Monday, December 01, 2008

"Secretary of Arts" idea a good one, but now's the time to boost NEA funding

I heard that musician/composer Quincy Jones is pushing President-elect Obama to appoint a "secretary of arts." I Googled "Quincy Jones" and came up with this info from his web site:

Quincy’s call for a U.S. secretary of the arts has inspired an online petition. It was during his recent interview with John Schaefer on WNYC’s Soundcheck that Quincy let the words fly. "The next conversation I have with President [-elect Barack] Obama is to beg for a secretary of the arts," he said....

One listener who heard Q’s call is Jaime Austria, who plays bass in for the New York City Opera and the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra. "As soon as I heard Quincy use the words that he would beg Obama for secretary of arts, I rushed to my computer and typed out a petition." Word is spreading. As of this writing, the online petition has more than 1,000 signatures.

If you'd like to sign, go to

Adding an arts secretary to the president's cabinet may be a great idea. It would elevate the arts into the prominent position it deserves. But what's the process to add another cabinet position? It sounds like a battle that Obama doesn't need to fight during the next couple months. There's the tanking economy, lack of universal health care, multiple wars to stop, etc.

Besides, we already have the National Endowment for the Arts and it's been underfunded since the Newt Gingrich budget assault following the 1994 Congressional elections. The NEA's current budget is around $144 million, or about 50 cents for each American. Obama wants to boost that budget, and those of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Obama is a strong supporter of arts education. It's in his platform and he spoke of it often during the campaign. If the NEA budget were doubled, half of all the additional funding over $175 million will go directly to arts education. Obama also aims to beef up arts education in the Dept. of Education.

The great news is that he has lots of allies in the House and Senate to accomplish these goals. Some are Democratic newbies, some are moderate Republicans, such as Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi. He has sided with his party on many issues, but he's an arts supporter and a member of the senate Arts Caucus. There is that pesky U.S. budget deficit to deal with, but Obama has pledged to "spend, baby, spend" to rev up the economy. The arts and economic development go hand-in-hand. The arts brings more money into cities than does professional sports. Denver's a great example. You can look it up.

Quincy "Q" Jones is a fine musician and supports the work of the NEA. But his time with the president-elect will be better spent if he advocates for more money for the NEA. Later, Q might be a fine choice for Secretary of Arts. He could inject some music into those drab cabinet meetings.


Artist Against Obama said...

What has Obama really done for the arts community so far? True, his campaign utilized art as a vehicle for change, but you must remember that he utilized the skills of a known copyright infringer. That being Shepard Fairey.

Obama is a bright man, more than capable of doing a Google search. He should have known that Shepard Fairey is the type of artist who threatens the rights of ALL artists. Thus, one can only assume that Obama is either lazy OR that he does not care about artist rights and copyright protection. Take your pick.

Also remember that artist supporters of Obama have been asking for Obama to make his opinion of orphan works legislation known since early 2007. So far Obama has said nothing. One can only assume that he has said nothing because he supports it and does not want to loose face with the hundreds of arts organizations and thousands of artists who have been trying to keep the bills from being passed.

Know your enemy.

Anonymous said...

Obamahater, despite the importance of the Orphan works issue, there are worse problems at hand--like two wars and a collapsing economy. While I believe arts education for all and better care for artists is important, we have to prioritize carefully or we'll all starve. Secondly, Obama didn't seek out Fairey--Fairey is an ardent supporter and volunteer. Finally, while as a graphic artist Fairey's work borrows (in some cases pretty directly) from historic sources, your characterization is a little over the top. Eat your sour grapes in solitude, wouldja?

Anonymous said...

I'm having problems substantiating your comment about Denver's arts stimulating their economy more than sports. Any suggestions or pointers would be appreciated.



Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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