Lady Gaga, Shonda Rhimes and More Named to Restored Arts Commission

Lady Gaga, Jon Batiste, Shonda Rhimes, Jennifer Garner and Anna Deavere Smith are among the luminaries to be named Thursday to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, a board that will advise President Biden on matters of cultural policy.

The committee, created in 1982 by Ronald Reagan, is charged with providing recommendations to the president and to the heads of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It disbanded in August 2017, when its members resigned in protest following the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., but was restored by the Biden administration last September.

The 24 members to be announced on Thursday include boldface names from the worlds of entertainment and media as well as leading scholarly figures, including the historian Philip J. Deloria, the biographer Arnold Rampersad and the literary scholar Pauline Yu, the former president of the American Council of Learned Societies.

The committee’s executive director, Tsione Wolde-Michael, who was founding director of the Smithsonian’s Center for Restorative History, said in a statement the group was “positioned to do meaningful work that will positively impact the arts, libraries, museums and public humanities work in communities across the country.”

The commission’s restoration comes at a time when the humanities in particular are widely seen to be in peril, with plunging enrollments in higher education and declining financial support for scholarly research.

It also follows a stormy period for the committee. In a group resignation letter in 2017, the members, who included the novelist Jhumpa Lahiri and the artist Chuck Close, decried what they described as President Donald J. Trump’s “support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville.” In response, the White House issued a statement saying Mr. Trump had already planned to dissolve the group, describing it as “not a responsible way to spend American tax dollars.”

Over his term, Mr. Trump repeatedly proposed disbanding both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. But both agencies continued to receive increased levels of federal support, thanks in large part to bipartisan backing in Congress.

The arts and humanities endowments each received $207 million in appropriations for the 2023 fiscal year.

The newly restored committee will be administered through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which has been awarded $294.8 million for fiscal year 2023. It will also raise funds for its activities.

When President Biden announced that he would be restoring the commission, he called the arts and humanities “the soul of America.” In a statement on Thursday, the producer Bruce Cohen (“American Beauty,” “Slave Play”), who serves as co-chair with Lady Gaga, recalled those words, and added those of an artist.

“To quote Tony Kushner from ‘Angels in America,’” he said, “‘The great work begins.’”

Source: Read Full Article