Editor’s Fanfare Vol. V – No. 7

More Bad News


After all the disappointments circophiles have had to endure in recent months, we now have this: A bill barring the circus from using exotic animals for entertainment is gaining momentum in the New York City Council. The bill, a favorite of animal rights groups that had previously tried to ban horse carriages in Central Park, would effectively keep The Greatest Show on Earth from ever again appearing anywhere in the city, and this includes Brooklyn.  The bill’s sponsors have pushed similar legislature in the past but it never gained traction until the council has agreed to give the bill a hearing for the first time.  The hearing was held October 20.

Some horse carriage drivers plan on testifying against the bill, as a show of support for another embattled industry. Hopefully their arguments will prevail and save a traditional that dates back to 1793 and is celebrated in Matthew Wittmann’s book Circus and the City 1793-2010, published by Bard Graduate Center.

In response the New York Post, a newspaper which New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has denounced and banned from his press conferences, editorialized, calling the bill “another attempt to curry favor with animal-rights extremists…Too bad about the disappointed kids –and the lost jobs….Unless you’re a fanatic who opposes any commercial use of animals,  there’s no real cause here. Circus beasts are already protected by federal, state and city laws…  The circus bill is just the kind of idle-hands-doing-the-devils-work that we feared when the council’s members voted themselves into full-time jobs.  Here’s hoping the more adult lawmakers find the spine to ignore the animal-rights activists.  If the council insists on messing with the circus, it’s proving itself a pack of clowns.”

Here’s hoping indeed.

Funding Not for Profit Arts Organizations a Wide-Spread Problem

The feature article in this issue chronicles the decline and fall of the Big Apple Circus. Its financial woes are hardly unique however.  Orchestras seem to be in the same boat as other performing arts institutions like the Big Apple Circus.  While orchestras across the country face endemic challenges—rising costs and weakening demand, along with difficulty raising money as classical music’s place in the broader culture fades—each ensemble has its own obstacles and its fortunes are tied to its community’s.

The financial challenge of orchestras like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia’s Symphonies has grown as orchestras that could once count on support from business leaders and industrialists, now must struggle to raise money in a very different kind of economy. Sounds familiar.


Something to think about.

An Op Ed piece in the New York Times recently suggested that athletes in college sports programs should be able to earn the same kind of academic degree for their work in sports as those earned by people studying the arts.  In response a letter writer said :

“There is a similar beauty and grace in both sports and the arts, but comparing the performance of a violin concerto to a successful three-point shot is a deeply flawed argument. Although perfection of technique is necessary in both, the arts operate in a different sphere by communicating profound intellectual and emotional truths….Let us agree that sports are an elemental part of our global society.  And yes, a Stephen Curry three-pointer or a great catch by Odell Beckham Jr. are experiences of grace and beauty, but they cannot be viewed within the same context as the intellectual and emotional power of an August Wilson play or a Beethoven sonata.”

What would we think about all this if we put circus into the equation, and compare it first to the experience of watching a sporting event and then to a play or piece of music?