Saturday, May 30, 2009


Via >100k, NRO's Michael Knox Beran has an interesting op-ed about the NEA. Read the article. It's not very long, and it's written in the simplistic tone of voice that the NRO brings to most of the subjects.

Aside from a slight overdose of contempt, there's actually an important kernel of truth in the article. The following is the reaction as I posted in the comments section:

I wonder if the new White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Engagement is going to steal Rocco’s thunder of any reform for the NEA. I mean, if you’d have asked me a month ago what the NEA shoould be doing, I’d have said finding innovative new approaches to bringing creativity to communities and funding them in their early years, but if WHO-SICE (I pronounce it “Whose Is?”) takes on that role, then the NEA will become more of a caretaker of big, established venues.

The core point that I agree with is that the NEA has become a very unimaginative body, which is why Obama has to create a whole separate office to deal with “innovation.” The bold and imaginative direction that he[Beran] sees it going is in restoring the civic focal point–which in the report by the Minnesota Regional Arts Council is an important arts developmental point.

I guess where I would differ with Beran is on the capacity of the NEA to change. I think rather than a structural problem, what Beran is pointing to is a problem of administrative culture. What remains to be seen is whether a new Administration and a new appointed head can shift the culture far enough to change its behavior.

UPDATED: Looking back on this post now I realize I conflated the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation with the rebranding of the White House Office of Public Engagement. I leave the error simply because I wish it had been called WHO-ISCE, so I could imagine a grumpy longshoreman musing as to the identity of a person he's never met before and only just noticed.