The Playgoer: Chairman Rocco

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Chairman Rocco

Obama's NEA Chair was confirmed yesterday. Who knew.

Now today he tells all to NYT about his big plans.

Some highlights:

In American politics generally, he added: “The arts are a little bit of a target. The subtext is that it is elitist, left wing, maybe even a little gay.”
Itals in original, btw.

[H]e called the current appropriation of $155 million “pathetic” and “embarrassing.” And he seemed to imply dissatisfaction with increases proposed by Congress and by the president, which both fall short of the agency’s 1992 budget of $176 million. “We’re going to be looking for funding increases that are more than incremental,” he said.
The new chairman said he already has a new slogan for his agency: “Art Works.” It’s “something muscular that says, ‘We matter.’ ” The words are meant to highlight both art’s role as an economic driver and the fact that people who work in the arts are themselves a critical part of the economy....As for the former agency slogan, “A Great Nation Deserves Great Art,” he said, “We might as well just apologize right off the bat.”
And while in yesterday's official (perhaps White House-penned) statement the chairman effused...
I am eager to work with our many partners to bring quality arts programs to neighborhoods and communities across the country
....his comments about small town America today will probably raise some eyebrows:
“I don’t know if there’s a theater in Peoria, but I would bet that it’s not as good as Steppenwolf or the Goodman,” he said, referring to two of Chicago’s most prominent theater companies. “There is going to be some push-back from me about democratizing arts grants to the point where you really have to answer some questions about artistic merit.”“And frankly,” he added, “there are some institutions on the precipice that should go over it. We might be overbuilt in some cases.”

Well, an argument worth having, at least. How do we divide up an unfortunately small pie? Evenly amongst everyone? Or favor the most visible, investing in those with big futures, and hope the rising tide raises all boats?

All I'm saying is, I'd be nervous if I was AD of Peoria Rep right now...

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