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George Will on the NEA's bid to politicize the arts


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#1 CrimsonLine

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 09:29 AM

It may be that this topic will be deleted by the moderators - it DOES cross into the political realm, and I know that A&F has wrestled with the question of political discussions. I have no intent to start a flame war. I know that the rough decision was to allow political discussions that arise from discussions of particular works of art, but not discussions that are purely political in nature. This issue falls in the gray area, because of its very nature.

I am sure many A&F'ers are aware of the brouhaha that has arisen over a recent conference call of artists from various media, almost certainly called by the NEA, and almost certainly at the behest of the White House. Certainly the discussion was moderated by the NEA representative, and a White House representative was on the line. The conference call was put together with the intention of encouraging those artists to use their art to promote President Obama's legislative agenda,

The story broke when Patrick Corrielche, an artist who used to work for the NEA, a participant in the conference call, became uncomfortable with the content of the invitation he received, and recorded the conference call on audio. He wrote a piece about it that was picked up by Glenn Beck, the FoxNews host and radio talker that seems to be the Obama Administration's personal nemesis these days. Ironically, Corrielche had just written a piece, entitled The Artist Formerly Known as Dissident bemoaning the fact that artists no longer saw themselves in any sort of conscience-role to those in power. After the NEA and White House blustered a response to Courrielche and Beck, denying that they were responsible for putting the conference call together, Courrielche wrote a follow-up piece proving that their denials were untrue. Following Courrielche's second piece, the NEA Director of Communications was "reassigned."

The reason I think this topic can be rightly discussed at A&F is that it is not purely a political thread - it is about the intersection between the arts and politics. It's about politicians seeking to co-opt the arts for their own use. It's about the drive to produce propaganda, and the inability of artists to see that this is what's going on. The NEA is the single largest funding source for the arts, and NEA grants often serve as the impetus for matching grants from private sources. George Will comments that "He who pays the piper does indeed call the tune, and in the four months before the conference call, 16 of the participating organizations received a total of nearly $2 million from the NEA. Two days after the call, the 16 and five other organizations issued a plea for the president's health care plan."

The Washington Times weighs in with a recent editorial, here.

Edited by CrimsonLine, 17 September 2009 - 09:32 AM.


#2 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 09:57 AM

Maybe someday soon they'll get doctors or health-insurance agencies to issue a plea for stronger arts funding. smile.gif

#3 Andy Whitman

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 10:42 AM

Certainly this is a problematic topic. But it is not a new one, and I'm somewhat baffled by the outcry over this particular manifestation of an age-old issue. Commissions -- and frequently state-sponsored commissions -- of works of art have characterized every age, from the Greek and Roman eras to the present day. And governments have employed artists for their own ends since time immemorial. Jacques-Louis David's paintings of the emperor Napoleon glorified and mythologized a tyrant, and they were paintings that were frequently commissioned by Napoleon himself. A significant number of the architectural wonders of Europe were commissioned by governments. In the modern era, we remember with horror the propaganda generated by Goebbels and the Nazis, and the stylized Russian worker posters of Stalin's totalitarian regime. But we overlook the film reels of our gallant boys in World War II, and we tend to think of the massive temples and obelisks scattered around Washington D.C. as national monuments, not propaganda.

It would help if we could define the terms, and not simply label any politcally-motivated art we don't like as "propaganda." Sometimes other people call these things "masterpieces."

I can't imagine that attempts to promote the Obama administration's push for health care reform would result in worthwhile or good art, but I'm willing to give it a shot. To the tune of "Blowin' in the Wind":

How many trips to the emergency room
Can the uninsured make 'til they're denied?
Yes, and how many $462 prescriptions can one man fill
Before all his savings have dried
Up?
The answer, my friend, is health care reform
The answer is health care reform


That will be $2,000,000.00, please. Please?

Edited by Andy Whitman, 17 September 2009 - 10:43 AM.


#4 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 03:54 PM

Andy Whitman wrote:
: And governments have employed artists for their own ends since time immemorial.

Well, yes. But I don't believe the artists who are subsidized by the NEA are supposed to be "employed" by the government one way or the other, if you get my drift. If arts subsidies really ARE just a way to push the government's message, in addition to the existing government communications offices, then that's an argument in favour of quitting arts subsidies altogether. (And I say this as one who lives in a province whose government provoked a hue-and-cry a few weeks ago by making some drastic cuts in its arts-subsidy program. So I know how controversial such a statement might sound. But if the choice is between propaganda or nothing, I'll take nothing.)

#5 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 04:53 PM

I think that this topic is PERFECT for this site. I'll have a better response down the road as I digest some of the links and as I clean off my agenda of a very busy weekend and week ahead.

What comes to mind though, is a paraphrase of an old adage, One man's propaganda (or propaganda machine) is another man's spoken "truth to power". Heh, or in this case, "truth" from power. It is certainly delightful to see artists change their spots almost as quickly as congressmen and senators all as a result of a change in administrations. Absolutely delightful even though I've seen it so many administration changes before.

Edited by Rich Kennedy, 17 September 2009 - 04:53 PM.


#6 Anna J

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 05:30 PM

This thread is okay, since it IS about art in the public square. Just keep it civil, and keep it about art. If things get nasty I'll close it.

#7 Andy Whitman

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 06:34 PM

QUOTE (Peter T Chattaway @ Sep 17 2009, 04:54 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Andy Whitman wrote:
: And governments have employed artists for their own ends since time immemorial.

Well, yes. But I don't believe the artists who are subsidized by the NEA are supposed to be "employed" by the government one way or the other, if you get my drift. If arts subsidies really ARE just a way to push the government's message, in addition to the existing government communications offices, then that's an argument in favour of quitting arts subsidies altogether. (And I say this as one who lives in a province whose government provoked a hue-and-cry a few weeks ago by making some drastic cuts in its arts-subsidy program. So I know how controversial such a statement might sound. But if the choice is between propaganda or nothing, I'll take nothing.)

Sure, and I agree. I don't want the U.S. government to employ artists either, particularly under the guise of merely subsidizing good art. But the NEA already subsidizes what it considers to be good art, and I wonder what types of political litmus tests those artists must pass, even if the government isn't ostensibly directly involved in the decisions of which artists to fund. I think the recent flap over the NEA is understandable. I just think it's naive to think that the U.S. government, when it comes to handing out millions of dollars, is a totally objective, dispassionate bystander that is merely concerned with promoting artistic quality. Governments have always meddled in the arts, and they probably always will. That doesn't make it right. And certainly there is an element of subterfuge here that is distasteful. But I still wonder if this is all that different from countless political candidates co-opting pop songs and using them for their campaigns. To that end, commissioning art that promotes health care reform is probably a terrible idea anyway, and a waste of time. Nobody wants to see a drama or read a poem or hear a song about health care reform. All of this brouhaha could have been avoided by simply taking a Celine Dion song, tacking on a couple more references to working together so that we can all achieve our dreams, and playing it with a video featuring cute kids and beaming octogenarians. It would be perfect propaganda, and it would sell ten million copies.

#8 Andy Whitman

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 07:09 AM

QUOTE (e2c @ Sep 18 2009, 01:49 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (Andy Whitman @ Sep 17 2009, 07:34 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I don't want the U.S. government to employ artists either, particularly under the guise of merely subsidizing good art.

Hmm... even the artists and writers who worked for the WPA during the Depression?

edited to add: actually, the federal government *does* employ lots of artists, photographers, graphic and web designers, writers (et. al.) at federally-owned and funded museums, national parks, and historic sites. Not to mention all kinds of other government agencies (Bureau of Engraving and Printing, anyone?). It's just that the general public is largely unaware of their existence, because, well... we (meaning "I") see the finished products, not the actual people at work, who are all behind the scenes.

I do think the NEA has borne the brunt of much misdirected criticism and outcry over the past 25+ years, and this time around strikes me as no exception to that.

It's a question of how the message is conveyed, though. Obviously the government employs "creative" types (I hesitate to use the word "artists") to shape the messages it communicates to the American people. These people, as you note, are frequently anonymous. Nobody cares who writes the script for a campaign speech, and it is assumed that the spoken words mirror a candidate's actual views.

But something different is at work if, for example, Maya Angelou is subsidized by the NEA to write a "health care reform" poem. The views expressed in the poem may or may not reflect Maya Angelou's personal views. But she's not being paid to communicate her own views. She's being paid to reflect the views of the U.S. government. The subterfuge, in that hypothetical example, is that no one encountering the poem would know that. They would assume that what they read or hear is an accurate reflection of Maya Angelou as Maya Angelou, Great American Poet.

I do think the current dust-up re: the NEA is significant. I don't think it's radically different from what has gone on for decades, though. Artists are, or at least can be, politically savvy people. And if you're angling for an NEA grant (and some artists, and some NEA grant recipients, have certainly angled for the award), then there's at the very least an unconscious propensity to "tailor" one's art so that it is not only aesthetically pleasing, but politically congruent with the views/tone of the current administration. Money has a way of making whores/pimps out of the most idealistic people. And never underestimate the power of the buck, and sometimes big bucks, to an artist. They don't call them "starving artists" for nothing.

#9 draper

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 11:01 AM

The Government paid Thomas Hart Benton to paint the joys of hard work and rural values on post offices all over the midwest. We survived it.

I think there is a thin line between working for the man and selling out your soul. Being an artist is a hard racket. I vote we give the artists tax dollars and cut them loose.We may get a "Piss Christ" and an ode to socialized medicine but if we are able to launch another Jackson Pollack, Ben Shahn, Willem de Kooning, Walker Evans...etc..

16,000 musicians were employed under the Federal Music Project, they taught lessons, gave concerts, recorded the musical culture of the U.S.


I might be thread drifting....I think artists should be allowed grants to create art. I think the propagandizing and or agenda pushing is a separate department.


In the 80's I got paid money to play guitar and tell kid's to just say no. Was I a government shill? All the way to the bank.

#10 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 11:37 AM

draper wrote:
: The Government paid Thomas Hart Benton to paint the joys of hard work and rural values on post offices all over the midwest.

Well, yeah. The post office is a government institution. So there's an obvious work-for-hire, propaganda-if-you-want-to-call-it-that aspect to that.

But agencies like the NEA aren't supposed to be in the propaganda business. Right now, A&Fer Ron Reed, who runs a theatre in town, is devoting a fair bit of his blog to the news that the provincial BC government has cut funding to the arts. And I think he'd be offended if anybody were to say that Pacific Theatre could get the money if, and only if, it produced plays or issued statements supporting the BC Liberals' policies. There is a difference between funding the arts and hiring an artist to work for you -- just as, I guess you could say, there is a difference between going on welfare and getting a job. The government doesn't tell you what to do with the money that you get on welfare. But if you get a job -- whether in the private sector or in the public (i.e. government) sector -- then the employer does get to tell you what you have to do in order to get that money. And it was my understanding that organizations like the NEA were in the welfare business, so to speak, and not in the work-for-hire business.

#11 jfutral

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 11:50 AM

In the OP, you wrote this:

"It's about the drive to produce propaganda, and the inability of artists to see that this is what's going on. "

I have serious doubts that the artists who involve themselves in this "outreach" really do not see what is going on. If anything they are probably sympathetic to begin with and gladly, probably enthusiastically, appreciate the call. So if/when Maya Angelou writes her poem, I have no doubt it will be as much from the heart as if she found other inspiration to compose. And I would be hard pressed to believe that she had not already done so.

But what is the issue? That _this_ particular event has arisen? That the government is trying to use it's artistic financial leverage to propagate a _particular_ (with a few small attempts to prove otherwise) partisan issue? Artists participating (actively or coercively) in political expression? in this particular expression? That this is an inverse corollary to when funds are _denied_ based on content?

I think George Will is correct. I remember back in the Maplethorpe brouhaha, Joseph Papp refused NEA money due to new restrictions that resulted. Few artists are in a position to be so bold.

To someone else's point. I do think this is different than a commission. Commissions from the start often come with certain expectations—size, length of work, a particular event or person being attributed, mostly explicit, some implicit. Plus, I have a hard time likening this to getting celebrities to participate in general public health and welfare issues such as when Arnie was promoting fitness. There is still much political partisan power plays at work for this to be seen otherwise.

Now if the implication in this instance were either "We've given you money now we want something in return" (not-withstanding exactly who is this "we" since this is public money) or "If you don't cooperate you won't get anymore money" or some other form of quid pro quo for a specific partisan position, this is where I would have a problem.

Is there a place for political commentary in the arts? Musicians/poets like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell seem to think so. But should the government dictate or coerce the content or otherwise promote or petition a particular legislative content? I don't think so. But is this what is happening?

[edited to add] "In the 80's I got paid money to play guitar and tell kid's to just say no. Was I a government shill? All the way to the bank."
Dang! Missed that money!

Joe

Edited by jfutral, 18 September 2009 - 11:58 AM.


#12 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 04:45 PM

QUOTE (Andy Whitman @ Sep 18 2009, 08:09 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I do think the current dust-up re: the NEA is significant. I don't think it's radically different from what has gone on for decades, though. Artists are, or at least can be, politically savvy people. And if you're angling for an NEA grant (and some artists, and some NEA grant recipients, have certainly angled for the award), then there's at the very least an unconscious propensity to "tailor" one's art so that it is not only aesthetically pleasing, but politically congruent with the views/tone of the current administration. Money has a way of making whores/pimps out of the most idealistic people. And never underestimate the power of the buck, and sometimes big bucks, to an artist. They don't call them "starving artists" for nothing.

Yes. If anyone has actually read the works of Garrison Keillor, his early stuff includes a collection of short stories in the vein of Raymond Chandlers short stories concerning a specialist in grant proposal creation. Sort of hard boiled Social Science facilitation that marveslously sends up the excesses of this sort of thing.

#13 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 12:43 PM

Propaganda, Health Care and ACORN: Full Context of NEA Conference Call Reveals Disturbing Pattern
Documentation gathered by Big Hollywood’s Patrick Courrielche and the Washington Times, coupled with a newly revealed audio recording of the full conference call, points to eight troubling facts that put the full context of the call in a very disturbing light.
John Nolte, Big Hollywood, September 21

#14 Darryl A. Armstrong

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 05:41 PM

QUOTE (Peter T Chattaway @ Sep 18 2009, 11:37 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Right now, A&Fer Ron Reed, who runs a theatre in town, is devoting a fair bit of his blog to the news that the provincial BC government has cut funding to the arts. And I think he'd be offended if anybody were to say that Pacific Theatre could get the money if, and only if, it produced plays or issued statements supporting the BC Liberals' policies. There is a difference between funding the arts and hiring an artist to work for you -- just as, I guess you could say, there is a difference between going on welfare and getting a job.


Ah... But does it ever work like that? I think things would go more along the lines of: Pacific Theatre could get money if they produced some, or even one play supporting the BC Liberals' policies.

If you agree with the policies in question, you'll probably be likely to proceed. If you don't agree, but need the funding, you're still welcome to produce a counter policy supporting play - they could be a double-feature.

#15 Holy Moly!

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 07:21 PM

I may have something to add to this conversation, since I was among the population of arts organizers invited to be on a conference call with Yosi Sargent (skipped it due to my obligation to attend the Hip Hop Natl Congress) and I know a couple people who were on the one that's been transcribed.

But at this point, correcting all the lies and misinformation would be kind of a grueling task. Ya'll are debating the ethics and philosophies but no one is reporting the facts about who organized these calls, and to what end!

#16 SDG

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 07:27 PM

QUOTE (Holy Moly! @ Sep 21 2009, 08:21 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
But at this point, correcting all the lies and misinformation would be kind of a grueling task. Ya'll are debating the ethics and philosophies but no one is reporting the facts about who organized these calls, and to what end!

No one is reporting it?

That seems unlikely. What kind of conspiracy would be necessary to engineer a total blackout on such salient points?

#17 Holy Moly!

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 08:00 PM

But here I go! PART 1: context

Since the electoral win last November, there have been a bunch of intersecting conversations going on in the worlds of the arts & community organizing & progressive activism. (Note that those are three discreet fields of work, but not without quite a bit of overlap.) Themes have included:
1. What role can artists play in the economic recovery? There have been a lot of people looking back to the way artists worked during the NEW DEAL/Works Progress Administration and wondering if some similar kinds of innovation could happen now--both putting artists to work, and focusing America on civic engagement & community. This isn't a particularly partisan argument, except to the extent that spending public money on the arts & civic engagement at all is considered partisan.
2. Artists had success in making Obama "cool" through viral arts like the HOPE poster and the Will.I.Am video. Some are asking: can we use the same organizing tools to make volunteering & community service cool? Others were asking: can we use the same tools to make the support of progressive causes "cool"?
3. The last administration wasn't really interested in the arts. (Bush's last appointment to the Natl Council on the Arts was patriotic country schlock-meister Lee Greenwood) Obama, in contrast, was the first candidate any of us remembered who talked positively about the role of arts in civic life. The hiring of Yosi Sargent was exciting to a lot of us. It mattered not because he was someone who helped with the campaign, but because he came from the background of hiphop & community service, which signaled a move towards community & relevance for the NEA, which historically had been kind of a stodgy, high-culture institution, out of touch with much of the nation. This was especially true since they stopped giving grants to individual artists in the 90s. Now they funded big museums and big symphonies and operas--which is all well and good, but embodies a sort of passive, "high-culture" approach to arts funding, leaving out the smaller-scale, more grassroots efforts which are crucial both for cultural life and economic development. In the past the NEA had released studies bemoaning declining arts participation, but which explicitly excluded the genres which are the most participatory in spirit. In short, Yosi's hiring was an indication to the arts & culture community that maybe we'd turned a corner. So, what do we do next?

We've been having these conversations in a lot of forums. Meetings & conferences, books & blogs and yes, on conference calls which were organized by arts orgs and foundations themselves.

Earlier this year the NEA announced that its stimulus package funding was going to go only to organizations that had already been receiving NEA funding--it was going to be targeted to save jobs--to make up for funding shortfalls (since nearly every arts org that gets public $ also relies on private donations, corporate giving, and foundation giving, all of which were way down since the economic collapse). This money wasn't to create new, innovative Obama-driven initatives--just to keep people working in the arts sector from losing their jobs due to funding shortfalls. Much of the NEA money was regranted to state agencies to be distributed, but for the same purpose of saving jobs. Now, this was a very rigorous competitive application process, not a simple handout, you had to demonstrate all the ways you were cutting back spending, finding efficiencies and streamlining, and you had to demonstrate the importance and success of your program. These funds accounted for about .07 % of the total stimulus package.

More to come...

QUOTE (SDG @ Sep 21 2009, 08:27 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That seems unlikely. What kind of conspiracy would be necessary to engineer a total blackout on such salient points?


The MSM hasn't really fully picked the story up, possibly because once you know the actual story it's sort of a non-starter; it's mostly living in the right-wing media right now. I will say I'm pretty annoyed at the rest of the media for not spending the time to investigate and debunk when this went down 2 weeks ago.

Edited by Holy Moly!, 21 September 2009 - 08:38 PM.


#18 Holy Moly!

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 08:37 PM

PART 2: more conversation.

Artists and community organizers are, generally speaking, a pretty progressive block of people. There's a number of reasons for this. We haven't had a democrat in power in 8 years, so it's sort of a funny combination of trying to figure out when to support and work with a politician and when to push him further towards a progressive agenda.

On May 12, the White House hosted a meeting. A prominent community arts organizer named Arlene Goldbard had requested a meeting with administration officials to talk with people in her networks about the conversations about community arts that were going on. Meanwhile some other organizers working in the field of arts and community/social justice had also requested a meeting with their networks with administration officials to talk about the conversations that were going about the discussions about national recovery/arts/social justice. They decided to have one big meeting together and talk to a bunch of different folks in the administration. The meeting was 2 hours long. They heard from 7 people in different branches of the administration.

If you read the summary of the event, you can figure out the tone: http://media.washing...Report-6309.pdf
The participants were generally supportive of the administration but also lobbying the administration on their issues. This part is crucial; The artists and organizers were raising questions and pushing the administration for a stronger role for artists. You'll notice there is no real talk about funding, or trying to convince the attendees about the president's legislative goals. It's pretty basic stuff. There's nothing unseemly there. There is the mention of the community service initiative that's being promoted. There's some reports flaring up now in the washington times about mildly goofy working group discussions that happened among some of the organizers after the meeting. The administration wasn't involved in that so i don't know how relevant that is. Everyone present seemed to want more communication and collaboration in the future.

It's fair to say that some on the right would find some of the people in this meeting to have "controversial views". The Obama administration does meet with people on both sides of the aisle who have controversial views, and gets criticized for it from both the left and the right. But there's really no evidence of unseemly behavior by anyone in the administration.


More to come...

Edited by Holy Moly!, 21 September 2009 - 08:43 PM.


#19 Holy Moly!

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 11:20 PM

Part 3: THE CALL


So, coming out of that meeting, there's an open call from the arts community for more conversation and collaboration from the administration and within the arts/community service sector.

Meanwhile, the administration is pushing their summer-long community service initiative. Serve.gov. United We Serve. Someone organizes another conference call based around the idea of community service and volunteering. The participants on this call are some of the same people that were at the white house, and some new people from arts and media. It's not clear to me who set this call up--it might have been Russell Simmons' political director. Yosi might have invited some additional folks.

When you read the transcript, it's clear that the service project is the focus of the call. Mike Skonick picks up on the previous conversations in noting that artists are generally aligned with the obama administration on some things and on other things they want to push Obama on and lobby him about. He says that he thinks the best place to start organizing is the United We Serve campaign, and he invited people to tell them more about it.

Buffy Wicks is the first invited speaker to talk--she's in the public outreach part of the white house. She's also buddies with a lot of the LA Probama artists dating back to when she was a field organizer. She is pretty straightforward in thanking them for getting her where she is and straightforward in letting them know what she's asking people to do. She starts out describing the national service initiative and says that she wants people who've never volunteered before to get more involved in volunteering, hopefully leading to a lifetime of volunteering. She explains that she's worked with federal agencies to find issues where volunteerism is needed. Here she mentions the 4 areas they're suggesting for new volunteers to get involved. This is the first and only time we have any specifics around health care. She suggests preventive care and child nutrition as opportunities worth letting people know about. Then she mentions the environment. Specific ideas include weatherizing homes & trail maintenance! Then she mentions education! Here she suggests being a summer reading tutor! Finally she mentions "community renewal" things like food banks and homeless shelters.

I am not sure how these volunteering suggestions are partisan or controversial. But her specific ask is to get the pro-volunteering message out, maybe direct people to the resources that have been created to hook people up with volunteer opportunities, or create their own! There is no mention of policy.

Nell Abernathy talks next, she works for the corporation for national service. She talks about her 3 general goals:
1 )making community service options more accessible; making it easier to be a volunteer so people who want to help and don't know how can get involved.
2) creating a strong on the ground presence in local communities, so volunteers can more easily hooked up with local organizations.
3) sharing peoples individual stories of volunteerism through arts and media in a way that can inspire more volunteering! this is what she asks for artists help with.

Yosi speaks next. He thanks people for the work they're already doing, and acknowledges their shared history of working together on the campaign. He lays it out this way. There's big organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross that are doing great work. They need the support of arrtists and media know how to move people to action in their communities. He mentions things like adopting an alley and donating blood. His specific ask: "we want you to take an action--what it looks like is completely up to you." He suggests three routes of action for them to be message spreaders
1. Use serve.gov to talk about whatever cool volunteer project they decide to do.
2. donate your unique creative skills...eg if you're a graphic designer, donate your design skills to someone in your community and encourage others to do the same
3. don't just participate in service, but document it, and share it with the world--talk about it, take videos, photos, blog about it etc.
He mentions that this is all new territory, working together with artists on service, but whatever area they choose, apply their creative skills.

Thomas Bates from Rock the Vote talks next. He mentions as an example of what they're talking about, an artist who is doing a community clean up project where people pick up all their neighborhood's garbage and bring it to a site where the artist makes the garbage into "something of a community monument" to symbolize service and community revitalization. (Frankly this sounds like bad art, but hardly politically controversial).

Then they open the floor for questions. It's mostly nuts-and-bolts stuff about emails to continue the conversation, tech questions about embeddable widgits. The last, and frankly the only controversial question comes from Liz Ban who asks essentially, what about those of us who want to go beyond volunteering to advocacy, and do organizing around supporting the president's policy initiatives. Nell explains that united we serve is a bipartisan initiative so it's not about legislation at all. So if artists or organizers want to do that, they'd need to get in touch with OFA instead --if that's what artists are looking to do the national service people are not able to do anything more than point them to the right person. Skolnik mentions the guy's name in charge of that, wraps it up and thanks everyone for their time. End of call.

So; pretty uncontroversial stuff. You have a bunch of former allies from the obama campaign whose roles have maybe shifted but they're uniting their artistic and creative talents behind this national service initiative.

At no time is funding for artists or arts organizations discussed.

The only time policy debates come up, the administration official explains that they're supporting a bipartisan service initiative and if you're looking to use your art to influence policy debate you'd need to talk to a different group.

Edited by Holy Moly!, 22 September 2009 - 12:32 AM.


#20 Holy Moly!

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 11:38 PM

Part Four: Outrage!

After the success in taking down Van Jones, the conservative media continues their campaign to go after whatever movement progressives are working in the Obama administration. So they go after Yosi Sergant. And he gets reassigned.

Now the blogosphere is full of half-truths and whole-lies such as

NEA tries to fund Obama Propaganda!
NEA bribes artists with quid pro quo!
XPLOSIVE NEW AUDIO Reveals White House Using NEA to Push Partisan Agenda
Government is using NEA and graphic artists to promote their leftest, nazi, racist, socialist, sick, agenda with our tax dollars
And my favorite: "Impeach the NEA czar, whoever he is!"

This is all obviously false to anyone who understands the process by which the NEA distributes money. They're facilitated by a strictly governed process of citizen review panels and advised by the national council on the arts, not by the communications staff. And they don't give money to individual artists (except for some writers). Ever.

There is nothing on the call encouraging people to write songs advocating obama's policy positions. (though yours was great andy!)

This would almost be funny if i didn't fear it could have a chilling effect on the NEA's ability to innovate and move forward.

Edited by Holy Moly!, 22 September 2009 - 12:58 AM.