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Arts in the News: Deserving Programs of Study in Kentucky, Mozart’s Avian Muse and more…

Kentucky Governor Sparks Debate about Deserving Programs of Study

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin recently sparked debate by saying public universities should consider cutting programs that don’t graduate students who can fill high-paying and in-demand jobs. Bevin reportedly envisions a Kentucky that functions as a center of engineering and manufacturing for the rest of the country; he spoke to postsecondary education trustees, advising them to cut programs, degrees, and buildings that “shouldn’t be there because you’re maintaining something that’s not an asset of any value, that’s not helping to produce the 21st-century educated workforce.” He continued, saying, “If you’re studying interpretive dance, God bless you, but there’s not a lot of jobs right now in American looking for people with that as a skill set.” Early in 2016, Bevin made news when he said taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize the study of French literature. Kentucky has cut state funding for higher education by more than $200 million since 2008. Faculty and students in higher education have voiced criticism of Bevin’s recent remarks; Lee Blonder, a professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky and a university trustee, argues: “I think [his comments] show a lack of understanding of how innovation, creativity, and productivity are nurtured by faculty in an institute of higher education.” In a world of limited resources, often arts programs and courses are the first to suffer. Hopefully, students of the arts in Kentucky can continue to get the funding they need to pursue their passions and exercise their creativity!

What Does it Take to Be Director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

Ever wonder what it takes to be the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art? The Met’s recent search for a new director has helped to publicize the incredible breadth and time commitment of the job. A publicized job description outlines the leader’s responsibilities, which include overseeing 31 departments, including 17 curatorial offices, 5 conservation teams, and research, education, digital media, publications, and design divisions. The director is responsible for managing the collection, including a number of endowed acquisition funds that generate roughly $26 million annually, as well as gifts from patrons. The new director will also help shape and support the new Southwest wing of the museum, a $600 million extension to the building set to house modern and contemporary art. Unfortunately, plans for the new wing were put on hold in January, and no doubt the new director will help to get them back in motion. Museum trustee Candace Beineke, co-chair of the search committee, said they expect to begin interviews soon, but there is no particular rush. Know anyone qualified for the job? Members of the public are free to send comments and suggestions to the Met email address!

Mozart’s Avian Muse
The legend of Mozart’s pet starling lives on largely because of notes scribbled on a single page of the composer’s pocket notebook: directly under an entry recording the amount he paid for the bird, Mozart scribbed two lines of music: the first, a theme from his Concerto in G major; the second, a near variation of the first. It was the second theme that composer reportedly heard the bird singing in the shop when he decided to purchase it. In Mozart’s Starling, ecophilosopher and naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt investigates the legend of the composer’s bird. The type of bird has long puzzled historians and musicians alike–the starling is regarded as common–a “uniquitous, non-native, invasive species.” Mozart kept his Starling until his death, but no one knows for sure whether the starling served as his muse for the Concerto in G major or any other pieces. In order to immerse herself in Mozart’s experience, Haupt herself adopted a starling to research her book. Ultimately, she does not attempt to solve the long-running mystery. Interesting in hearing more about Mozart’s avian muse? Check out Haupt’s book, or The Spectator’s piece about it HERE.

Artistic Preparations for the Funeral of Thailand’s Monarch

In preparation for the funeral of Bhumidol Adulyadej, known as Rama IX, Thailand’s beloved monarch of 70 years, twenty architects from the Thai government’s Fine Arts department are working long hours to prepare the massive, ornate funeral pyre. The monarch will be cremated in an elaborate ceremony in late October of this year. In designing and constructing the funeral pyre, details are everything. One of the architects, Charinee Artachinda, explains that the process is one that works at evolutions within, not revolutions overshadowing, the tradition. No architects in Thailand are taught in design school how to prepare the King’s funeral pyre–it is considered bad luck. Instead, architects of the pyre are expected to review historical images and rely on word of mouth among funeral rite practitioners. Because of Rama IX’s long reign, however, few architects or artists still alive today have first-hand experience of the process. The long reign has left other gaps in knowledge: the Thai government has announced that it will publish 10,000 copies of a royal glossary so that those in attendance at the funeral will be able to follow along with the ritual, performed in the Pali-Sanskrit royal tongue. The estimated budget for the pyre itself 1 billion baht (30 million USD); most of the creation will, of course, dissolve by the end of the cremation ceremony, though standalone sections will be saved for museums and temples across Thailand. The completed pyre will most certainly be a sight to behold!

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