NEA Chief: Don't Hate on Arts Funding Just Because You Think We're Gay


The New York Times this weekend ran an interview with the new National Endowment for the Arts Chairman, the wonderfully named Rocco Landesman. Whose "straight-talking style, Missouri roots and affinity for baseball and country music," we are reliably assured, "are expected to give him a leg up with many legislators."

Just don't oppose stimulus NEA spending, you homophobes!

He was particularly angered, he said, by parts of the debate over whether to include $50 million for the agency in the federal stimulus bill, citing the comment by Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, on CNBC's "Squawk Box" in February, that arts money did not belong in the bill. That kind of thinking suggests that "artists don't have kids to send to college," Mr. Landesman said, "or food to put on the table, or medical bills to pay."

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."

Italics in the original. Lord knows why.

For those of you who believe that unicorns flying in the same direction can bring forth the Singularity money taken from one set of taxpayers and redistributed to artists can magically end up producing multiple times the original amount in economic impact, good news! Rocco wants to spend!

Though he would not put a dollar figure on his own fiscal goals, he called the current appropriation of $155 million "pathetic" and "embarrassing." […]

"We're going to be looking for funding increases that are more than incremental," he said. […]

Mr. Landesman said that as chairman he will focus on the potential of the arts to help in the country's economic recovery.

"I wouldn't have come to the N.E.A. if it was just about padding around in the agency," he said, and worrying about which nonprofits deserve more funds. "We need to have a seat at the big table with the grown-ups. Art should be part of the plans to come out of this recession."

"If we're going to have any traction at all," he added, "there has to be a place for us in domestic policy." […]

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.

Link via The Corner. Greg Beato wrote about NEA subsidies in the stimulus back in the May issue.