NEA allotted this year’s media aid ‘to present art in new and . . . engaging ways’

Soon, listeners will hear celebrities read James Joyce’s entire masterpiece Ulysses via satellite and Internet radio; a New York City theater will use video-game technology to invent a new medium for the performing arts; and a San Francisco-based organization will craft computer data into interactive visual artworks. The projects are made possible through the newly expanded Arts in Media category from the National Endowment for the Arts, which this year branched out from primarily supporting public TV and radio programs. Last week the NEA announced 78 grants totaling $3.55 million, with an increased emphasis on technological innovation and multiplatform reach (Current, April 23). Several of the largest grants, $100,000 each, went to high-profile first-time recipients with strong digital components. Open-source pioneer Mozilla Foundation of Mountain View, Calif. — parent of the Firefox browser — won for Open(Art), which will commission collaborations between artists and technologists to create and exhibit artwork on the Web.

Incentives for ‘diversity, innovation’ come with big CPB grant to PBS

CPB and PBS are completing an agreement that may lead to the agency’s first annual grants for the PBS National Program Service based on measures of diversity and innovation in programming and related projects. Sources tell Current that this funding method would be one of the strongest attempts to encourage diversity and innovation in pubcasting so far, influencing the allocation of $14 million or more over the two-year contract. [Update: The final amount, CPB announced May 13, will be $20 million over two years. PBS request for proposals.]

CPB President Pat Harrison announced to the Board at its January meeting that the two had “reached a signed agreement,” but since then CPB has declined to provide specifics. “Yes, CPB and PBS have a signed agreement that commits funding to projects that emphasize diversity and innovation,” CPB spokesperson Louise Filkins told Current in an e-mail.

‘Sloppiness,’ not wrongdoing, led to probe, says WNET chair

The leadership of WNET said a federal investigation into the station’s use of federal grants totaling almost $13 million is wrapping up, and the organization is financially sound. “There was sloppiness as opposed to real wrongdoing in terms of our accounting systems, which has been addressed,” said James Tisch, chairman of the WNET Board, in an interview.

Woody Wickham, 66

Woodward A. (Woody) Wickham, 66,  a strong supporter of independent documentary films and public media producers, died of cancer Jan. 18 [2009] at his home in Chicago. In more than a dozen years at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 1990 to 2003, Wickham helped support such projects as Kartemquin Films’ documentary Hoop Dreams, the Creative Commons alternative to copyrights, and Dave Isay’s StoryCorps, for which Wickham was the founding board chair. With MacArthur’s money, Wickham was a consistent supporter of P.O.V. and Frontline, local media arts centers and Kartemquin, says Alyce Myatt, who worked with him at the foundation. Wickham also supported the foundation’s work in human rights, aiding the International Criminal Court, and media reform groups such as the Media Access Project.