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New chairman for National Endowment for the Arts

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In yesterday's NY Times (linked by dirac yesterday), there's an article about the nomination of Broadway producer Rocco Landesman to be the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.


Note for our members outside the U.S -- The NEA is the federal government agency charged with "supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education". It's high-profile in the arts community, though its budget ($155 million in 2009) is rather small considering the size of the U.S. population and the total national budget ($3 trillion and rising).

Opinions so far are generally postive. Some members of the theatrical establishment are actually quite ecstatic.:

“It’s potentially the best news the arts community in the United States has had since the birth of Walt Whitman,” said the playwright Tony Kushner. “He’s an absolutely brilliant and brave and perfect choice for the job.”
“Rocco speaks his mind, which is probably one of the reasons he was chosen,” said Robert Brustein, the founding director of the Yale and American Repertory Theaters. “Rocco does not defer his opinions.”
“He is a great entrepreneur and producer and it indicates to me that the administration wants to have somebody in this position who will be much more than simply a distributor of funds,” said Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. “The relationship between the government and the arts needs to be energized. It needs someone like Rocco.”
“He’s really smart and he’s really savvy and will really fight if he believes in something,” said George C. Wolfe, who directed both productions.

On the other hand:

“It’s an odd choice,” said Mr. Brustein, who taught Mr. Landesman at Yale. “It’s certainly not one that I would ever have thought of because Rocco’s always been associated with the profit-making world and the N.E.A. is nonprofit.”

Any thoughts? Any guesses about the effect of this on ballet training and performance in the United States? Personally, I have some questions about the relationship between the for-profit and not-for-profit aspects of the business and whether skills and enthusiasms in one area are completely transferable to the other.

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And what does it mean to regional companies who've been shuttled to unpopular dates to make room for touring for-profit Broadway shows... What does it signal for places like SPAC? I think a Broadway producer is an odd choice for the NEA, even if he did produce Angels in America...

Well, at least he'll have a different idea of how much performing artists should be paid per hour, no?...

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