New NEA Chair Announced

Posted by , May 14, 2009 21 comments

As many of you heard yesterday, Broadway producer Rocco Landesman was nominated as the next chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  You can read more about Mr. Landesman and his nomination here.

What would be your #1 priority for the newly-nominated NEA Chairman?

21 responses for New NEA Chair Announced


May 14, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Knowledge and understanding of, and passion for, the arts as the foundation of a civilized society. Awareness that the arts, creativity and innovation are integral to economic development, education, and quality of life. Commitment to the NEA leading the way to nurture, sustain and advance the arts at the grassroots level.

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Phil Alexander says
May 15, 2009 at 10:34 am

I'm sorry, but I can't limit it to one priority...

– Bring in More money, more money, more money
– Change the rhetoric around government funding the arts; it’s not just about jobs, or even education, its about maintaining spirit, on artistic, philosophical, community and cultural levels.
– demonstrate that everyone benefits in a democracy when different types of artistic voices are shared (marching bands & string quartets & hip hop, etc.)
– shame the nation by comparing our arts expenditures to other civilized countries.
– connect NEA programs with other Federal programs, like Interior, HHS, Education, Energy, even Defense. When people experience Art in their lives on an everyday basis, the won’t question how essential it is.
– Simultaneously demonstrate that everyone has the capacity to be creative, while developing into a professional artist takes years of devotion and discipline.
– Develop new ways that people can participate in NEA programs, other than simply as a tax-payer or grant recipient. If people feel they can personally contribute to the success of NEA’s programs, they’ll support it and defend it when it’s challenged.

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Laura A. Macaluso says
May 15, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Nothing much to add after reading Anne and Phil's comments, which are right on, but to say that if municipalities, states and the fed keep cutting art classes in schools, we had better create and implement more expansive, engaging and funded ways to do it ourselves. Partnerships are the way to go!

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Brenda Lee Johnston says
May 15, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I second the above responses and add that the NEA should work to futher support the individual artsits with more granting opportunities for them to create and produce their own work. Also, generate a philosophical change about how we as a nation perceive "starving artists" and work to educate people about the fact that these people are educated and talented and deserve to make a real living from their art so they can create more and not be bogged down with 2 and 3 other jobs to support their art. The NEA needs to join in the fight for national healthcare so artists can have excellent coverage and not have to end careers early or perform with serious injuries because they can't afford to see a doctor or pay for medicine.

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Julia says
May 15, 2009 at 1:39 pm

#1 - Promoting the value of the arts -- and not being satisfied with a surface answer. Not just K-12 education, not just for making creative workers.

#2 - Support/resources for all people working in the arts (not just artists).

#3 - Resources for temporary public art -- make more art accessible to people in their daily lives (I second Phil's comment about connecting to other federal programs). How about nationwide initiatives?

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May 15, 2009 at 3:56 pm

The three priorities that came out of the yearlong field-wide inquiry of the National Performing Arts Conference, including a huge culminating voting session led by America Speaks, the world's foremost facilitator of such democratic work, were: arts education, advocacy, diversity.

I would add my own thought. The NEA attempts and accomplishes many things for us. I think the one we are brainstorming about here is the bully pulpit function--the capacity to not just be reactive, but to set an agenda (limited and focused I hope) for the arts in the context of the nation. I think a powerful focus would be Innovation--creating cultures of innovation within the arts (we are good at what we do and not good at changing what we do), and the ways the arts contribute innovation to a culture that cares far more about innovation than art.

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May 15, 2009 at 6:31 pm

While the NEA is a huge help in funding projects for those who already believe in the power of the arts, I'd like to see a plan to shift the national opinion of the arts as being a necessity, as it is in many countries around the world. Shift the current views of the masses who see art merely as entertainment. This is more than just a PR campaign and branding. It means funding different kinds of artistic projects in different places. It means really making art be relevant to the masses.
Jay McAdams, Executive Director
24th Street Theatre, L.A.

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David Rubinstein says
May 15, 2009 at 6:38 pm

First and only priority: abolish the NEA.

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Marisa Benson says
May 16, 2009 at 3:35 pm

The first priority that I would recommend for the new chairman would be to ensure a more balanced distribution of funds among artistic disciplines. The second priority, though perhaps a bit biased on my background would be to develop a national initiative and/ or open grant competition for hip hop, hip hop theatre, and hip hop educational programs. My third recommendation would be to have a committee (within the research division) to begin to organize symposiums and other forums on best practices in national arts policies, perhaps collaboratively administered with the IFACCA( the International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies). My last recommendation would be to take the Governors' Institute on Community Design and Mayors' Institute on city design and introduce those initiatives to governors and mayors throughout the developing world; this could be accomplished through a new partnership program with the U.S. Department of State.

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May 17, 2009 at 2:49 pm

The priority I would like to have the NEA focus on echoes that of Brenda Lee Johnston's comment (#4) in that the NEA should make more grants available on a regular basis to independent artists of all disciplines, educational and training backgrounds, and from all walks of life. Individual artists, collectives, groups and very small organizations are really the heart and foundation of the arts, and the struggles they encounter on a daily basis just to keep working and creating are legion. Micro grants ranging anywhere between $200 and $5000 would go a long way in helping them continue on in their endeavors and keep the arts alive.

On a side note, it's a shame Mr. David Rubinstein didn't expand on his comment (#8) about abolishing the NEA. I think if he'd taken the time to explain his reasoning, it would have added to the discussion here. There are many people who feel that way but for very different reasons, so those who hold that opinion should make an effort to articulate why they believe that and we of the arts community should encourage them to do so in order to have a more productive dialogue.

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May 17, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Nothing new to contribute, expect to say I *love* the past of Phil's points:

>Develop new ways that people can participate in NEA programs, other than simply as a tax-payer or grant recipient. If people feel they can personally contribute to the success of NEA’s programs, they’ll support it and defend it when it’s challenged.

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Anne Pryor says
May 18, 2009 at 9:54 am

To lead the American mindset to reconceptualize the arts as a valuable part of everyday life, which also means that Americans learn to recognize local aesthetic expressions as art worth valuing.

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May 18, 2009 at 10:16 am

Mr. Landesman has outspokenly addressed the tension between for-profit and non-profit business models in the arts. (See, Landesman, Broadway: Devil or Angel for Nonprofit Theater? New York Times June 4, 2000). This discussion is absolutely central to the future health and vibrancy of the arts in America, and I hope it will occupy a prominent place on Mr. Landesman's agenda as Chairman.

Artistic businesses are just that: businesses. Their proprietors must observe business plans, know the law, balance budgets and earn profits just like other businesses. In my view, the best investment the NEA can make in our nation's cultural heritage is to undertake a sustainable, nationwide system for delivering the business and legal skills that artists and arts organizations need to thrive independently.

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May 18, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Dear Mr. Landesman,

My #1 priority for you is to understand and respond to the needs of artists, in both our largest cities and smallest towns.

Develop funding mechanisms to support those organizations that support artists and arts education ... in both our largest cities and smallest towns.

And of course, to work effectively with Congress to provide the funding that is so badly needed.

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Nancy Conyers says
May 24, 2009 at 11:48 pm

More funding for writers, poets and artists in the schools programs.

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May 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Conduct a study showing how much federal, state & local tax revenue is generated for each dollar is invested in funding the arts with tax dollars.

This is the only argument that resonates with many elected officials and undercuts their belief that the arts are just looking for a handout like other social service needs.

It would strengthen our ability to leverage public funding at all levels.

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Margaret Mary Layne says
June 05, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Great comments ahead of mine. Would like to emphasize that funds should go to the "greatest needs" of arts institutions. Greatest need equals general operating support. Other funding is much more available for special projects. Don't know if this will ever happen but it would be the dawn of a new day.

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DannyC says
June 11, 2009 at 11:40 pm


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Anita Bushell says
June 13, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I want every child in America to know who Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald are. Jazz is our national musical heritage and needs to be taught, not cut, from the schools. It is as important as math and science and is our history. What a momentous occasion for those of us who care deeply about the future of jazz that Ellis, Wynton and Branford Marsalis will be playing at the Whilte House on Monday. President and Michelle Obama understand how vital the arts are to the American experience: "The arts are not just a nice thing to have...the arts define who we are as a people." (Michelle Obama, The New York Times, 5/19/09).

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June 14, 2009 at 9:29 pm

advocate the inherent value of creative endeavor, the rigorous work of artists, and restore direct funding for artists to continue to create!

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June 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Allow individual artists send requesting proposals for grants, without nominators, institutions or other methods. Let the voice of the artist be heard.

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