WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 30-February 5, 2012)

ARTS & CULTURE

“Museum features items Made in NY; South Street Seaport Museum reopened.”
last week. By Jeremy Smerd. Crain’s New York Business. January 29, 2012. The city’s manufacturing industry has all the makings of a museum exhibit: It’s old and exists mainly in the past. But rather than lament a bygone era, the South Street Seaport Museum, as part of its grand reopening, is celebrating the small-scale artisanship still flourishing here. “Made in New York” features three galleries filled with furniture and clothing made locally and in limited batches. Psychedelic-looking wallpaper, a chaise longue made out of cork, cabinet drawers built from recycled lumber, custom-made staircases and hand-blown glass are among the items being exhibited. Most can be ordered directly from the artists. “Everyone thinks there is no longer manufacturing in New York, but there actually is,” said Donald Albrecht, curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York, which took control of the shuttered South Street museum in the fall and reopened it last week. Mr. Albrecht discovered many of the Brooklyn artists in Dumbo, Williamsburg, and Sunset Park’s Industry City at Bush Terminal, where goods-makers keep the history of New York’s manufacturing alive and working.

King Center ex-CEO opens up.” By Shelia M. Poole and Ernie Suggs. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 27, 2012. In an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Martin King said his concerns about the blurring of lines between the nonprofit King Center and the for-profit King Inc. left him with no choice but to leave the organization he had led for 18 months. This month, the center’s seven-person board of mainly family members removed King as CEO, replacing him with his sister, Bernice King. At the same time, Martin King, still bearing the title of president, said he was stripped of his executive powers and responsibility, leaving his position little more than a “ceremonial” one. “I disagree with the new direction of the board, which makes the center essentially an extension of King Inc. rather than acknowledge the fundamentally different and at times conflicting motives of a for-profit corporation vs. a public foundation,” King wrote in a resignation letter he submitted to the board Jan. 17. “The convergence of the two entities is evidenced by the placement of King Inc. staff in control of the center, including the interim managing director position.” But while King is citing philosophical differences, a person close to the situation is claiming that King was stripped of his powers in essence because he wasn’t a good leader.
Houston attorney Terry M. Giles, who was appointed by a judge to serve as the custodian of King Inc., said as president and CEO of the King Center, King was not moving the organization forward. Giles, who is applying through the Fulton County Superior Court to be the custodian of the King Center as well, said that during King’s time at the helm, virtually no fundraising had been done to “assure the future and proper care of the center.” In essence, the whole of the King estate is divided into two parts, King Inc. and the King Center. The King Center was launched in 1968 by Coretta Scott King as a place to carry on her late husband’s work in peace, civil rights and nonviolence. King Inc. was established later as the financial arm of the family, controlling the use of King’s image and words. King Inc. has taken in millions and has been a major guardian of King’s likeness — often suing big and small companies over unauthorized usage.

Asia Society Expands, East and West.” By Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. January 31, 2012. Even as cultural organizations around the country contract because of the economic downturn, Asia Society is pushing against the tide with two new multimillion-dollar buildings, one of which opens in Hong Kong next week, the other in Houston this spring. The buildings are part of a philosophical as well as physical expansion for the society, a nonprofit institution founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller III to educate the public about Asia and perhaps best known for the elegance of its headquarters and galleries on Park Avenue at 70th Street. Long regarded as a New York institution with regional branches, Asia Society over the last few years has aimed to recast itself as an international organization, partly through the construction of the two major centers in cities where it previously had only offices. The new buildings — each of which cost about $50 million — will catapult the annual operating costs of each location to $4.5 million from about $1 million, but Asia Society says it is confident about the investment. “By the year 2050, more than 50 percent of the world’s gross domestic product will come from India and China,” Vishakha N. Desai, president of the society, said in a recent interview at her office. More than 60 percent of the population will live in Asia then, she said. “We’re going from Pax Americana to possibly Pax Pacifica,” she added. “This is a century when America will be a very important player, but not the player. There is a different balance of power in the world.” Because the world has changed, so has Asia Society’s mission. Where once the organization was focused on explaining Asia to Americans, now it emphasizes strengthening partnerships in areas like culture, business, public policy and education, not only between Asians and Americans but among Asians themselves

Underground Railroad Freedom Center battling tough times.” By Mark Curnutte. USA Today/Cincinnati Enquirer. February 2, 2012. It opened to great fanfare and promise in 2004. Now, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, whose exhibits focus on the story of the American struggle for freedom, especially that of African Americans, is in deep financial trouble that could force it to shut down. Located where African Americans crossed the Ohio River into freedom, the center has cut expenses severely but faces a $1.5 million shortfall in its 2012 budget, said Freedom Center board Co-chairman John Pepper and other center leaders. Pepper, chairman of the board of Walt Disney; the Rev. Damon Lynch, Pepper’s Freedom Center co-chairman; and Kim Robinson, the center’s president and chief executive, discussed the threat of the center closing by the end of 2012. “We were not crying wolf,” Pepper said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. The Freedom Center’s budget has been cut from $12.5 million in 2004 to $4.6 million in 2011, and its workforce from 120 to 34 full-time employees, Robinson said. “We are scratching and clawing,” he said. By its nature as an institution that examines the enslavement of Africans in North America, the Freedom Center has struggled to fight the label that it’s a black-only museum, Lynch said. The Freedom Center, by its leadership’s admission, failed to market its mission clearly enough and appeal to all audiences. “We need to become more engaging to bring families and young people through our door,” Pepper said. Pepper is the Freedom Center’s primary fundraiser and benefactor. He and his wife, Francie, have contributed more than $15 million since 1999, he said.

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