There has been some intriguing discussion throughout the blogosphere following the article from earlier this week about the possibility of a White House based Office of the Arts. Ian Wilhelm picked up on the conversation via an article he posted at the Chronicle of Philanthropy and reader response to the idea has been surprising (at least, to me). In general, most of those leaving comments seem to be leery of the idea of a new arts office and/or increased possibilities for redundant spending…
In particular, these questions were thought-provoking:
“Is the problem that not enough people appreciate the value of the arts? Or is it that the arts are not exciting sufficient local enthusiasm and support?” – jane
Compelling arguments in support of the creation of a centralized Federal arts office can be found in an 11/26/2008 online discussion at the Chronicle of Philanthropy (that was in turn inspired by a radio appearance by Quincy Jones on WNYC’s Soundcheck program). One comment in that discussion is worth noting:
“There are already two federally funded organizations – the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, whose directors are appointed by the President. Would it not make more sense to call for a Secretary of Culture with a broader portfolio and who would oversee the 2 endowments?” – Leni
I am particularly fond of this point of view in that it maintains a strong potential to eliminate internal redundancies and strengthen the image of overall Federal arts funding. As a result, this would not only help alleviate potential pressure from the scrutiny of the White House’s new chief performance officer but it could set up a new Federal arts funding program capable of serving as a benchmark for other Federal program renovations.
If real change inside the Federal government is indeed on the horizon it will initially emerge from departments under direct control of the Executive branch. I am cautiously optimist that the incoming administration will be able to elevate the status of Federal arts programs along with their respective bureaucracies. If in order to accomplish this task it requires a complete overhaul of existing Federal programs, than the sooner they engage the process the better.