Meet The New NEA Chairman

It looks like all of the initial chatter about Michael Dorf leading the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) was all for naught as news about theater producer Rocco Landesman appointment started popping up in newspapers and online. The 5/12/09 edition of the New York Times published the most comprehensive article about the appointment to date and they offered an intriguing glimpse into one particular quality that might make Landesman the right man for the job…

150x150-ita-guy-021In particular, The Times reports that Landesman has a bit of a bullish and outspoken personality, which might be what the NEA needs to recapture nearly two decades of lost funding ground. In early March of this year, I posted an article about what sort of priorities the new NEA chairman will need to address:

“…but if the NEA aspires to a position of relevance among government agencies, the first order of business is finding a leader capable of putting it there and has the will to make it a top priority (paging Michael Dorf?). And that leader will need to move the NEA toward becoming a sincere political force within Washington DC capable of asserting positive influence on members of Congress, other federal departments and agencies, state arts councils, and various philanthropic foundations.”

These early reports about Landesman seen to indicate his nonprofit training combined with hard-fought for profit entrepreneurial skills might be exactly what is needed to accomplish the above tasks.

At the same time, it is a bit of a letdown to see Michael Dorf out of the chairman picture. His mixture of legal, financial, and administrative expertise are qualities that would have served an NEA chairman equally as well. In a perfect world, Landesman will surround himself with individuals that posses those qualities. I’m also hoping that Landesman’s penchant for upsetting the status quo will push him toward establishing a sort of NEA regulatory commission like the type discussed here. If that, along with successful politicking, are the worst things to happen during his tenure then we can all look forward to a much brighter future for government involvement in the arts.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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