Thursday, March 19, 2009

Over the last week, news arrived to me that there would be a new Arts Czar!

Well, not exactly. From the New York Times:

President Barack Obama has established a staff position in the White House to oversee arts and culture in the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs under Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, a White House official confirmed.


“It’s a big step forward in terms of connecting cultural and government with mainstream administration policy,” Mr. Ivey said in an interview on Friday. The White House declined to describe the position in detail, since Mr. Dale’s appointment has yet to be formally announced. Mr. Ivey, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, said he expected that the job would mainly involve coordinating the activities of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services “in relation to White House objectives.” Although there have been staff members assigned to culture under past presidents, they usually served in the first lady’s office, Mr. Ivey said.

Isaac Butler at Parabasis has some personal connection to the story, so he writes:

Dale and I served together on the Arts Policy Committee, but I do not actually know him. In creating this position and putting it in the specific department of the Executive Branch he has, Obama is following the suggestion of Bill Ivey, who headed up the arts component of Obama's transition team. So I think this is all a good thing. I don't really care about the Cabinet Level aspect of the position, frankly (although the symbolism is good!). I'm happy about it.

I'm cautiously optimistic. The White House is giving itself a lot of wiggle room as to whether this will be a policy position or a bureaucratic position. Kareem Dale has a bit of demonstrated interest in the arts, but he's certainly not a widely recognized artistic player. What will he be doing? Time will tell.

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