Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Violence in the Arts

As I was perusing the arts news of today, a headline popped out and caught my eye: “St. Petersburg Composer’s Opera Incites Violence.” My first question was, how can an opera result in violence? Upon clicking the link, I soon realized that the opera had yet to be performed, and that the violence was a reaction to its scheduled preview. Thinking as an arts manager, I began wondering where the boundaries of our responsibility to our artists, performers, creators are. I know most of us feel as though we are responsible for providing audiences with new and thought-provoking experiences. I think it’s an special aspect and opportunity in our career’s. Ilya Demutsky, the composer, has announced since the attack that the opera won’t be debuting due to the “…worsening political and cultural climate…”.

I think it’s easy to take for granted the artistic freedom we have in the United States, and this article provides a reminder to take care of the creativity that artists have, and to remember our responsibility of providing a safe space for artistic ideas to come alive.

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5 comments on “Violence in the Arts

  1. Samantha Sobash
    September 5, 2014

    What a compelling post! We rarely consider instances of such violent acts against artists producing controversial work. Controversial work is often celebrated because it provokes people to consider intimidating social, emotional, or spiritual issues. It proves the essential role arts managers have as artistic directors. Artistic directors have to consider potential responses to such art; have a keen sensitivity towards contemporary affairs especially in places of unrest. In this instance, “hunters for pedophiles” seemed to be highly misconstrued by the attacker. However, it is unpredictable how people of any population will respond to provocative subjects.

    This is not to say arts managers should steer clear of presenting controversial work wherever they are, but be prepared to provide security for all those involved in the process. Perhaps a screening processes should be provided by the producing organization as an inclusive service. The work is the risk of the artist, but once commissioned, safety is the responsibility of the organization. Safety mechanisms are a vital asset to the organization, their artists, and their audience’s well being.

  2. doctorcoyote
    September 5, 2014

    This is a really interesting incident especially in relation to a book I’m reading now, ‘The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning’ by Maggie Nelson. It addresses (among a lot of other things) the relationship between violence and art, how art can address or have themes of violence. It also examines the behavior of both the audience and the artist in understanding and responding to these themes. There are so many levels of violence here- the violence in the society that Mr. Demutsky is exploring through his opera, the violence in the opera itself and how he chooses to portray it to an audience, the violence against his own person.

    On another note, I agree that an important roles of arts manager is to provide a safe space to share voices that might be silenced in other situations. There are groups like Sampsonia Way and City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, whose entire mission is to find these voices and give them a signal boost. From Sampsonia Way’s website: “We seek to protect and advocate for writers who may be endangered, to educate the public about threats to writers and literary expression, and to create a community in which endangered writers thrive and literary culture is a valued part of everyday life.”
    You should check out their free online journal! They provide residencies for exiled writers and help them share their work with the local community through readings and events. Below are the links to Sampsonia and City of Asylum:

    http://www.cityofasylumpittsburgh.org/

    http://www.sampsoniaway.org/

  3. carolynsupinka18
    September 5, 2014

    This is a really interesting incident especially in relation to a book I’m reading now, ‘The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning’ by Maggie Nelson. It addresses (among a lot of other things) the relationship between violence and art, how art can address or have themes of violence. It also examines the behavior of both the audience and the artist in understanding and responding to these themes. There are so many levels of violence here- the violence in the society that Mr. Demutsky is exploring through his opera, the violence in the opera itself and how he chooses to portray it to an audience, the violence against his own person.

    On another note, I agree that an important roles of arts manager is to provide a safe space to share voices that might be silenced in other situations. There are groups like Sampsonia Way and City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, whose entire mission is to find these voices and give them a signal boost. From Sampsonia Way’s website: “We seek to protect and advocate for writers who may be endangered, to educate the public about threats to writers and literary expression, and to create a community in which endangered writers thrive and literary culture is a valued part of everyday life.”
    You should check out their free online journal! They provide residencies for exiled writers and help them share their work with the local community through readings and events. Below are the links to Sampsonia and City of Asylum:

    http://www.cityofasylumpittsburgh.org/

    http://www.sampsoniaway.org/

    -Carolyn Supinka

  4. amyjoforeman
    September 5, 2014

    Wow! This was a fascinating read. I’m embarrassed by how unaware I’ve previously been to this kind of hate. It makes me wonder how common this is. Demutsky’s resilience to produce his piece is inspiring.

    I found this quote from Demutsky particularly interesting: “It just so happens that it’s the works that deal with today’s reality that causes a reaction.” Is today’s reality so disturbing to people that they’ll taser someone in an effort to keep them silent??

    In my last job it was a big deal when one of our actors had a stalker so we had to take some precautions. I can’t imagine the precautions we would have to take if there was a threat of an artist being tazed!

    It’s great to also learn about organizations like City of Asylum whose mission is to provide for threatened writers. Thanks for sharing!

  5. yaoge2016
    September 5, 2014

    As future arts manager, we should not only encourage the innovation of artistic work which reveals the reality of the world and may be controversial, but also be the guard of the involved artists and coworkers, anticipating possible dispute from audience.

    I have to say the violence issue is striking but rather infrequent. It’s true we should provide our artist with safe space to convey the message, but it’s really hard to tell what to present and what not to. Sometimes it’s hard to persuade the writer who write the new and perfectly organized play to change some content just for incidence of low occurrence rate. That may trigger fight between writers/artists and us managers.

    As I’m lacking in the relevant experience, it’s hard for me to tell how to handle the situation where arts manager cares for writer/artists, while they think he is conservative and try to interfere with their artist creation.

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