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"Flower Power" by Icy and Sot on the back wall of Rochester's Good Luck restaurant. (Courtesy of WALL\THERAPY)

When Cities Become Science, Where Does Art Fit In?

by Adam Frank
Jul 26, 2014

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The race has started. It's going to be run fast and hard and it won't be over for a while. It's a race whose winner doesn't matter as long as someone, somewhere makes it to the finish line.

The race I'm talking about is the push to create a new science of cities that is as quantitative and predictive as possible. It will be a science that tells us how cities grow and why they fail. It will allow us to see the factors that make some neighborhoods healthy while others leave their inhabitants stuck in poverty. It will tell us how energy and information flow through the city like blood through a complex organism. And, most importantly for a climate-changed world where 70 percent of the population will live in urban areas by 2050, it will show us how cities can become more efficient, sustainable and resilient.

One can argue that the current race began in the 1990s and early 2000s when researchers such as Juval Portugali began adapting something called complexity theory to the study of cities. Complexity theory is a field which grew from the study of chaos, fractals and other new mathematical terrain three decades ago. More recently, the advent of big data and network theory have given researchers entirely new tools to take the study of cities forward. Now newly available, massive data sets are really getting the city science revolution moving as high-resolution records of everything from traffic to household health are opened up for exploration.

But, with all this push to quantize and characterize, there are dangers. Cities clearly are more than a new kind of physics problem. They are also creations of the human imagination and, as such, they live or die by the quality of the imagination we bring to them.

Thats why no discussion of the health of cities can be complete without thinking about the role of art — public art.

This week begins the fourth year of a remarkable experiment in public art right here in my adopted hometown of Rochester, New York. Called WALL\THERAPY, it's a week-long celebration of street art and its power to transform urban spaces. Co-curator Erich Lehman, of Rochester's 1975 gallery, explained it to me this way:

"Each year we bring in street and graffiti artists from around the world, the country and the city. Using outdoor wall space donated by the owners of private buildings, the artists are given the opportunity to create murals that literally change the face of neighborhoods."

Dr. Ian Wilson, a radiologist at the the University of Rochester's Strong Medical Center, is the other founder and co-curator of WALL\THERAPY. He sees the event in personal terms:

"It's all about the signal and noise. I grew up in Brooklyn and most of the kids I knew who were heading for trouble had no vision of what was valuable in life, including themselves. Everyday they were getting pounded with information from the city around them. Posters, billboards, you name it. But it was all just noise in terms of making a difference in their lives. When I started this project, I wanted to find a way to get a signal to them that would stand above the noise."

That first WALL\THERAPY project was BELIEVE. It was a collaboration between eight aerosol artists working on large-scale murals with the word BELIEVE as the theme.

"Just getting that kind of collaboration between artists was novel in itself," Wilson told me. The results were beautiful, striking and thought provoking — everything street art and public art should be.

Since then WALL\THERAPY has added more than 80 murals to the city, in locations ranging from corner bodegas to Rochester's famous 100-year-old public market. In the process it's put Rochester on the map for arts innovation. Last year Jaime Rojo and Steven Harrington of Brooklyn Street Art dedicated a full week of their Huffington Post blog to the event.

For radiologist Wilson, the links between public art and the public interest run deep. Wilson founded WALL\THERAPY with a sister project called IMPACT!, which stands for "IMProving Access to Care by Teleradiology." That project's goal is getting modern diagnostic imaging sites into developing countries. Wilson sees the connection between the projects this way:

"The connection between art and the medical philanthropy is imagery. Street murals enhance life. Medical X-ray imagery preserves it."

For Wilson these kinds of connections matter. As a doctor he has a strong interest in the way technologies affect the human dimension of medical care. He brings the same focus to his thinking about cities.

"These murals build connections between parts of the city that can get totally separated. Now we have folks coming from suburbs, or even rural areas, to see these murals in parts of the city they may never have visited before."

The images are intended to generate new connections across Rochester's many communities. Last year the German artist Case painted a mural of Martin Luther King Jr. right in the center of the Park Avenue area, which tends toward a more upscale dinner crowd. Wilson, sees the connection:

"The story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one which applies to the entire nation, not just one group of people."

It's fitting that Wilson is a doctor who works with high-end digital medical technology. It is, after all, the science emerging from our new digital capacities that offers us an entirely new way of looking at how cities function.

WALL\THERAPY reminds us that — if the goal of a digital city science is to make our cities better places to live — we should never lose sight of the inspiration that only public art in in public spaces can provide.

You can keep up with more of what Adam is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @adamfrank4

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An estimated 175,000 people travel to New Mexico in August to view Native American art. (Flickr)

Dueling Markets Show Native American Art Is Big Business

by Tristan Ahtone
Jul 26, 2014

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After World War I, Edgar Lee Hewett -- author of the Antiquities Act -- founded Indian Fair, considered something of a precursor to the Indian Market. A clothing contest is one of the highlights of the Indian Market.

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The 93rd annual Santa Fe Indian Market is only a month away. It's the biggest and best-known destination for Native artists and Native art collectors on the planet, and this year, it's got competition — a new event called the Indigenous Fine Arts Market.

Native American art and culture is big business. If you don't believe that, look no further than the controversial or illegal sides of the market. If you've been paying attention over the last year, you've seen some lurid and fascinating headlines:

  • Last year, a Paris auction house put a number of Hopi religious items on the block — much to the dismay of Hopi tribal members — and was estimated to bring in about $1 million. Eventually the Annenberg Foundation stepped in and purchased 24 of the items for sale, returning them to the tribe.
  • Then there was the Native child's leather tunic, complete with bullet hole and bloodstain on the back of the shirt. Waddingtons of Canada guessed they could net up to $3,000 for the item at auction, but the tunic was later removed after public outcry.
  • There's the occasional FBI press release highlighting the rescue of Native items from the hands of the black market, or theft alert lists like the one maintained by the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association webpage.

Then there's Santa Fe Indian Market.

For one weekend each August, around 175,000 people journey to New Mexico to see and buy real Indian art. Indian Market serves as one the crown jewels of the state's tourism industry. According to Market officials, the event rakes in around $120 million in economic impact to the city every year and has had quite a few years working with Native Americans, starting in the 1920s.

"All of this, really, is intended to promote tourism in New Mexico with Natives as the focal point," said Stephen Fadden, a professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts. "There's kind of an irony in earlier time because you have things like the Bursum Bill or the Dance Order which was looking at obliterating land and ceremony in New Mexico."

The 1922 Bursum Bill aimed to hand over Indian land in New Mexico to non-Indians while the 1921 Dance Order, otherwise known as the Leavitt Bill, would have prevented Native Americans in the state from practicing traditional dances.

The same year the Dance Order was introduced, the Gallup Ceremonial began - an arts and culture festival designed to take advantage of railroad tourism traffic on the western side of New Mexico on the edge of the Navajo Nation. A year later, Indian Fair began in Santa Fe, founded by Edgar Hewett, an anthropologist and museum director working in New Mexico at the time.

Hewett and the Museum of New Mexico had worked extensively to increase tourism to the state by marketing cultural celebrations in the early 1900s, and Native artists and potters were routinely displayed as living exhibitions. However, by 1922, the work of Indian artists took the main stage.

"I guess you could call it the precursor to [Indian Market] showing primarily Pueblo works," said Fadden. "Everyone recognized that 'hey, this is a money maker,' especially when disposable income is available."

Today, all Native artists participating in Indian Market must be tribal members with verifiable identity, like Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaska Native Blood, and all items sold at Market must be made by the artists and in compliance with the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. There's also a tough application process to become one of the 1,000-plus artists that are even allowed to participate.

At this year's competing market, the rules are about the same. What may make it successful is the fact that former Indian Market executives are running it.

SWAIA - otherwise known as the Southwestern Association for Indian Artists - is the organization that runs Santa Fe Indian Market. IFAM - short for the Indigenous Fine Arts Market - hopes to offer an alternative to Indian Market by setting up their own version right down the street, the same week as SWAIA's event.

SWAIA offers 600 booths at their event. IFAM will offer 300 booths. The application process is more or less the same between the two organizations and, as of now, booths are sold out at both markets.

Creating more spaces at an alternative Indian market means more up-and-coming Native artists that may not have been able to participate in Indian Market for whatever reason now have a toe in Santa Fe's booming arts economy.

"We're glad to see anything that advances Native American art and if it turns out that the new art market does that, then it makes us all the happier," said Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian. "The question is: is this town big enough for two Indian art markets? We'll find out in August."

For many artists, Indian Market weekend sales can constitute up to half of their arts income for the year. With two markets vying for visibility, there's the risk that competition may drive down prices artists can receive for their work, while Indian arts and culture stay front and center for the state's tourism industry.

"I was very supportive of the fact that [IFAM] wanted to provide another venue for Native artists to showcase their products," said Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. "It's going to complement the city's goals of increasing tourism, supporting our artists, and making sure that Santa Fe continues to be a leader when it comes to arts and culture around the world."

Remember, 175,000 people come to Santa Fe every year just for Indian Market and spend over $120 million on hotels and restaurants alone, never mind the art they purchase. That means Indian arts and culture in Santa Fe are big business - for certain people.

"Ultimately, the people who win are not going to be the artists. It's going to be the businesses, the state, and the Feds. They're going to get their cut no matter what," said Fadden. "People are going to come to market, and even if the artists don't do well, the people still come."

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Pete Bernhard (right) and Cooper McBean of The Devil Makes Three perform at the 2014 Newport Folk Festival. (Adam Kissick for NPR)

The Devil Makes Three, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2014

Jul 26, 2014

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After World War I, Edgar Lee Hewett -- author of the Antiquities Act -- founded Indian Fair, considered something of a precursor to the Indian Market. A clothing contest is one of the highlights of the Indian Market.

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A thumbnail description of The Devil Makes Three — "acoustic string-band music with no drummer" — makes its music seem old-fashioned, even quaint. But the California trio plays with boozy aggression and unhinged intensity. If there were a Newport Punk Festival (and, really, why shouldn't there be?), The Devil Makes Three wouldn't be out of place in its lineup, amplification be damned.

Hear the group perform as part of the 2014 Newport Folk Festival, recorded live on Friday, July 25 in Newport, R.I.

Set List

  • "Beneath The Piano"
  • "Hallelu"
  • "Walk On Boy"
  • "Statesboro Blues"
  • "Forty Days"
  • "Gracefully Facedown"
  • "Johnson Family"
  • "A Moment's Rest"
  • "Graveyard"
  • "Spinning Like A Top"
  • "Worse Or Better"
  • "Do Wrong Right"
  • "St. James Infirmary"
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Anais Mitchell (right) and Jefferson Hamer perform at the 2014 Newport Folk Festival. (Adam Kissick for NPR)

Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2014

Jul 26, 2014

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There's ambition rooted in the pursuit of personal glory, and then there's creative ambition, rooted in a desire to do what hasn't already been done. Anais Mitchell is a folksinger with a kind, approachable voice. But she also takes on heady and inventive concepts, from an album-length "folk opera" adapting the myth of Orpheus (2010's great Hadestown, represented here with "Wedding Song") to Child Ballads, her seven-song collaboration with singer-songwriter Jefferson Hamer.

Hamer has creative ambition of his own: His work frequently stretches out to incorporate ancient Irish music and the traditional sounds of Appalachia. So he's a nice fit for Child Ballads, in which he and Mitchell take on early traditional folk songs in ways that still feel accessible today.

Hear the duo perform as part of the 2014 Newport Folk Festival, recorded live on Friday, July 25 in Newport, R.I.

Set List

  • "Willie Of Winsbury (Child 100)"

  • "Riddles Wisely Expounded (Child 1)"

  • "Willie's Lady (Child 6)"

  • "Wedding Song"

  • "Young Man In America"

  • "Geordie (Child 209)"

  • "Clyde Waters (Child 216)"

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Israeli troops come out of the Gaza Strip on Friday following combat operations in the territory. Israel's military is the strongest in the Middle East, but has waged a series of protracted fights in recent years without winning clear-cut victories. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Reasons Why Israel's Military Is In Such A Tough Fight

by Greg Myre
Jul 25, 2014

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A Palestinian runs through an area damaged in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Thursday. The Israeli military  has unleashed a major air and ground campaign in the fighting that's nearly three weeks old, but Hamas continues to fight back with rocket fire. Israeli army flares illuminate the sky above the Gaza Strip on July 18. After waging an air campaign initially, Israel has sent ground troops into the territory.

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Ever since its sweeping victory in the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel has been regarded as the dominant military power in the Middle East. No Arab state has risked a full-fledged war in decades, and few question the conventional wisdom that Israel would swiftly defeat any national army in a traditional, head-to-head confrontation.

Yet for the third time in the past decade, Israel's powerful military finds itself in a protracted, messy fight with a small, elusive, Islamist group and has been unable to score a quick and decisive victory.

The current bloodletting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is nearly three weeks old and Israel has pounded the Palestinian territory, leaving more than 800 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians. Yet Israel has not halted the Hamas rockets and is still working to destroy a tunnel network it's cited as the main reason for the operation.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, speaking from his exile base in Qatar, said Hamas fighters have "destroyed the idea that the Israeli army is invincible."

Mashaal is hardly a neutral observer. Still, Hamas slugged it out with Israel for three weeks in December 2008-January 2009 and is demonstrating now that it has recovered to fight again on the same terms.

And back in 2006, Hezbollah fought Israel for 34 days in southern Lebanon before a cease-fire was declared. Israel delivered a ferocious blow and its northern border has been largely quiet since then. However, Hezbollah only grew stronger in the aftermath, becoming the dominant force in Lebanon and remaining a potential threat to Israel.

So why has Israel been frustrated repeatedly in these battles?

Hamas And Hezbollah Now Fight More Like Armies: Both Islamist groups emerged in the 1980s and initially carried out individual attacks, such as car bombs and suicide attacks. But they evolved into forces that now resemble traditional armies, while retaining many of their guerrilla tactics.

Both groups have thousands of trained fighters and large stockpiles of weapons that have allowed them to wage sustained battles in the face of a major Israeli assaults.

Shlomi Eldar, an Israeli television reporter who has covered the Palestinians for years, wrote that after Israel withdrew its military from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas "underwent a strategic change:"

"From small terror cells, it developed into a real army. Hamas became an organization of uniform wearers whose daily pursuit was military; they were trained according to the doctrine of a recruited army. They underwent weapons training and developed excellent military skills, together with religious indoctrination to strengthen their faith and adherence to the jihadist cause. Thus, in effect, Hamas created the first Palestinian army."

When Hamas first fired rockets from northern Gaza into southern Israel in the early 2000s, the weapons were crude, homemade contraptions that barely made it across the border. Hamas sometimes cut down streetlight poles to use as launching tubes. Not surprisingly, the rockets were so inaccurate they sometimes missed Israel altogether and landed in the Mediterranean Sea.

Compare that to now: Hamas had an estimated 9,000 rockets going into the current round of fighting, including some from Iran that can reach Tel Aviv, some 40 miles up the Mediterranean coast from Gaza. One rocket landed Tuesday near the country's main airport outside Tel Aviv, and U.S. and European airlines briefly stopped flying to Israel.

Different Definitions Of Winning And Losing: The Israelis are looking for a comprehensive victory that permanently weakens its opponents politically and military. In contrast, Hamas and Hezbollah have sought to show they are leading the resistance to Israel and can fight the much stronger enemy to a draw.

By these definitions, some analysts say that Hamas and Hezbollah can win by not losing and Israel loses by not winning.

"No matter how and when the conflict between Hamas and Israel ends, two things are certain," writes Ariel Ilan Roth in Foreign Affairs. "The first is that Israel will be able to claim a tactical victory. The second is that it will have suffered a strategic defeat. Wars are fought to realign politics in a way that benefits the victor and is detrimental to the loser. But the Israelis have lost sight of this distinction."

In this round, as in previous fights, the casualties and the destruction are overwhelmingly on the Arab side. But after past conflicts, Hamas and Hezbollah held parades to celebrate.

The Israeli public, meanwhile, engaged in soul-searching debates as to why the military didn't achieve more. It's already happening this time around.

"Angst over the highest military toll since the 2006 Lebanon war now mixes with a cocktail of emotions: on one hand, a strong current of determination to press on with efforts to end the rocket fire from Gaza; on the other, the sinking feeling that a quagmire is at hand," Dan Perry and Aron Heller of the AP wrote this week.

Luring Israeli Ground Forces Into The Fight: Israel attacked Gaza from the sky, but didn't deliver a knockout blow. So once again, it has ended up sending in large numbers of ground troops, exposing them to ambushes in congested towns and cities.

"Israel needs to go in on the ground to achieve its objectives — but ground operations can lead to Israeli casualties that actually undermine its deterrence," wrote Daniel Byman in Foreign Policy.

Israel has suffered more than 30 deaths, almost all of them soldiers, compared to the more than 800 Palestinian dead.

"That said, it's still a significant number for Israel, and Hamas can claim it is making Israel pay in blood," Byman added.

Also, it's no secret that Israel does not want to keep its ground troops exposed for extended periods as it did previously. The Israeli military occupied Gaza for nearly four decades before leaving in 2005 and was in southern Lebanon for nearly two decades before pulling out in 2000.

International Criticism: All Israeli military operations are closely scrutinized and the government must weigh any military gains against the intense international criticism that it faces. The military achievements often prove temporary at best, while the political fallout can last indefinitely.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always been a deep skeptic of peace talks with the Palestinians. Some critics say Netanyahu is using the fighting to undermine the recent unity deal between Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the top figure in the West Bank.

But the fighting has put Israel back in the international spotlight and reignited debate over Israel's strict controls on Gaza, where it limits the flow of people and goods going in and out of the territory.

To date, the fighting has not produced clear advantage for either side, and that points to the prospect of another round in the future.

"Even if the latest fighting yields months of peace, Israelis assume that they will have to again strike at Hamas, and perhaps even Hezbollah," according to Byman, a Georgetown University professor who has written extensively on Israel's military. "Israel feels compelled to act on a regular basis to ensure its deterrence achieves at least the partial results of limiting the wars and making them less frequent. So even if the latest fighting in Gaza ends soon, it won't be the last round."

On Saturday, a humanitarian cease-fire lasting 12 hours could begin in Gaza and the truce would allow Palestinian civilians to get food and aid where it's needed, officials say. Hamas says it has agreed to a temporary peace and Israeli media are reporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also approved the plan.

Greg Myre, the international editor at, covered the Middle East for more than a decade and is the author of This Burning Land. Follow him @gregmyre1

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