Cuba fails to pacify artists as backlash against censorship law builds The campaign against Cuba’s Decree 349, the new federal law that criminalizes independent cultural activity in the country, is continuing to grow despite the Cuban government’s attempts to reassure artists, Art Forum reports.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Cuba’s vice-minister of culture Fernando Rojas said that the decree had been misconstrued and the target of the law, which was passed in April and supposed to come into effect on 7 December, was not “artistic creation”. He said that while the law enables government inspectors to shut down cultural events, this would only happen in extreme cases of obscenity, racism, or sexism. The government has told artists that the decree will now not be enforced until new detailed regulations have been finalised.

However, many see the backtracking by the government as a smokescreen. The Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who was twice arrested and detained last week along with other artists, has posted an open letter on Facebook in which she states that she had cancelled a trip to India to take part in the Kochi Muziris Biennale so that she could stay in Cuba and protest alongside other artists and activists.

She said: “At this moment I do not feel comfortable traveling to participate in an international art event when the future of the arts and artists in Cuba is at risk… As an artist I feel my duty today is not to exhibit my work at an international exhibition and further my personal artistic career but to expose the vulnerability of Cuban artists today.”

Meanwhile, a petition created by 23 international arts professionals including the Cuban-American artist and academic Coco Fusco has denounced the detainment of activists opposing the new decree and urged the Cuban government to drop the law.

The petition states: “While state officials have claimed publicly that Decree 349 is designed to protect artists, it is already evident through the recent actions of Cuban law enforcement that Decree 349 is being used to punish artists deemed undesirable on political grounds and to instill fear among the rest.”

Manchester £30m digital arts school plan approved Plans for a new digital arts school in Manchester have been approved, with it set to be completed by 2021, the BBC reports. The new £30m School of Digital Arts – to be know as SODA – is to be funded jointly by Manchester Metropolitan University and Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

The school has been backed by film director Danny Boyle and the founder of Manchester-based TV company Red Productions, Nicola Schindler. It is expected to work closely with the BBC, ITV, and the city’s Home arts centre. It will include studios, digital laboratories and productions suites and will be built behind the university’s students’ union on Oxford Road.

Designs by FCBStudios for the five-storey building include a cafe, a digital gallery and a screening area that would be open to the public.

Gender gap dominates latest ArtsPay survey The ArtsPay 2018 survey by Arts Professional reveals that the gender pay gap in the arts is showing no signs of abating, with women being only half as likely as men to reach senior roles by their mid-30s, and on average earning less than men as their careers progress.

Figures drawn from the online survey of pay and earnings reveal that on average, women in full-time employment in the cultural sector earn 10.6% less than men. A lack of career progression appears to be a significant contributor to this disparity.

The survey was in September and October this year and attracted over 2,600 respondents working in or with the arts sector in the UK. The findings reveal a significant gap in earnings between men and women in full-time employment, with the average (median) salary for men being £33,000, while the equivalent figure for women is £29,500.

Compton Verney appoints Julie Finch as new director Finch joins the Warwickshire art gallery and country park from the Cheltenham Trust where she is currently CEO. She replaces Steven Parissien who stepped down in November to become director of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.

Finch said: “This is a dream job. Compton Verney is unique – no other institution has a comparable artistic collection combined with such a fantastic landscape. I’m keen to develop its relationships with visitors and broaden Compton Verney’s customer base as a place for everyone.”

She added: “I am keen to deepen partnerships with other local businesses, to capitalise on Coventry becoming the City of Culture, and the global reputation of Shakespeare’s hometown. I want to broaden Compton Verney’s standing, not just as a regional or national resource, but as a place of international calibre.”

1. Cartoon image protesting the introduction of Decree 349, the new federal law that criminalizes independent cultural activity in the country.
2. SODA (School of Digital Arts), Manchester, designed by FCBStudios

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