Do we need a Secretary of the Arts?

I know a petition has been going around asking for President-elect Obama to give culture a cabinet-level position: Secretary of the Arts.

NPR did a nice story on it this morning if you want to hear the pros and cons.

I love the thought of giving the arts a more prominent profile
, but I admit to fearing too much government dabbling in art and culture.

On another note

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) RIP

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17 thoughts on “Do we need a Secretary of the Arts?”

  1. If a cabinet position was appointed I’m wondering if it would most likely be in the performance art area. I think our culture tends to focus more on performance rather than visual art.

  2. I think the comment about gov’t dabbling in the arts, interfering, judging, etc. is all too real. This is unfortunate because I think such a position would be GREAT. Doesn’t France have a Minister of Culture? Hey why not us?

  3. Doesn’t the French Culture Ministry license and grade artists? Do we want that for ourselves? Doesn’t it try to keep the French language relentlessly French, without taint from elsewhere? Do we want that for our language? I’ve never been entirely convinced that a national art subsidy program is such a good idea, and I’m certainly less enthusiastic about an Arts Department.

  4. Like minds Alyson. When I saw the title of this post I immediately thought the exact same thing you said in your entry text. This secretary idea might sound good or look good on paper, but I just don’t think it would be a good idea in reality. Government dabbling and the arts don’t mix. (At least if artists want freedom.) I think history has shown that.

  5. If there was a clear statement as to what a “Secretary of the Arts” would do and be responsible for, it would be easier to say yes or no. Without a plan, it’s just another nebulous bureaucratic position. I concur with Alyson’s fear of too much governmental interference.

  6. What if the Secretary of the Arts had a budget of 1% of all this bailout money to distribute for the creation of public art in all 50 states? yes there is a danger of bias in the chosing of artist and performers, but think what that could do to the economy in the arts especially! And all the trickle down not just in terms of $ but also in the valuing of the arts… I can dream!

  7. Another thought… I truly think that trying to make that move forward for the arts is better than deciding that we don’t dare risk it being done badly. A new reality starts on Tuesday, for better or for worse. I personally think it’s for a whole lot better, but this isn’t about politics in that respect. This might be our chance to get on the agenda.

  8. It would be nice to have someone in every administration focusing on the arts in our society. A position like this would have the potential to provide leadership and incentive to increase awareness of how the arts positively affect our lives. Imagine the possibilities! Guess I’m an optimist . . . .

  9. Peggi Habets Studio

    It would be great if this position were to work with the Education Secretary and enhance arts in the schools, making sure that they aren’t pushed out in favor of more math/language arts testing. If we invest at the lowest levels and encourage a serious study of the arts from an early age, the public will find more value in the arts as opposed to something only the wealthy can invest in.

  10. Liza’s earlier comment makes a lot of sense. We need as much support for the arts as possible, both private and public. I personally know 3 people who were laid off from their jobs at art museums recently due to the economic crisis. So far the government’s bail out seems to be pitched at wealthy bankers and not ordinary people, much less artists.

  11. Linda Lewis’ comment struck a note with me. When I lived in the DC area it was such a performance art based community that I felt really left out. Philly (where I lived before that) had such a balanced, vibrant arts scene that it was difficult for me realizing that not every city is like that. I would hope that any potential arts czar would find a more balanced approach than what the city he/she worked in offered.

  12. I’m interested in the concept, but not sure where it will go. On the one hand, arts education is being cut nationwide. I’m very concerned about teaching creativity as I see that as a staple in modern thinking — it’s necessary not only for the arts, but for problem solving, innovating, etc. On the other hand, big government is not exactly known for efficiency. I worry about back door deals and basic human nature getting in the way of the arts.

  13. I’m originally from Canada where the government supports the arts. I think it’s made some great work possible through generous grants. I could see the government here offering arts grants but also ways for artists to get health insurance, even unemployment insurance in bad economies. Still, I love the way artists carry on anyway. Yay us!

  14. Constitutionally, it doesn’t matter whether or not we “like” this idea of a secretary of the arts, the fact is, it has no place in a free society. Artists (musicians, dancers, actors, poets…etc.) are the biggest champions of individual expression and personal freedom I know. Yet somehow, they think it’s okay to create a cabinet position to impose their values on the rest of the country. This is no different from a nasty special interest group lobbying government to get some preferential treatment. It’s unfair to everyone else who has to support big government with their wallets. …not mentioning the harm this this would do to the arts.

  15. No name? How can someone named “no name,” with no contact link, post such a negative, anarchistic comment? Oops, Alyson, this blog just went from purple to black and white. This idea of a “minister of culture” is fairly new, at least as a serious proposal. There are much larger issues to contend with, such as national/global unemployment, global warming, etc. But the arts, as Mira said, are a staple in modern thinking even if many public school administrators don’t think so. Creative problem solving is SO ESSENTIAL, and that is what arts education CAN foster. Andrew Goldsworthy sees exactly the same twig that you see, and I see and creates a new and inspiring reality. That’s what we need to support. A Minister for the Arts, as pie in the sky as that position might be, would represent a validation of that creative thinking process. It’s only a dream. Cat B, support of the arts, and national health insurance to boot. Hurrah!

  16. I think it’s a wonderful idea that’ll lead to stronger support for arts in education and more grants for artists. The arts advocacy group, Americans for the Arts, has proposed Nine Recommendations for Economic Recovery & the Arts to help artists weather the economic downturn. Their CEO Bob Lynch met with Obama’s Transition Team last week… Here’s a link to their agenda:

  17. Like most people i just assumed that a secretary for the arts would be a funding (some might say meddling) entity like the NEA, but after hearing the NPR piece, yes, there are international issues re: the business side of arts, like differing copyright laws, union rules stopping guest artists, and so on, and from that perspective I could see point in it. but like many i think we have to make sure it does not become a “single payer” system where every arts group needs to pass muster with its centralized standards. that is a likely recipe for mediocrity and stagnation. i wonder how many people would have wanted a bush-appointed secretary of the arts. Also please forgive my venting on a pet peeve of mine, there is a big difference between what is often called “art” and real creativity. I was a reasonably successful musician, but i would not call playing 400 nutcrackers “creative” — in fact i left the orchestra biz because it was so terribly uncreative. a violin is a tool, just as is a screwdriver, and creativity does not necessarily result from their use– in fact, sometimes it’s the opposite. just defining terms. — justin locke

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