In The Limelight For February 17, 2011: National Arts News

A look at this week's national headlines in the arts.

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Photo: Michael Huey

An exhibition at Washington, D.C.'s National Portrait Gallery was the focus of a controversy involving members of the Catholic League and the House of Representatives this week.

Here’s a look at what’s in the limelight this week in national arts news.

A Range Of Ages Take This Year’s Grammys

The 53rd annual Grammy Awards were held last week in Los Angeles, where the biggest winner was the Nashville-based group Lady Antebellum. The country-pop trio took away five awards, including record and song of the year for “Need You Now.” Album of the year went to the indie rock group Arcade Fire for “The Suburbs.” Rap artist Eminem took away the awards for best rap album, for his record “Recovery,” and best rap solo performance, for the song “Not Afraid,” and the blues rock band The Black Keys won best alternative album, for “Brothers.” This year’s Grammy-winners were of all different ages: Pop star Lady Gaga, just 24, won best pop vocal album for her sensational record “The Fame Monster,” and 26-year-old jazz artist Esperanza Spalding was given the award for best new artist; meanwhile, Neil Young, 66, took best rock song, for “Angry World,” and 71-year-old Mavis Staples won the award for best Americana album, for “You Are Not Alone.”

Multinational Streetcar Dresses Stanley Kowalski In Satin

Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire will be the first American play to be produced by the Paris group Comedie-Française in over three hundred thirty years. The group is taking a decidedly international approach, staging the piece in a traditional Japanese dogugaeshi style, with paper sliding screens and a satin tiger jacket for Stanley Kowalski, the character whom Marlon Brando made legendary in the 1951 film directed by Elia Kazan. Though the production, called Un tramway nommé désir in French, will be performed in Orientalist Japanese, it is directed by an American, Lee Breuer, of the New York performance group Mabou Mines.

Obama’s New Budget Is Kind To The Smithsonian

President Obama’s proposed $3.7 trillion budget for the 2012 fiscal year aims to cut the nation’s deficit by over $1 trillion over the next decade. The budgets of more than two hundred federally-funded programs will be cut or eliminated altogether, but the funding for some programs has been increased. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has been appropriated $861.5 million, which is $100 million more than it was awarded in 2010, in part to help sponsor the Institution’s construction of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, which is set to open in 2015. The Smithsonian’s total construction budget is $500 million; half that is being covered by the federal government.

Artwork Removed For Controversial Christian Imagery

Also in D.C., the National Portrait Gallery has apologized for and removed a video from its exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture after the piece was criticized by members of the House of Representatives and the Catholic League for being offensive to Christians. The video was made in the 1980s by artist David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992. The negative reactions of Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, and House Representatives Eric Cantor of Virginia and Jack Kingston, of Georgia, had to do with the video’s imagery of ants crawling over a crucifix. In a statement to the New York Times, the National Portrait Gallery’s director Martin Sullivan defended the artwork’s “sometimes shocking metaphors,” but said that in the current climate of debate over federal spending, it is not in the interest of the Smithsonian and its affiliated galleries to “pick fights.” No other pieces from the exhibition will be removed.

Rachel Lyon

A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rachel Lyon came to Bloomington in 2009 to pursue her MFA in Creative Writing at IU. At WFIU, she is an announcer for All Things Considered and classical music, and she produces features for Artworks. Rachel's glad to be working in radio again after a long drought since her undergraduate years, when she was a DJ for WPRB, the independent station in Princeton, NJ.

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