The New York Times has a good overview of changes in arts policy and funding in the new Obama administration. This is the first I’d heard of the new White House arts adviser position, which seems similar to an idea Tyler Green proposed just after the inauguration. The arts adviser may have a bit less scope than Green envisioned, however. From the Times:
Mr. Ivey, who led the transition team devoted to the arts and recently met with Mr. Dale, said he expected the White House position to involve coordinating the work of the [National Endowment for the Arts], the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Now here’s just one paragraph from Green’s intelligent discussion of the arts adviser he hoped for:
For example, in the wake of the No Child Left Behind law, arts education in America’s public schools has become a federal issue. There are internationally important arts treasures on government land, including Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in Utah and Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota. Both face conservation issues. American museum directors increasingly run into thorny diplomatic issues while negotiating the potential return of antiquities to their countries of origin, but they have no place in the federal government with which to consult even though there are diplomatic implications to their decisions.
This would take someone with quite a bit more authority than just coordinating NEA, NEH, and IMLS. But we can hope that with time this adviser could become responsible for helping non-arts-specific agencies such as the Dept of Education, Pentagon and the National Park Service deal with tricky art-related issues that fall into their laps.
Much of the rest of the article deals with funding, pointing out that although Obama and the Democrats found $50 million for the NEA in the stimulus bill, and another $10 million in the omnibus spending bill, its funding is still lower than it was in 1992 (when it received $172 million).
There’s also the issue of not having appointed a chairman to the NEA, but this is a problem that is hardly specific to that agency; the Obama administration has been plagued with empty desks throughout numerous agencies, most troublingly the Treasury.
One thing not mentioned in the article is the immense quantity of bad art Obama is inspiring.