Obama’s pledges for the arts
Important policies in place, but some say more can be done
By Helen Stoilas. News, Issue 198, January 2009
Published online: 07 January 2009
NEW YORK. Artists and arts organisations are hoping for greater support than they received from President Bush when President-elect Barack Obama takes up office later this month. Mr Obama was the only candidate during the election to distribute a detailed programme of initiatives. These include plans for an “Artist Corps” of young artists to promote art in schools and low-income communities, increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), health care for artists, and allowing artists to deduct the market value of any works they donate to museums or public institutions.
In November, during his first interview after winning the election on NBC’s weekly news programme “Meet the Press”, host Tom Brokaw asked Mr Obama what kind of cultural and artistic changes he would make as president. “Our art and our culture…that’s the essence of what makes America special, and we want to project that as much as possible in the White House,” said Mr Obama. He has announced a three-person advisory team dedicated to reviewing the two main agencies responsible for providing government grants to arts and culture projects, the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Since the chairmanships for both these organisations become vacant in January, the team will advise Mr Obama on whom to appoint to the posts. The members of the advisory group are: former NEA chairman Bill Ivey; Anne Luzzatto, a former Clinton official and a member of Obama’s arts policy committee; and African-American historian Clement Price of Rutgers University in Newark.
But some groups think Mr Obama can do more. A coalition of arts organisations, including the American Association of Museums, Americans for the Arts, the Association of Art Museum Directors, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, among others, submitted a report to Obama’s office recommending further measures to improve government support of the arts. Among the suggestions—such as increasing the NEA’s annual budget to $319.2m, expanding international cultural exchange, and reinstating an arts curriculum in schools—is the important idea of appointing a senior-level official in the White House that would be responsible for overseeing the administration’s entire arts and cultural policy.
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