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Dana Gioia, NEA Chair, speaks!

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A friend of mine will soon be interviewing the director (president? king?) of the National Endowment for the Arts.

I have been asked to think up some good questions.

Naturally, I am falling back on my community of brilliant correspondents. What would YOU ask the head honcho of the NEA?

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1) Got a light?

2) I signed that e-mail petition to keep Congress from slashing your budget. Did it help?

3) Three words: Mapplethorpe. Ohio. Helms. Would you do it again?

4) How do you draw the line between "high" culture and popular culture? What is the mission of the NEA with respect to each?

5) What area of the arts is in greatest need of NEA funding?

6) You can't fund them all. There are many worthwhile projects being proposed by small arts groups, as well as many school programs in need of a piece of what looks like an ever-shrinking pie. They won't all receive NEA funding. How do you recommend that they go about finding alternative sources?

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Neat opportunity! I've been impressed with what I've read and heard about Dana Gioia. As I understand it, before taking his post under Bush's reign, he's been a fairly well-regarded poet, who earned a name for himself by publicly calling for a return to meaning in poetry, rather than poems as code understood only by a select ivory tower elite (or something like that, anyway). He's also been an occasional well-spoken guest on the terrific Mars Hill Audio journal series that we talked about on our previous board (under 'What We're Reading,' I believe).

I like question #4 in particular, Mr Mando. #3 would seem of limited relevance, since this hullaballoo predated Gioia's tenure.

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Love mrmando's #3

And would add: The NEA has long been associated with high art and art that is largely inaccesible to the mainstream, is there any validity to this claim and do you think there's a need to change it? Is it a matter of educated the masses, or supporting more common-man friendly art?

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Love mrmando's #3

Don't you guys know a joke when you see it?

And would add:  The NEA has long been associated with high art and art that is largely inaccesible to the mainstream, is there any validity to this claim and do you think there's a need to change it?  Is it a matter of educated the masses, or supporting more common-man friendly art?

Kind of what I was trying to get at with #4.

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Thought of another question I might pose:

There's a certain point of view that would look at the arts as, for lack of a better term, a marketplace. The theory is that good art will find an audience and therefore find the funding it needs, whereas bad art won't. From that perspective, government funding for the arts is either unnecessary or elitist, or both. What is your response to this argument?

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Are Mr. Mando and Dan Buck really the only ones with questions for this fellow?

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I like Mando's most recent question and urge that it be included.

Of my own:

There once was much protest over particular works funded by the NEA, which the NEA seemed to ignore. What influence do you think a funding source should have in the creative process of subsidized projects? Before the fact? After the fact?

There is an aesthetic point of view that sees the artist's chief role in society as an agent of provocation and disruption. Would you consider such values to be greater than concerns of craftmanship and beauty? Why?

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"The government funds research about spirituality and healing in the context of the medical sciences, why does the NEA not fund projects dealing with spirituality and the arts? The NEA's funding could enable the artists of contemporary Christianity (in a broadly ecumenical sense) in America to produce and embody the central symbols of the Christian faith (in a broadly ecumenical sense) in new ways that would enable such symbols to participate in culture in terms of social justice, racial healing, and personal development."

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The interview will probably happen within the next week. Since I posted this, the task has been dropped by the original assignee and handed to me, so now I get to do the honors.

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Gosh, I'd love to talk with the director now. I'd ask him about his shared religious convictions with the president, and whether that factored into Bush's decision to propose a lot$$$ more money for the organization.

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The interview will probably happen within the next week. Since I posted this, the task has been dropped by the original assignee and handed to me, so now I get to do the honors.
So anything good in the interview?

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In the time leading up to my interview, which I'm told could happen in the next couple of weeks, I've been reading "Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture." It's a great book, and so much of what it says makes me want to write the equivalent on film. If I could, I'd cut and paste the first three or four chapters and post them RIGHT HERE.

But I won't. You'll just have to visit your local library or independent bookstore or, if you don't want to leave your chair, GO HERE.

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At long last...

the article and the interview are published.

Thanks for the suggested questions. Due to the extremely limited time of the interview, I had to go with other questions, and then use the exchanges that came out best.

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