According to Politico:
[F]or some in the art world, watching the Obama administration’s approach to the arts so far has been an exercise in keeping expectations in check and a game of wait and see.
They wanted a Cabinet-level “arts czar,” or at least a senior-level White House arts adviser.
What they got was Kal Penn, a 32-year-old actor best known for his role in the “Harold and Kumar” movie franchise about a pair of pot-smoking slackers.
Don't worry, Kumar is not exactly running arts policy. He just "started work Monday [July 6] as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement, where he’ll work to connect Obama with arts groups, as well as the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities."
Not that Kal Penn would be so bad! I mean, Americans--even young people--at least know who he is. And one must admit, those movies are funny.
As I've said before, I don't think some arts "czar" is the solution to our cultural problems. (I mean, look how well the Drug Czars have done.) More levels of bureaucracy and, worse, competing bureaucracies (Arts Czar vs NEA Chair) can only mean more potential skirmishes, politically.
The key, I believe, is to make the NEA--the only national thing we've got--a positive and major presence for once. And then to encourage/empower/fund the states as much as possible to foster arts communities at the local level.
That plus a President who expresses consistent interest in the work of artists living and dead and, you know, goes to things. Which is why I'm proud to have .000001 cents of my taxpayer dollars go to sending Barack and Michelle to Joe Turner's Come and Gone. We should consider that a veritable state visit, a diplomatic mission!
Speaking of the NEA, this Politico article is the first source I've seen reporting that Rocco Landesman's nomination as Chair is "virtually a done deal." So let's hurry up and get him in there, Mr Prez.