Secretary of the Arts

This arrived in my email inbox this morning…

While I could see some problems with this, my guess is that it would be more good than bad.

Quincy Jones has started a petition to ask President-Elect Obama to appoint a Secretary of the  Arts. While many other countries have had Ministers of Art or Culture for centuries, The United States has never created such a position. Those in the arts need this and our country needs the arts now more than ever. Please take a moment to sign this important petition and then  pass it on to your friends and colleagues.

Click here to sign the petition.

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Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Kirk

    I completely agree – far, far more good than bad. No bad at all, really. My thoughts:

  • no name

    Constitutionally, it doesn’t matter whether or not we “like” this idea of a secretary of the arts, the fact is, it has no place in a free society.

    Artists (musicians, dancers, actors, poets…etc.) are the biggest champions of individual expression and personal freedom I know. Yet somehow, they think it’s okay to create a cabinet position to impose their values on the rest of the country. This is no different from a nasty special interest group lobbying government to get some preferential treatment. It’s unfair to everyone else who has to support big government with their wallets.

    …not mentioning the harm this this would do to the arts.

    • Carl McColman

      Dear [No Name Provided]:

      Clearly, we have radically different ideas not only about the arts, but about what constitutes the public, including public interest and the public good. Your comment suggests to me that you see the arts as entirely private in nature: individuals engaged in self-expression, the products of which they can attempt to sell in the free market, with “greatness” mostly a matter of how successful a work is (if not financially, than at least critically). If this is all there is to the arts, then I agree with you: keep government out of it.

      But as a professional artist, I know that as soon as my work is published, there is a public dimension to it (the pun is quite intentional). I believe there is a public interest directly relevant to the creation, dissemination, and preservation of the arts, for it is the arts, more than the stock market, more than the wranglings on capital hill, that define a people’s culture and provide the most lasting legacy that will be bequeathed to future generations. Since I refuse to buy in to the neo-conservative paranoia that insists all government is tyranny, I believe there is a legitimate and valuable place for a public forum which can function as an advocate for the arts. Granted, such a forum could easily become censorious — a danger to which we both allude in our comments above — but in a free democracy, I believe such problems would sort themselves out over time. And a “department of the arts” (which I suppose would be a revitalization of the current NEA) would not be in the business of suppressing controversial art, but simply of advocating for the ongoing role of the arts in our public life (including public education). In other words, I don’t believe a department of the arts will suppress artists like the Dixie Chicks, just because they dared to criticize the president. It will, however, make sure that our young people get the opportunity to learn how to make music, ensuring that future Dixie Chicks will have the opportunity to make their own music. Likewise, a department of the arts will not make an artist like Robert Mapplethorpe any more — or less — contested than he already is.

  • Gadhadhraya

    amazing stuff thanx :)

  • Keshavaya

    That’s Too nice, when it comes in india hope it can make a Rocking place for youngster.. hope that come true.