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Council restores money to some Pensacola nonprofits
Sept 10, 2009; Pensacola News Journal | With so many grim headlines of endowments in free fall and budgets slashed, we’ll take “good” news where we can find it: In this story, Pensacola’s council recently voted to reduce the cuts to several nonprofit art organizations it had originally proposed—Timothy Lyster

NEA conference call brouhaha creates diversion from real debate
Sept 11, 2009; | The cause of health care reform didn’t need another attention-distracting controversy when what’s needed (still) is a rational, fact-based discussion. In the wake of the resignation of the Obama Administration’s purported green jobs “czar”, Van Jones, for his rhetorical excess in describing the President’s Republican opponents (and for having signed a public letter intimating that the U.S. government under President Bush had prompted the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to go to war against Iraq), now the National Endowment for the Arts is embroiled in a health reform-related brouhaha over an August 10th conference call it apparently sponsored or co-sponsored with the White House Office of Public Engagement, and the President’s United We Serve campaign. Coming when it did, with the United We Serve involvement, it seems apparent to us that this was one of the ubiquitous efforts of the White House to gin up support from all sectors for the President’s and First Lady’s call for a National Day of Service on September 11th.  However, a conservative filmmaker, one Patrick Courrielche, was one of the 75 or so participants on the call and recorded the call. We at NPQ do not have a transcript of the call and have requested a statement from the National Endowment for the Arts (the press has reported on a statement ascribed variously to the White House and the NEA that the NEA conference “call was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false”). However, reading Courrielche’s blog a report (on Big Hollywood) as well as the official White House statement, one comes away with a sense that the content was primarily focused on getting arts activists to connect with the Day of Service focus and to encourage artists in that sense to address major issues in their art, including energy and health care. In the aftermath of Courrielche’s several blog postings, picked up by conservative outlets such as the National Review; the American Spectator—which deserves special mention, and not in a complimentary way (Endowment for the Arts is Trying to Create a Cult of Obama); the Washington Times (here and here); and the indefatigable Glenn Beck, the NEA has stumbled and bumbled a bit with explanations as to how much it was the initiator of the call (see Courrielche’s posting,  and a brief piece from the Washington Times, which may or may not have led to the sacking of the NEA person who issued Courrielche and others an e-mailed invitation. But the critics of the NEA call are also, admittedly, critics of the NEA itself and the notion of governmental support of the arts. Moreover, they seem to fail to understand that having artists address current issues is what poets, painters, sculptors, and photographers do. Those of us who know the power of art to bring issues to the consciousness of the public-think of the Depression era photographs of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. That’s not partisan politics, that’s art. Getting artists to paint and sculpt and photograph about these issues is in the highest traditions of powerful, emotionally motivating art.—Rick Cohen

The NEA responds . . .
On August 10, the National Endowment for the Arts participated in a call with arts organizations to inform them of the President’s call to national service. The White House Office of Public Engagement also participated in the call, which provided information on how the Corporation for National and Community Service can assist groups interested in sponsoring service projects or having their members volunteer on other projects. This call was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false. The NEA regularly does outreach to various organizations to inform them of the work we are doing and the resources available to them.—Sally Gifford, Communications Specialist, NEA


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