Arts in the News: Difficulty for Visiting Artists, Hacker Blackmails Netflix, NYC Museums and U.S. National Report Card for Students

Economic Austerity in Mongolia Means Difficulty for Visiting Artists
The Philadelphia Orchestra was set to visit Mongolia on a spring tour of the Far East, but due to economic austerity measures in the host country, Mongolia can no longer afford to host the orchestra. “Changes happen when you work with external partners far away,” explains Ryan Fleur, executive vice president of orchestra advancement. The orchestra is exploring several options, including sending a smaller group of musicians for outreach concerts. The originally planned visit was intended to further cement diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Mongolia; last fall, the Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj expressed his happiness to work with the Philadelphia Orchestra to make the tour visit happen. Hopefully the orchestra will still be able to make the visit in some capacity, even if it is with a smaller contingent of musicians. The world tours of orchestras and other arts and music groups are no doubt important ways to share beauty and culture across borders.

Hacker Blackmails Netflix, Releases New Episodes of Popular Series
An anonymous hacker has released pirated episodes of the new season of Netflix’s original series “Orange Is The New Black.” After Netflix failed to pay what the hacker called a “modest” ransom, the hacker, who goes by the screen name “thedarkoverlord,” announced on Twitter that episodes 2-10 (of the 13-episode fifth season) were available to be illegally downloaded. Netflix originally planned the release of the fifth season for June 9 of this year; the leak has many thinking the streaming service will move up the release date. The hacker has apparently accessed material from other television providers, including ABC, National Geographic, Fox, and IFC, and is warning them to learn from Netflix’s mistake in not paying the ransom offered. Netflix currently enjoys a worldwide subscriber base of nearly 100 million; some are speculating the leak may inhibit subscriber growth and prove detrimental to the company’s earnings. If the hacker’s threats prove to be real, other companies may face similar consequences. The leak brings new attention to the issue of illegal downloading and the ramifications for arts and entertainment producers.

NYC Museums “Trading Places” on Social Media
For one day at the end of April, museums in New York City switched Instagram accounts with one another to introduce followers to other arts institutions in their neighborhoods. Thirty-two museums are participating in the social media initiative, called #MuseumInstaSwap, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim Museum. Each museum was paired with a partner museum; throughout the day, each posted photos from the other’s collection, enticing Instagram followers to explore those collections in person. Museums are hoping that the campaign will show the solidarity of the museum world and the connections between, say, the American Folk Art Museum and the Japan Society. Hopefully the campaign helped to inspire New Yorkers to visit different museums and more deeply explore the amazing art collections the city has to offer!

U.S. National Report Card for Students in Visual Arts and Music
For the third time in its history, the U.S. government has released a national report card looking at the knowledge, understanding, and abilities of American eighth-graders in visual arts and music. Unfortunately, the report shows little progress since the last assessment was released in 2008. One of the few areas of improvement shows that the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students has narrowed, though the gap itself is still significant. The report is released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which regularly reports on student achievement in math, reading, and science, but only rarely (1997, 2008, and now from 2016) in music and visual arts. The arts assessment measures students’ ability to understand and interpret historical pieces of art and music, as well as their creative abilities. On a scale of 1-300, students averaged 147 in music and 149 in visual arts (lower than the averages of 150 in both categories in 2008, but not statistically significantly so). Perhaps one of the most disappointing findings is that fewer than half of eighth graders had taken an arts class in 2016–only 42 percent. Hopefully the report brings much needed attention to the state of arts education in the U.S. and important areas for improvement!

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