The initiative, which will play an active role in occurrences of alteration or censorship of work and will provide resources for arts communities, both academic and professional, will be led by arts administrator, writer and advocate Howard Sherman.
Projects associated with the Office for Arts Integrity include integrated coursework in conjunction with a forthcoming Master's degree in Arts Management and Entrepreneurship; a collective space for affected professional and community artists to raise concerns and seek guidance; an online publication chronicling challenges to artistic expression and offering original work speaking directly to those issues from within the New School community and expert outside voices; and public programs to raise awareness of the silencing of artistic works and devise strategies for mobilization of the creative and educational communities.
"As long as books are banned, creative works are rewritten, and plays and musicals are eliminated by schools because they deal with challenging issues, we need to be vigilant about protecting freedom of speech, quality education and the rights of artists," Richard Kessler, executive dean of The New School's Performing Arts School and Dean of Mannes School of Music, said in a statement. "With this new program, The New School addresses the subject from multiple vantage points, developing students who understand the necessity of free artistic expression as a means by which to explore, reflect, and critique society."
"I began doing work in this area on an ad hoc basis four years ago," Sherman added, "and since that time I've increasingly found the need for a proactive resource to study and address arts censorship, supporting both academic and professional arts companies in their efforts to do work that has the greatest rewards for their constituencies. At the same time, I find more and more examples of works being altered unilaterally to appease often arbitrary assessments of what is appropriate or acceptable – or even simply appealing."
Recent arts censorship efforts have included the cancellations of Almost, Maine in North Carolina and Spamalot in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania; and the cancellations and subsequent restorations of Rent in Trumbull, CT, and Sweeney Todd in Plaistow, NH. A Pennsylvania high school production of Spamalot was revealed to have been canceled due to gay content. Read about the Dramatists Guild's response to the cancellation here. The director of the production was fired.
Read about the cancellation of Almost Maine, and the students' success with fundraising an independent production through Kickstarter, here.
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