According to the Washington Post, President Obama is trying to make good on his promise to energize and reinvigorate the National Endowment for the Arts.
President Obama yesterday announced his intention to nominate Rocco Landesman, a Broadway producer and theater owner, to head the National Endowment for the Arts. Also, last week, the White House asked Congress to give the NEA $161.3 million in 2010, the highest request in recent years. Currently the NEA's budget is $155 million.
In the 1990's Congress took away many of the individual artists' grants. According to Steven D. Lavine, the president of the California Institute of the Arts and a member of an arts advisory committee during the Obama campaign,said
"It's a wonderful appointment. He will be persuasive and fight for the arts. And the first thing he'd put on the NEA chairman's to-do list would be to "rebuild the individual artists' grants"
“It’s potentially the best news the arts community in the United States has had since the birth of Walt Whitman,” said the playwright Tony Kushner. “He’s an absolutely brilliant and brave and perfect choice for the job.”
Choosing Mr. Landesman, signals that President Obama plans to shake things up at the endowment. While a major source of money for arts groups around the country, it has historically been something of a non entity and in the middle of many artistic wars in the 90's. I remember the firestorm when the NEA pulled it's funding for Robert Mapplethorpe's exhibition, "The Perfect Moment". Blatant censorship on the part of the NEA.
Of course before any of this can happen the Senate has to approve the nomination. Which we all know can be "interesting" at best.
So it is my hope that Mr. Landesman's appointment is the kick in the ass the NEA needs to start providing grants to the art world and keep the arts alive in the USA.
Photo courtesy of Keyur Khamar/Bloomberg News