The Playgoer: Rocco Goes on the Offensive

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Rocco Goes on the Offensive

Well, if the Wall Street Journal is admonishing NEA chair Rocco Landesman...he must be doing something right.

Culture Grrl blogger Lee Rosenbaum's critical interview with Rocco just made me like him more!

Unruffled by the kerfuffles, Mr. Landesman, near the beginning of his Brooklyn speech, baited congressional critics by invoking what he called a "litany" of recent criticism of federal arts support: "The NEA is funding porn in California, the agency has become a propagandist for the Obama administration programs, and to truly add insult to injury, we've been told, vis-à-vis our share of the [federal] stimulus money, that we in the arts don't even work. One congressman summed up this view perfectly when he stated, 'How can we spend $50 million on the National Endowment for the Arts, when we could spend that money creating real jobs like building roads?' . . . Discouraging? Just a little."

A more politically savvy bureaucrat might have let bygones be bygones.
Sorry, but I don't see the Endowment's opponents letting bygones be bygones. It's not Rocco who's restarting the "Culture Wars." Leave that to Glenn Beck.

Also notable is the implication that Rocco will not necessarily be a friend to NYC's larger nonprofit theatres, whom he has accused in the past of running commercial enterprises at public expense. Of course, as head of the Broadway Jujamcyn empire, he also saw them as rivals.
What he may himself be best known for, aside from bringing important plays to Broadway, is picking a public fight with nonprofit competitors, especially the Roundabout Theatre. In a June 4, 2000, New York Times op-ed piece, he asserted that certain nonprofits didn't deserve public subsidy because, instead of taking artistic risks, they had adopted a "template of success . . . from the commercial arena, which, in the end, is not dedicated to the art so much as to the audience."

When I asked if his vendetta against such institutions might influence NEA's future grantmaking, he replied, "Let me put it this way: For those theaters, when I was nominated by the president, it was not their lucky day!"

In 2008 and 2009, the Roundabout, which he named in his op-ed, received NEA grants of $45,000 and $40,000, respectively.
I wonder what Rocco thought of Bye, Bye, Birdie....

1 comment:

Rob Kozlowski said...

Okay, now I like this guy a lot.