Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

New NEA chief: will Oakland artists benefit?

By awoodall
Thursday, August 13th, 2009 at 4:21 pm in Night Owl.

Back in February, a group of artists, curators, gallery operators and commentators gathered in an empty Old Oakland storefront to discuss the state of the arts. The central question was how government (at all levels) can influence and support the local arts. On the agenda was the $50 million in arts funding included in the stimulus bill, which was still in the jello stage six months ago.  I wrote a story about the town hall style meeting, but I don’t know what concrete steps were taken after the meeting. I think they are planning another forum. In the meantime, and this goes back to many of the comments made during the discussion, the National Endowment for the Arts has a new chairman, Broadway producer Rocco Landesman. In an NYT article about Obama’s appointment of the tough and evidently wealthy producer, Landesman said the arts are an economic engine and called the current appropriation of $155 million pathetic and embarassing, which is still less than agency’s 1992 budget of $176 million — before a Congress bent on destroying the agency got a hold of the federal pursestrings. So it sounds like more money might pour (or at least drip) from the federal faucets, but: ”Mr. Landesman said he expected to focus on financing the best art, regardless of location…There is going to be some push-back from me about democratizing arts grants to the point where you really have to answer some questions about artistic merit.” (Another art-scene story I seem to do about every 6 months – this time about Art Murmur and First Fridays – will be online shortly and in the Trib tomorrow.)

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