NEA chair Jane Chu was in the Twin Cities recently, one of many site visits she’s made around the country since being confirmed last summer to lead the organization.

Chu visited The Loft Literary Center, MacPhail Center for Music and the Hmong Cultural Center among other places. She took a few moments to munch on some almonds and answer questions about her trip. While at MacPhail, she got up to speed on the center’s curriculum, which includes an online learning program.

Chu, who ran the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City before coming to the NEA, said arts are not restricted to performances or exhibits. The NEA, she said, has a healing program for military service people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that uses art classes.

“Servicemen find ways through the arts to find their way back home,” said Chu.

She also said the arts can be a nice equalizer – a common language – for non-English speakers in programs that help people get integrated. Chu wasn’t at the NEA when the organization was under fire during the great culture wars of the 1990’s. She laughed when asked if there’s room for “weird art?”

“Of course,” she said. “Art can be weird, it can be all over. That’s the beauty of it. Art should be self expression and that covers all forms.”

Chu was born in Oklahoma of Chinese immigrant parents. She studied piano and music education in college and also holds an MBA and honorary doctorate in music.

"I point to myself when people talk about the variety in the arts because I have this combination of Bok Choy and Corn Dog background," she said.

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