Monday, September 21, 2009

NEA Conference Call has a recording of the NEA call where White House personnel specifically ask the art community, who receives funding from the government, to create art that promotes Obama's policies.
Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement:
  • “I just first of all want to thank everyone for being on the call and just a deep deep appreciation for all the work you all put into the campaign for the 2+ years we all worked together.”
  • “We won.”
  • “I’m actually in the White House and working towards furthering this agenda, this very aggressive agenda.”
  • “We’re going to come at you with some specific asks here.”
  • “I hope you guys are ready.”
Yosi Sergant, former Communications Director of the National Endowment for the Arts:
  • “I would encourage you to pick something, whether it’s health care, education, the environment, you know, there’s four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service.”
  • “And then my ask would be to apply artistic, you know, your artistic creative communities utilities and bring them to the table.”
  • “Again, I’m really, really honored to be working with you; the National Endowment for the Arts is really honored.”
  • “You’re going to see a lot more of us in the next four and hopefully eight years.”
Three days after the conference call a coalition of arts groups, led by Americans for the Arts, a participant on the conference call per the meeting contact list and recipient of NEA grants, sent out a press release with the heading “Urgent Call to Congress for Healthcare Reform,” which called for the creation of “a health care reform bill that will create a public health insurance option.” Eleven days after the conference call, Rock the Vote, another participant on the call, announced a health care design contest. “We can’t stand by and listen to lies and deceit coming from those who are against reforming a broken system,” they stated in their announcement. “Enough is Enough. We need designs that tell the country YES WE CARE! Young people demand health care.”

Debating the role of government is and has been the goal of bringing this conference call to light. The NEA tainted the creative process by encouraging the art community to address highly controversial political issues. ‘How?’ you may ask. The NEA is the largest single funder of the arts in the United States. This government agency has the power and ability to fund arts organizations and recently expressed a desire to return to funding individual artists, bringing more from the group into the pool of potential grantees.

The NEA did encourage a handpicked, pro-Obama arts group to address issues under contentious national debate. That fact is irrefutable.

This practice has never been the historical role of the NEA. The NEA’s role is to support excellence in the arts, to increase access to the arts, and to be a leader in arts education. Using the arts to address contentiously debated issues is political subversion. And the fact that the White House played a role in encouraging the arts to address contentious issues should also be considered a government overreach.

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