Monday, March 15, 2010

Newsweek: NEA Chair Rocco Landesman uses Broadway skills to promote the arts

This profile of National Endowment for the Arts Chair Rocco Landesman, "Medici in Chief," appeared more than a month ago in Newsweek. But it's worth reading for insights on new directions for arts funding across the U.S. As many of you know, the Wyoming Arts Council gets approximately 40 percent of its budget from the Arts Endowment.

Read the entire article at

Here's an excerpt:

The just-announced "Our Town" program will use small, targeted grants to help arts organizations revitalize their communities. It draws on research showing that investments focused narrowly at the neighborhood level can produce social ties and a healthier local economy. In next year's budget request, the agency asks for $5 million to start work in 35 or so locations around the country: developing arts districts, sponsoring festivals, and commissioning murals and sculptures.

While the unusually large 2010 budget of $168 million gives Landesman more funding options than any chairman has had in more than a decade, he still calls the level "pathetic" and "embarrassing"—language that risks insulting people in and around Congress who sweat to secure even that much. (It sure seems to unnerve the NEA staff. Landesman says he had to call a meeting recently to insist once and for all that he's not going to tone down his rhetoric. "I said, 'Look, get on the page with me, because I'm not getting on the page with you.' ") Beyond limiting how much Our Town and the agency's other grants can accomplish, the small budget doesn't suit someone with Landesman's rapid metabolism. His options, he told me, are "either to tilt against the windmills and try to get our budget expanded when everybody's been cut back because of the deficit—that's unrealistic—or just pad around the agency and decide that Pacific Opera should get X and New York City Opera Y. Anybody can do that. Don't you think there are a lot of people who could do that just as well?"