Posts Tagged ‘rocco landesman’

Art War Reinitiated

September 25, 2009

NEA Communications Director Yosi Sergant is the most recent casualty in the reinstated right-wing attack on the arts, according to multiple reports.

Sergant has been accused of promoting a political (pro-Obama, pro-democrat) agenda in NEA project initiatives.  The apparent impetus for the right’s criticism of Sergant was a conference call in which he reportedly suggested the creation of artwork promoting certain policies associated with the present administration, such as healthcare.  In less extreme times it would hardly seem like grounds for dismissal.  Nevertheless, Sergant was relieved of his communications duties and subsequently resigned on September 24th.

This time around, rather than accusing the Endowment of promoting pornography and immorality, right-wing media demagogues have attacked it on political speech grounds.  The main idea, apparently, is that the NEA should not promote the policies of the government of which it is a part, nor discuss them.  Considering the manner in which the previous presidential administration sought to extend its agenda, it’s a hypocritical position at best.

The autonomy of the NEA, and its job of distributing funding to art organizations and artists is vital to supporting the social/cultural dialogue that is the most important component of the arts.  A politically motivated assault on the NEA is no less than an attack on our ability to express that critical speech.

While in some ways, past attacks on the NEA and the arts in general may be interpreted as having been based upon a lack of education in the arts, this situation is not that.  Rather, the aggressors do understand art to the extent that they perceive a power there–critical speech that they seek to subvert. They also want to make a strike on the Obama administration, in any area that they perceive a weakness, and the NEA has proven to be a soft target in the past.  This is clear, but if we want to have an inclusive and progressive society now is the time to take a stand against bullying attacks on the arts.

ABC News:  Yosi Sergant Resigns

Washington Post:  Yosi Sergant Resigns from NEA

Huffington Post: Yosi Sergant Resigns

Chairman Landesman’s statement on the conference call

New NEA Chair; Exit the Dark Ages…maybe

August 8, 2009

Rocco Landesman was sworn in as the new chairperson of the NEA last week and has already begun speaking about the changes he anticipates for the Endowment in an interview with the Times.

In discussing his plans, perhaps among Mr. Landesman most interesting–or controversial–is his intent to alter the allocation priorities for funding.  The present NEA allocation scheme evenly spreads funding around the country, by Congressional district, regardless of the concentration or quality of the projects in a given area.  In contrast, Mr. Landesman plans to allocate funds according to merit, and presumably by extension–providing more funding in areas where artists and arts organizations are concentrated.  In theory, this should bring more funding to the New York area, other cities, and areas where there are concentrations of artists.

The new Chair also speaks of reinstating individual grants, which would be a tremendous benefit for artists, particularly in these times.  Ultimately, the decision to bring back individual artist funding is a legislative issue.  So–artists–now is the time to write to your representatives about the importance of individual grants.

One point that Mr. Landesman makes through the Times piece concerns the denigration of the arts and artists in the society.  In contrast he mentions that, as a candidate, President Obama had both advisers and policies on the arts.  The implication of all of this is that the dark ages of support and funding for artists may be receding just a little, and perhaps, the societal perception of artists has a chance for progress as well.

New Endowment Chairman Sees Arts as Economic Engine, Robin Pogrebin

U.S. Congress, Write Your Representative:

U.S. Senate:

National Endowment for the Arts

Artifactum, May 12, 2009, Obama’s NEA Chair to be Announced

Obama’s NEA Chairman Appointment to be Announced

May 12, 2009

The New York Times reported late Tuesday that Rocco Landesman is expected to be announced as President Obama’s appointee for Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.  Mr. Landesman is a Broadway producer and the president of Jujamcyn Theatres.  He is described as being known for his “energy, intellect, and irreverent…candor” and is anticipated as a strong voice advocating for increased funding for the arts.  

If his appointment is confirmed by Congress, Mr. Landesman will be replacing Dana Goia who stepped down in January.