe the collections in the nearby National Museum, which was built underground, survived, and the contents of the National Archives appear to have fared well.

Because of continuously unstable government situations, Lacy writes, “private groups and individuals had become some of the most important protectors of the country’s treasures. Many of the country’s most valuable historical texts, for instance, were owned by individuals, and preserved at their homes—rather than under glass or in wood-walled libraries as they might have been in Washington or other moneyed capitals.” The reporter encountered a sculptor, Patrick Vilaire, who was strategizing on how to protect art and books in private collection from looting. Vilaire said, “The dead are dead, we know that. But if you don’t have the memory of the past, the rest of us can’t continue living.”

UNESCO reports that the National History Park, an early-nineteenth-century complex in northern Haiti made up of the Palace of Sans Souci, buildings at Ramiers, and the Citadel, was probably spared. However, the colonial town of Jacmel in the south has witnessed the collapse of many buildings.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has assembled a Haiti Steering Committee to help formulate and guide the assistance and rescue effort of cultural heritage in the country, to begin after humanitarian rescue operations conclude. Gustavo A. Araoz, ICOMOS president, writes:

ICOMOS has assessed the situation and considers it impractical, perhaps even insensitive, to send team that will further tax the scarce local ability to provide food, shelter, medical attention and other basic services, especially while our Haitian colleagues and all the Haitian nation are still struggling for sheer survival while dealing with personal tragedies, loss of family and the wholesale destruction of their homes…. At this time, our efforts are focused on planning and preparing the mobilization process and all its logistics, on the field work methodology, and on the composition and training of the international and multidisciplinary volunteer teams in order that they be ready to be deployed as soon as the go-ahead to do so is given. It is important that this work be centralized in ICOMOS to ensure uniformity in the field evaluations and avoid redundancy.

Katherine Slick, executive director of US/ICOMOS, has announced that her organization has set up a fund to receive tax-deductible donations to support these efforts. Checks may be made out to US/ICOMOS-Haiti Recovery and mailed to: US/ICOMOS, Ste. 331, 401 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20001. An easy method to make your donation online will be set up soon on the US/ICOMOS website.



Filed under: Advocacy, Cultural Heritage — Tags:

National Arts Index Results Released

posted by Linda Downs


In 2008 the National Arts Index fell 4.2 points to a score of 98.4, reveals Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit arts group. This means, among other things, that charitable giving and attendance at larger cultural institutions have declined, even as the number of artists and arts-related businesses grew.

Other findings from the index tell us that nonprofit arts organizations expanded from 73,000 to 104,000 between 1998 and 2008, but a third of them failed to balance their budgets. Also, demand for the arts has been mixed. Although millions of Americans attended concerts, plays, and museum exhibitions last year, the overall percentage of those who participate in such activities, compared to the total population, is decreasing. The good news is that those who create art, whether that’s making music, taking photographs, or drawing, is up. The demand for arts education is also strong.

Those involved in the National Arts Index herald its usefulness in shaping the future of the arts in the United States. “As with key business measures like the Dow or the GDP, we now have a way to measure the health of the arts in America,” said Albert Chao, a member of the Business Committee for the Arts, a business leadership program of Americans for the Arts. To that end, the Kresge Foundation has awarded a $1.2 million grant to Americans for the Arts to support that vision.

Read more about the index on the PR Newswire. The Americans for the Arts website has more detailed information, as well as PDF downloads of a detailed summary and the full report. There is also discussion and opinions on the organization’s blog.



Filed under: Advocacy, Cultural Heritage, Research

Greetings:

It has been a difficult night. Many of us are in a state of shock or more fittingly in disbelief. As a business that prides itself in keeping the rich culture of Haiti alive in Philadelphia, I and the Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia (HPP) send our deepest and most sincere condolences to our Haitian family in our area and around the world.

We have secured a private jumbo jet to transport supplies to Haiti, which is leaving in the next 24–48 hours. We are in need of doctors, nurses, and donations to go to Haiti in order to provide medical care. Vivant Art Collection and HPP is currently coordinating with the Haitian Coalition of Philadelphia, the Haitian Clergy of Philadelphia, Beyond Borders, the Mayor’s Office, the Temple Haitian Student Association, the University of Pennsylvania Haitian Student Association, Congressman Brady’s office, the Philadelphia Young Democrats, political officials, and other Haitian organizations in the surrounding area to devise a plan to provide assistance to Haiti. Frequent updates will be made to www.hphilly.org and www.vivantartcollection.com/events, so please check back often. In the meantime, if you wish to provide assistance we urge you to do the following:

  • Make a monetary donation to Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia to the Haitian Relief Fund via Paypal. All funds will go toward purchasing items that must be bought in Haiti to defray shipping cost, as well as medical supplies
  • Purchase or bring cots and tents that will be instrumental in providing temporary shelter to those who have been displaced
  • Medical supplies such as band aids, alcohol, peroxide, etc.
  • Water and nonperishable food items
  • Generators and industrial supplies for building will be needed for rebuilding
  • Supplies for children such as diapers, baby clothes, wipes, and bottles are greatly need as well
  • Call elected officials in your area and ask them to partner with HPP

Current Drop Off Sites

The Office of State Senator Leanna M. Washington
1555-A Wadsworth Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19150

The Office of State Representative Vanessa Brown
4706 Westminster Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19131

Vivant Art Collections (monetary donations and medical supplies only)
60 North 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

For further information on how to help, please call Yve-Car Momperousse, board chair, at 973-280-2307 or Florcy Morisset, community development chair, at 310-612-4636. You can also send an email to vivantartcollection@gmail.com or yvecar@hpphilly.org.

Press contact: Please call Alain Joinville, public-relations chair, at 215-287-7373 to coordinate interviews.

Moving forward,

Florcy Morisset
Vivant Art Collection
vivantartcollection@gmail.com
310-612-4636



Filed under: Advocacy, Cultural Heritage — Tags:

The horrifying news about the earthquake in from Haiti give all indications of major devastation and loss. Once the immediate human relief effort is over, I call on all International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to come together in solidarity to help in whatever way we can with the heritage recovery process. It is the right time now to identify individual ICOMOS members and groups of members who would be willing to form part of volunteer teams to be deployed to Haiti as needed when the time comes and the heritage needs are manifested by our Haitian colleagues. For that reason, I ask all National and International Committees to circulate this letter to their full membership. Anyone interested in considering to be a volunteer should drop me a line at gustavo.araoz@icomos.org and let me know who you are so that we may keep you informed about the opportunities that arise as we learn more about the situation.

For those national Committees from countries with disaster recovery experience, we also ask that you urge your government and other national institutions to be generous with their assistance.

For me personally, Haiti is a special place where I began my professional conservation life. It was at the Citadelle and later at the Palais de Sans-Souci in Cap Haitien that I had my very first projects as head of the OAS heritage assistance mission after graduation. I know the Haitians to be a good people, possessing great dignity and generosity while living amid extreme poverty.

For this reason, I put my own name down as the first volunteer to assist in whatever way I can.

Thanks to all,

Gustavo Araoz
ICOMOS Presiden



Filed under: Advocacy, Cultural Heritage — Tags:

Fractional Gifts Legislation Introduced in the Senate

posted by Christopher Howard


An untitled bill introduced last week in the US Senate may loosen recent government restrictions on fractional gifts of works of art to museums, reports Shelly Banjo of the Wall Street Journal. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), whose state contains many important art museums, patrons, and philanthropists, is sponsoring S 1605, which would reform the rules regulating fractional charitable donations of tangible personal property.

Fractional gifts—which allow Americans to give partial ownership rights of an artwork to a museum or charitable organization and take an income-tax deduction for the donated portion of its value—were common practice in the museum world until 2006, when provisions put into the Pension Protection Act of 2006 by Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) made partial gifts less attractive for donors. (Namely, that work must be fully donated within ten years of the initial fractional gift, and that the value of the artwork is capped when the first gift is made.) Since then, museums noticed that the practice of fractional gifts has nearly disappeared.

Here’s more background information on fractional gifts in the New York Times in 2006 and 2008.



NEA Survey Shows a Decline in Art Participation

posted by Christopher Howard


American audiences for the arts are getting older and their numbers are declining, according to new research released yesterday by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Arts Participation 2008: Highlights from a National Survey, which can be ordered or downloaded from the NEA website, features top findings from the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, the nation’s largest and most representative periodic study of adult participation in arts events and activities, conducted by the NEA in partnership with the US Census Bureau.

Five times since 1982, the survey has asked US adults eighteen and older about their patterns of arts participation over a twelve-month period. The 2008 survey reveals dwindling audiences for many art forms, but it also captures new data on internet use and other forms of arts participation. Although the 2008 recession likely affected survey responses, long-term trend analysis indicates that other factors also may have contributed to lower arts participation rates.

There are persistent patterns of decline in participation for most art forms. Although nearly 35 percent of US adults—an estimated 78 million—attended an art museum or an arts performance in the 2008 survey period, the figure is a decline from 40 percent reported in 1982, 1992, and 2002.

Attendance at the most popular types of arts events—such as art museums and craft or visual-arts festivals—saw notable declines. The US rate of attendance for art museums fell slightly from a high of 26 percent in 1992–2002 to 23 percent in 2008, comparable to the 1982 level.

Further, fewer adults are creating and performing art. Weaving and sewing remain popular as crafts, but the percentage of adults who do those activities has declined by 12 points. Only the number of adults doing photography has increased—from 12 percent in 1992 to 15 percent in 2008.

Historically the most dependable arts participants, forty-five to fifty-four-year-olds, showed the steepest declines in attendance for most art events, compared with other age groups. Educated Americans—the most likely to attend or participate in the arts—are doing so less than before, and less-educated adults have significantly reduced their already low levels of attendance.

In a positive trend, the internet and mass media are reaching substantial audiences for the arts. Consider these findings:

  • About 70 percent of US adults went online for any purpose in 2008 survey, and of those adults, nearly 40 percent used the web to view, listen to, download, or post artworks or performances
  • Thirty percent of internet-using adults download, watch, or listen to music, theater, or dance performances online at least once a week. More than 20 percent of them view paintings, sculpture, or photography at least once a week
  • More Americans view or listen to broadcasts and recordings of arts events than attend them live (live theater being the sole exception). Classical and Latin or salsa music were the most popular music categories (with 40 and 33.5 million viewers/listeners, respectively), and 33.7 million adults reported listening to, or viewing programs or recordings about books and writers. The same number (33.7 million) enjoyed broadcasts or recordings about the visual arts.

The entire survey questionnaire, the raw data, and a user’s guide are available both on the NEA website and from Princeton University’s Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive (CPANDA). More detailed study results will be available later this year.




The Artist-Museum Partnership Act of 2009, legislation introduced in both houses of Congress, would allow a fair-market-value tax deduction for charitable contributions of literary, musical, artistic, or scholarly compositions to collecting institutions such as museums, libraries, and archives. At present, a donating artist, writer, or composer can only deduct the cost of materials used to create the work, which is not a fair incentive to donate and also hurts the missions of public and nonprofit institutions nationwide to increase public access to these unique creations.

The sponsors of the bill—Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) for S 405 and Representatives John Lewis (D-GA) and Todd Platts (R-PA) for HR 1126—hope that past enthusiasm for such legislation will grow in the current 111th Congress. Although similar Senate bills have passed five times in previous years, the House version of the bill in the 110th Congress had 111 cosponsors. Now that a new Congress is underway, more cosponsors are needed to help advance the bill.

The American Association of Museums has worked with the Association of Art Museum Directors to provide a draft letter that you can use to encourage your federal lawmakers to cosponsor the bill. With your help, this important legislation for both artists and institutions can move forward.



Vigils for Anniversary of Iraq Museum Looting

posted by Christopher Howard


April 10–12, 2009, is the sixth anniversary of the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad and the subsequent pillaging of archeological sites across Iraq. In the years since 2003, Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE) has held, and has encouraged others to hold, global candlelight vigils in commemoration of the tragic loss suffered by the ransacking of the museum and the looting of artworks and artifacts there—many of which are still missing despite the recent reopening of seven museum galleries.

In New York, a gathering is taking place on April 11, 6:00–7:30 PM, in Washington Square Park. For those living in or near New York, please join the vigil. Donny George, former director of the Iraq Museum, is scheduled to speak.

Elsewhere in the United States, lectures, discussions, and SAFE-related vigils are being held at institutions in Fairbanks, Alaska; St. Paul, Minnesota; Eugene, Oregon; Ceres, California; and Amherst, Massachusetts. Please see the full list of vigil times and locations. You may also host a vigil in your own area.

To show additional support, please light a virtual candle on the SAFE website. By completing a simple form, your name and location will be displayed on your personal candle page and will also be listed on the main virtual-candle page.

For a review of the tragic events of 2003, read an interview with Donny George, conducted by Zainab Bahrani, in the September 2007 CAA News, as well as his detailed talk prepared for the 2008 Annual Conference in the May 2008 issue.

SAFE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving cultural heritage worldwide. Its mission is to raise public awareness about the irreversible damage that results from looting, smuggling, and trading illicit antiquities. SAFE promotes respect for the laws and treaties that enable nations to protect their cultural property and preserve humanity’s most precious nonrenewable resource: the intact evidence of our undiscovered past. While the impetus to found SAFE was the ransacking of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad in April 2003, its efforts are global. SAFE has no political affiliations.




CAA has joined a list of twenty-six national organizations, six regional museum associations, and thirty-nine state associations in sending a letter to President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team. The letter, drafted by the American Association of Museums and sent on December 22, 2008, states the case for the importance of US museums of all kinds and recommends $50 million in funding for the Office of Museum Services at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in fiscal year 2010—an increase of $19 million over this year’s budget.




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