The arts and humanities have become chic in Washington in that “In Style” or should I say “in Vogue” kind of way. Even real estate developers are getting into the act with “creative communities,” a way to increase real estate value by “curating” a finite number of creative assets or artists in designer living/work spaces. Local magazines and newspapers devote entire issues to the “Who’s Who and What’s What” on the regional arts and culture scene.
A few weeks ago the White House announced President Obama’s selection for the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. These new members will work with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services on the President’s arts initiatives (TBD). First Lady, Michelle Obama is the honorary chair of the committee. George Stevens, Jr. of “Kennedy Center Honors” fame, and theater producer Margo Lion are its co-chairs.
The Committee is also involved with the awarding of the NEA and NEH medals, the two highest honors in the arts and humanities.
[The NEH has its own National Council on the Humanities. Two scholars — Rolena Adorno, the Reuben Post Halleck Professor of Spanish and Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Yale University, and Marvin Krislov, the President and a professor of politics at Oberlin College — were named to the advisory board last week. Both were nominated by President Obama. The Council meets four times a year. The NEA also has a Council on the Arts. They meet three times a year.]
With all these committees, it’s no wonder that the call for an Arts and Humanities cabinet post or Minister of Culture by Quincy Jones was politely declined or perhaps ignored. There are so many people who are willing to come to sit at the table for free.
From time-to-time I review and daydream over Jacqueline Kennedy’s seating chart and guest list for the White House dinner she hosted for Andre Malraux, the French Minister for Cultural Affairs in 1962 (20 years prior to the founding of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities). The evening focused on the arts and the White House gave it the state dinner treatment. Who was there? Playwrights Tennesse Williams, Thornton Wilder (shared a table with Vice President LBJ), and Arthur Miller, writers James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, poet Robert Lowell, actors Julie Harris, Geraldine Page, choregrapher George Balanchine, composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein, and so many more, hand picked and/or checked by the First Lady and the President.
Desiree Rogers has made the White House Center stage for a series of performances, exhibitions, and special events in the arts and humanities. She’s also aims to make events at the White House more accessible emphasizing the theme of “The People’s House.” Afterall, the White House is the country’s most valued piece of public housing.
There are quite a few familiar bold face names among the new committee members that caught the eye of the press including actors Sarah Jessica Parker, Alfre Woodard, Forrest Whitaker, Kerry Washington, and actor/director Edward Norton, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, director George C. Wolfe. In addition to star power, what will the new arts and humanities committee members bring to the arts-in-America table? Do they have a Facebook fan page? As a group does the Committee represent the diverse communities of artists, artistic expressions, regions, cultures, and histories of the peoples of the United States. The LA Times’ Christopher Knight noted that no visual artists were tapped for the honor. And aside from just the arts and humanities, how many appointees were major fundraisers during the 2008 campaign?
Star appointments do attract attention for a little while. And for the key arts programs for youth presented by the PCAH, that would be a good thing. The big question is the level of effectiveness. Hopefully, the members have signed up for more than just lunches with the First Lady.
J. Ricky Arriola
Mr. Arriola is the President and CEO of Inktel Direct, where he oversees business development, operations and overall strategy of the business process outsourcing company. He is actively involved in the arts and humanities community in Florida, serving as the Chair of the Board of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.
Madeleine Harris Berman
Ms. Berman serves on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of Americans for the Arts and the Boards of Directors of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Opera Theater and the Detroit Zoological Institute. She previously served on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 1994.
Richard J. Cohen
Mr. Cohen is a Minnesota State Senator chairing the Finance Committee. He serves on the boards of the Tyrone Guthrie Theater and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Formerly, he was the chairman of the Arts, Tourism and Cultural Resources Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures, and this year he received the Public Leadership in the Arts Award from the Americans for the Arts.
Paula Hannaway Crown
Ms. Crown is a Principal of Henry Crown and Company, a private investment firm, and an artist. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art, Duke University, the Executive Committee of the Chicago Community Trust, the National Council of the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Board of Advisors of the Nasher Museum of Art, the Women’s Board of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Conservation International.
Ms. Forester – an architect specializing in hospital architecture – switched careers in the 1980s to head Christine Forester Catalyst, a business, marketing and branding company. She served on the Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the Board of the Museum of Photographic Arts; the Advisory Panel for the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture’s Allocations Programs; and, currently, Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s Advisory Council.
Ms. Heinz is the Chairman of the Heinz Endowments and the Heinz Family Philanthropies. She is a member of the Trustees Council at the National Gallery of Art and in 2001 was elected to be a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She founded and serves as chairman of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and also serves on the board of trustees at the Brookings Institute and Carnegie Mellon University.
Victoria Strauss Kennedy
Ms. Kennedy is an educational consultant for Loyola Marymount University. She has worked at Harvard University as Head Teaching Fellow for an undergraduate literature course, and as a Fellow for the Derek Bok Center. Ms. Kennedy is a youth coordinator and board member of a number of community service initiatives. She is co-founder of the Go Campaign and is currently designing a nautical children’s museum in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Lourd is a Partner and Managing Director of Creative Artists Agency, an entertainment and sports agency. He also helped create the CAA Foundation, which facilitates members of the global creative community in contributing their time and resources to improve conditions locally, nationally and worldwide. Mr. Lourd is also a Board member of InterActiveCorp.
Ms. Luzzatto served as Obama-Biden Transition Team review lead for the National Endowment for the Arts. She has also served as Vice President for Meetings, Council on Foreign Relations. During the administration of President Clinton she served as Special Assistant to the President and White House Deputy Press Secretary and Assistant US Trade Representative for Public Affairs.
Mr. Ma, a cellist and 2001 National Medal of Arts recipient, maintains a balance between his engagements as a soloist with orchestras throughout the world and his recital and chamber music activities. He has recorded more than 75 albums, won 16 Grammy Awards, and serves as the Artistic Director of the Silk Road Project.
Ms. Manne is an independent film producer and consultant. Formerly an executive with Sundance Channel, co-founder of Fine Line Features, and consultant to HBO Films, Ms. Manne has helped shepherd more than 100 independent films to diverse audiences. Ms. Manne is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Mr. Mayne is founder of Morphosis Architects, co-founder of the Southern California Institute of Architecture and Distinguished Professor at UCLA Architecture and Urban Design, where he extensively researches and publishes on contemporary urbanism. Recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Mr. Mayne’s architectural projects include the San Francisco Federal Building, the Cooper Union academic building in Manhattan, Phare Tower in Paris, and the FLOAT House – an affordable, sustainable, and pre-fabricated housing prototype in New Orleans.
Mr. Norton is a two-time Academy Award-nominated actor, producer, and director. He is also engaged in social and environmental issues, serving on the Board of Enterprise Community Partners, National Landscape Conservation Foundation, Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, and Signature Theater Company.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Ms. Parker is an award-winning actress and producer, having won four Golden Globe Awards, two Emmy Awards, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. She is on the board of the New York City Ballet and she also serves as a UNICEF Representative for the Performing Arts and Goodwill Ambassador for the United States.
Mr. Spahn is the President of Andy Spahn & Associates, an entertainment industry based consulting firm that specializes in public affairs, strategic philanthropy and communications. Prior to founding his company, he was the Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications for DreamWorks. He has spent more than 25 years in national politics and the non-profit world and is a founding board member of the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
Jill Cooper Udall
Ms. Udall is a lawyer and former Officer of Cultural Affairs for the State of New Mexico. She currently works with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. Ms. Udall also sits on the Board of Visitors and Governors for St. John’s College, and the Boards of Directors for Ford’s Theatre, Santa Fe Conservation Trust, and the Meridian International Center.
Reginald Van Lee
Mr. Van Lee is an Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton. He is a published author and serves as the Chair of the Board of the Evidence Dance Company, Chair of the Board of the New York International Ballet Competition, Trustee and Treasurer of the Studio Museum in Harlem and Vice-Chair of the Board of the Washington Performing Arts Society.
Dr. Varis serves as the founder and President of Agvar Chemicals and Modavar Pharmaceuticals. She is actively involved in the arts community, donating the Agnes Varis Performance Stage to Jazz at Lincoln Center, sponsoring children’s programs at the Metropolitan Opera, underwriting a senior citizen orchestra multi-seat program at the Metropolitan Opera, and underwriting the Jazz Foundation of America’s national educational children’s Jazz In School Program, which employs unemployed elderly jazz musicians.
Ms. Washington is an award-winning actress. She is a board member of The Creative Coalition and is on the Artists Committee for Americans for the Arts, organizations which work to promote the arts in America. She is also on the board of V-Day, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women and girls.
Alexa L. Wesner
Ms. Wesner is the founder of Blue Texas PAC and formerly co-founder and President of HireTECH, a high technology recruiting firm in Austin, Texas. In addition, she works with a variety of nonprofits and charities in Texas, including the Austin Film Society, The Blanton Museum, Breakthrough Austin, LifeWorks, SafePlace, and Arthouse.
Mr. Whitaker is an Academy Award-winning actor, director, producer and game developer. He is a social activist and is involved in several humanitarian and philanthropic causes for which he has twice received the Humanitas Prize. He has been honored with the Cinema for Peace award for using film as a medium to promote peace, freedom and tolerance and this year is being recognized as Patron of The Arts by UNESCO.
Ms. Wintour has served as the Editor in Chief of VOGUE since 1988. She has also significantly contributed to fundraising efforts for AIDS research and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She spearheaded the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion campaign to help fund emerging fashion designers.
Mr. Woetzel is a renowned ballet dancer, who performed during his career as a principal dancer at New York City Ballet. He is the founding Director of the Jerome Robbins New Essential Works Program, Director of the summer Vail International Dance Festival, and Cultural Programming Producer for the World Science Festival. Mr. Woetzel has served on the Harvard Task Force on the Arts and the Artists Committee of the Kennedy Center Honors.
George C. Wolfe
Mr. Wolfe is a Tony award-winning theater and film director and playwright and served as the producer of The Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival from 1993 to 2005. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, and was declared a living landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
Ms. Woodard’s work as an actor has earned her an Oscar nomination, four Emmys, three SAG Awards, and a Golden Globe. She serves on the National Film Preservation Foundation Board, as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences International Outreach Committee. Ms. Woodard co-founded Artists for a New South Africa, a non-profit working to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and further Democracy and Human rights in South Africa and the United States.