2009 photo: Broadway producer Rocco Landesman in his Manhattan office.

Damon Winter, Associated Press/NYT

National arts, humanities posts needs leaders

  • August 20, 2013 - 6:42 PM

More than eight months ago, the high-wattage Broadway producer Rocco Landesman announced his departure as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Landesman, who took the job in 2009, will be hard to replace but not impossible.

The White House has taken too long to nominate a successor. It also needs a new leader for the National Endowment for the Humanities, which has been missing a permanent chief since May.

Both of these small-but-vital endowments have able acting leaders. But almost by definition, interim bosses do not have the influence permanent leaders do.

A strong voice at the top would be particularly helpful now that congressional Republicans are threatening major budget cuts that neither agency can easily absorb.

Landesman has spent much of his time stressing art’s contribution to local economies. House Republicans have not been listening. Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky has belittled endowment investments as “nice-to-have” programs.

The White House’s job is to find persuasive leaders for both agencies to explain why culture is central to a civilized society, not merely “nice to have.”


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