Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Plugging the arts
Elizabeth Jensen
October 15, 2010

PBS has always provided a home for programming on the visual arts in the US, but a new initiative by the public service channel means there will be more of it and it will be more accessible than ever. New Orleans-based sculptural artist Thomas Mann’s “Storm Cycle” collection is featured in the first virtual exhibition, “Ruin and Revival,” on the new PBS Arts, a web portal that launched on 23 August (For">www.pbs.org/arts).

For the online exhibition, marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, PBS’s “Craft in America” producers filmed Mann at sites that inspired his work, which is also the subject of a slideshow.

Visual art is one of five areas of focus on the new site, which received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Anne Ray Charitable Trust; the others are theatre, music, dance and film.

“The metaphor that we’re using is to create an experience that’s analogous to going to a museum where you will be able to handle the exhibits and interact with the artists,” said Jason Seiken, the senior vice president of new media at PBS.

Users will be able to upload their own related artwork to a Flickr page, and PBS will be inviting museums and other arts institutions to contribute content. More events like the non-profit Art:21’s June live-streaming of “The Present Perfect”, an on-stage discussion of collaboration and creativity with artists Laurie Simmons and Oliver Herring, are planned.

Within a year, PBS plans to expand its arts initiative to broadcast, with a dedicated night of programming each week. In anticipation, some PBS series have already increased arts-related content.

Next April, the documentary series “Independent Lens” will focus solely on the visual arts, with four films in four weeks, according to the series producer Lois Vossen. In addition, the first documentary film on the life of William S. Burroughs, which will appear in US cinemas this autumn, has been slated to air on PBS in May.

The surfeit of visual arts films this season was a happy coincidence of timing, Vossen said, but given the strong audience response to last season’s “Herb and Dorothy,” about a postal clerk and a librarian who amassed a major contemporary art collection, Vossen said she didn’t “see it as a one-time trend”.


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