Art Protests. Creative Class. Usher-Cams?

This month I thought these three articles spoke to issues arts managers and leaders are facing.

Historic Change?

Ben Davis’ opinion piece focuses on the repercussions of the protests related to the Whitney Museum board member and Vice-Chair Warren B. Kanders. Kanders, “is chairman and chief executive of the Safariland Group, which sells multiple lines of military and law enforcement equipment including tear gas.” (Moynihan, 2019) Davis offers the observation that theses protests “open up a new epoch for museums, with effects likely to stalk every institution and every large-scale art event going forward.” (Davis 2019) A class discussion about museum programming, artists and politics, and the kinds of businesses board members are connected to could be an excellent way to open the semester. Whether we are entering “a new epoch” or not might be a good starting point for a conversation.

Where is the creative class?

Richard Florida continues to research and report on his signature topic – the creative class. His recent article in City Lab focuses on changes in the creative class before, during, and after the most recent recession. He points to a shift in the metro areas where members of the creative class are employed. Florida estimates there was an increase from 44 million to 56 million in the creative class between 2005 and 2017. He posits that the new metro areas seeing the fastest growth in the creative class are partly a result of the lack of affordability in cities like San Jose, San Francisco, and New York, among others.

After reading Florida’s report, I suggest exploring two other articles about his work to gain some perspective. First, read Pete Saunders 2017 Forbes article The Evolution of The Creative Class and then take a look at Oliver Wainwright’s interview in The Guardian with Florida entitled ‘Everything is gentrification now’: but Richard Florida isn’t sorry (October 2017). These additional sources should make for an exciting discussion about the more important topic of cultural and urban policymaking and its implementation.

Do we need usher-cams?

The last article takes us to the topic of what appears to be the devolving behavior of audiences. While there are certainly historical records which describe riotous behavior by audiences at arts events (McPherson, 2002), the recent reports by a sampling of ushers in theatres in Great Britain give one reason to ponder if there is a need for things such as ‘usher-cams.’ Discussing how best to manage unruly patrons and exploring topics related to the changing risk management environment facing cultural organizations might be fun.


What Warren Kanders’s Defeat at the Whitney Teaches Us About How Protest Works Now

Artnet News – Ben Davis, July 26, 2019 – OPINION

In the pantheon of texts about art, there are very, very few that have had the impact of “The Tear Gas Biennial.” Published online by Artforum last Thursday, it amounted to a powerfully argued renewed call to artists in the Whitney Biennial to boycott the show over the museum’s inaction on removing Warren Kanders, its weapons-manufacturer trustee, from its board. It almost immediately triggered actual and dramatic material consequences.

With months having gone by since the notion of an artist boycott had been first articulated, the push for one was moribund. But by the day after the publication of the essay, a first wave of artists had declared they wanted out of the show; over the weekend, a second wave followed. This Thursday morning, exactly one week after the text was published, Warren Kanders resigned.

The effects are historic. They open up a new epoch for museums, with effects likely to stalk every institution and every large-scale art event going forward. It is hard to say where its ramifications will end, but it’s certain that the expulsion of Kanders will be what this particular biennial is remembered for. [The full opinion piece may be read at the link below or by clicking the headline above.]

Artnet News –


Maps Reveal Where the Creative Class Is Growing – Richard Florida, July 9, 2019

“The rise of the rest” may soon become a reality as once-lagging cities see growth of creative class employment.

One of the most troubling trends of the past decade is the deepening geographic inequality across the U.S., especially through the clustering of particular types of talent in coastal cities like San Francisco and New York. But a growing chorus of economists and urbanists suggest that we may be seeing the “rise of the rest,” a result of both increasingly unaffordable housing in established hubs and the improvement of the economies in less-established hubs. While startups and tech employment remain highly clustered, recent reports suggest that some Rustbelt and Sunbelt metros are increasing their ability to attract college graduates. [The full article with graphics and tables may be read at the link below or by clicking on the headline above.]

City Lab –

Also read: The Evolution of The Creative Class and ‘Everything is gentrification now’: but Richard Florida isn’t sorry


From verbal and physical abuse to ‘poogate’ – ushers reveal their worst experiences working front of house

The Stage – Matthew Hemley – July 19, 2019

Ushers have revealed their experiences of dealing with increasingly aggressive audience members, with incidents ranging from verbal abuse and threatening behaviour to actual physical violence.

The front-of-house employees, who have worked across a number of major West End theatres, shared some of the incidents they have faced in the course of their jobs. They spoke out after it came to light this week that ushers are being given body cameras in a bid to prevent confrontations with audience members from escalating.

The Stage spoke to a number of ushers, past and present, about their working environments, with many claiming the behaviour of “entitled” theatregoers is leading to a situation where they are abused. Ushers reported being spat and shouted at, being physically assaulted and having to break up fights between audience members themselves. [The full article may be read at the link below or by clicking on the headline above.]

The Stage –



McPherson, H., 2002. Theatrical Riots and Cultural Politics in Eighteenth-Century London. The Eighteenth Century, Vol. 43(#3), pp. 236-252.

Moynihan, C., 2019. Whitney Biennial Artists Call for Board Member Linked to Tear Gas to Step Down, New York: New York Times.