Politics and the Arts Czar

January 22, 2009

Receiving my latest edition of the American String Teachers Association newsletter, a headline read that a cabinet-level post for Arts and Humanities was gaining momentum. It pointed to an article in the Washington Post about the urge for this minister of culture and the potential for it with the ushering of a new president.

If there’s a theme I keep seeing, it’s simply put by Alex Ross’ blog (http://www.therestisnoise.com):

…art and politics have never mixed well on American soil. Anyone who favors a “Secretary of Culture” ought to read up on the political firestorm that consumed the WPA arts projects in the late 1930s. But symbolic gestures — recitals at the White House, attendance at concerts, and so forth — can send a strong signal.

Seeing some parallels? Economy of the ’30s. Economy of the… ’00s (I guess?) We know how well music and the arts did in the former, how will it do today?

I am hopeful of an administration that will support the arts, and advancing culture boosts good society (you’ve played Civilization 3 on PC, right?), all bolstered by the wonderful sight of John Williams’ piece for the inauguration, Air and Simple Gifts ushering in the new administration. The diversity (yikes, the D-word) of the performers was a good statement. This feels like a hopeful beginning to a more watchful eye for this side of culture.

Politics or not, Arts Secretary or not…

What do you see for the distant future?

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