Required Reading

Required Reading

If we consider the role of the “arts manager”, it becomes easy to recognise why arts leaders are abandoning the industry.

Arts leaders do not just support the creation of art. They are marketers, customer service specialists, supply chain and logistics experts, grant writers, human resources managers and – increasingly – risk managers.

They are trying to bring back audiences post-COVID while juggling a contentious funding landscape that balances the need for revenue with audience, staff and artist expectations arts organisations do not partner with corporations that fail to align with organisational values.

Omar’s wandering had seemed to me a refusal of plain suffering, something akin to what Zora Neale Hurston called the African-American “will to adorn.” It was certainly a refusal of simple answers. For several decades, the house museums have shored up longtime residents’ memories and their own views of the city. For a generation of black elders, these places are an antidote to a society that has told them in no uncertain terms that their lives and deaths do not matter.

  • Per a vote this past week, the American Bar Association will no longer mandate the LSAT requirement for law schools starting fall 2025, Erin Mulvaney writes for the Wall Street Journal:

Public comments over eliminating the testing requirement have been polarized, largely around the issue of diversity. The legal profession has long been criticized for a lack of women and people of color in its top ranks, and the panel’s debate comes as schools are bracing for a decision from the Supreme Court on whether race can be a factor in college admissions.

“In the grand scheme of things, folks of color perform less well on the LSAT than not, and for that reason, I think we are headed in the right direction,” Leo Martinez, an ABA council member and dean emeritus at University of California, Hastings College of the Law, said at the meeting. “I am sympathetic that it gives people like me a chance.”

  • For Vulture, critic Andrea Long Chu investigates where prescient writer Octavia Butler’s intentions as an author differed from readers’ interpretation of a number of her stories as commentary on slavery — and why this assumption is complicated:

Butler made her own decision, coolly telling an interviewer in 1996, “The only places I am writing about slavery is where I actually say so.” Yet she had often seemed to say so. In fact, slavery had been present in Butler’s work from the very beginning: her debut novel from 1976, Patternmaster, was the first in a hugely ambitious saga about the millennia-long breeding of a telepathic master race known as the Patternists who eventually enslave some of Earth’s population and drive the rest off-world. Three novels later, in 1979, Butler found mainstream success with Kindred, in which a present-day Black woman is mysteriously transported to the antebellum South to repeatedly save the life of her slave-owning white ancestor. That novel was followed by Wild Seed in 1980, the fourth in the Patternist series, about two sparring African immortals set against the backdrop of the Atlantic slave trade.

In this light, longtime fans could be forgiven for taking “Bloodchild” as one more of Butler’s slave stories. But there was another explanation for readers’ response. “So many critics have read this as a story about slavery, probably just because I am Black,” Butler observed.

  • The Brooklyn Public Library announced its 125 most borrowed books ever, and some of the titles might surprise you. Gothamist‘s Kerry Shaw gives us a brief overview:

Though picture books dominate, the list features some titles for more advanced readers. Agatha Christie, Sylvia Plath, and John Steinbeck, for example, have books on the list; Stephen King does not.

The idea for the Most Borrowed List was hatched in July, when the library reached a different milestone: It loaned its one billionth item. Kenton said her team started to wonder what, exactly, had the library been loaning? And what was most beloved?

To answer that question, they consulted annual reports, which the library has kept every year since it was first opened in 1896. They looked at circulation data, book-buying records, bestseller lists, and historical documents to identify popular hits. The entire process took about two months, she said.

  • Marking the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997’s 25th anniversary this month, scholar Dorothy Roberts explains for Slate the cataclysmic impact of the Clinton-era law and its continued ramifications for Black families:

Racist mythology about Black families, such as the “welfare queen” and the “crack baby,” helped to fuel these punitive bipartisan measures. When ASFA’s backers argued for increasing adoptions to reduce the mushrooming foster population, Black children were four times as likely as white children to be removed from their homes and made up the largest group in the foster systemAdvocates portrayed Black families’ ties as the chief impediment to permanency for children in foster care. The solution, they argued, was to “free” Black children from their mothers by permanently extinguishing their legal bonds to make them available for adoption. Some transracial adoption advocates portrayed expedited terminations of Black mothers’ rights as a means for facilitating adoptions of Black children by white couples.

  • Javier C. Hernández writes for the New York Times that women now outnumber men in the New York Philharmonic by one musician. And it only took 180 years!

The Philharmonic still falls short by several measures. Women hold only about a third of its leadership positions, including its principal positions and assistant or associate principals, which are the best-paid positions for players. The orchestra has never had a female music director. Some sections remain noticeably divided by gender: 27 of its 30 violinists are now women, for example, while the percussion section is made up entirely of men. There is still a glaring lack of Black and Latino members.

Still, many artists hailed the new prevalence of women in the Philharmonic as a significant development. Symphony orchestras were long seen as the dominion of men. And turnover is generally extremely slow at leading ensembles like the Philharmonic, whose players are tenured and can remain in their posts for many years. Meaningful demographic change can take decades.

Think about how spoken language tends to place information in a definite context. When recalling your day, you might say: “I went to the shops and bought eggs, flour, and milk to make pancakes.” The list, by comparison, abandons continuity for atomization, removing individual items from a wider narrative (to buy: eggs, flour, milk). It fosters what psychologists call “chunking”—the process of breaking down large quantities of data into manageable subdivisions and measuring out the world in discrete packages. Most of us are aware instinctively of the benefits of this approach. When we’re wracked by vague terror about tasks yet to be tackled, we often resort to list-making, paring down the madness of the world into something that can be managed one job at a time.

  • Lots of people have theories of why Twitter might be doomed, but a pro in the field breaks it down in more technical terms on this thread:
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Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.