Re: Sec. of Arts petition
I agree it's risky to appoint a Secretary of the Arts, but maybe they have more power than an educational role but less power than a censorship role. For example, in Massachusetts, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), for co-founded the Senate Cultural Caucus to show his longtime support for arts and culture in Massachusetts. So maybe there role is like a figure head to bring awareness and dialogue to the arts across all disciplines.
I think one argument that is going to have to be made is how this is different than the NEA, i.e. why is more support for the arts needed and while I agree with education and advocacy I think what happened with the NEA individual grants is that funding on an individual level dried up and individual artists were forced to make marketable work to get funds. I think the key language point should be that the secretary of the arts promote dialogue in the arts and visibility/access to all art disciplines such as music, poetry, performance, theater, dance, visual arts, etc... There remains the thornier issue of how to handle fields such as craft, design and applied arts in a national arts dialogue. At least in Massachusetts, sports, tourism and the arts are all lumped together as 'culture'
I like the idea of an opposing viewpoints series of art shows to promote dialogue amongst people who have different opinions (art=culture=relevancy)
If you support all the arts, and all secondary fields like design, crafts, architecture, advertising, documentaries etc.. you wind up with an initiative to support a creative economy initiative across all fields that promote creative work which is another model Massachusetts is promoting right now. With the help of the NEA who has earmarked money for all fields of design, because there is more potential for job creation, entrepreneurship and start-ups in design fields, New England is vying to receive these dollars to support web design, advertising, publishing jobs that indirectly benefit artists and art centers. I'm still curious if the Secretary for the Arts (which in my mind does not mean only visual arts) would somehow be appointed to run the NEA in other words, the change may not be as significant as anticipated. The other model Massachusetts is spearheading is a joint committee on Art, Tourism and Culture in the State House where public and private partnerships are sought to support the arts and culture in MA. One example is Main Street initiative which was a project of the National Trust for Historic preservation but the City of Boston adopted it as a model and money is used to preserve the architectural heritage of a main street and businesses are encouraged to work together to promote the identity of their city. In my neighborhood, they started a 1st Thursday event where musicians, artists, poets, all turn out for performances and shows along the main street and the cafes give out free coffee, and snacks. I think it's a danger to think too narrowly about the potential Secretary of the Arts position or the Arts in general because so many other fields support the arts and touch our lives as artists indirectly.
I think what the arts need at a national level is re-branding in the eyes of the public who think that national support for the arts=mapplethorpe, piss christ and karen finlay. I think at a national level, you're going to have to get a direction or an administrative charge from Obama to steer the national arts policy in a certain direction. It should involve the NEA who tends to fund organizations as well as the SBA who tends to understand entrepreneurs and perhaps the needs of the individual artist and lobbying groups like the American for the Arts, for starters. If you want the Secretary of the Arts to promote the fine arts, or the highest attainment in the arts, look at what fields the pulitzer and macarthur recognize, and set a course in that direction.