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President George W. Bush escorts National Endowment of the Arts 2006 Medal of Arts recipient, photographer Roy DeCarava, into the Oval Office Thursday, Nov., 9, 2006 for the presentation ceremony to recognize outstanding individuals for their excellence and contribution to the arts in America. NEA Chairman Dana Gioia is seen to the rear and left of President Bush. White House photo by Paul Morse

Presidential Appointment for Lee Greenwood

Speaking of Lee Greenwood (and I did, last week) he’s had quite an honor tossed his way. He has been appointed to the National Council on the Arts. President Bush made the appointment, the Senate has confirmed the appointment, and Greenwood is scheduled to be sworn in on November 17.

The council advises the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (who also serves as the council’s chairman) on policies and programs for the NEA, and the group reviews and makes recommendations to the chairman on issues of grants, funding guidelines and leadership initiatives.

The council is made up of 14 regular members (appointed by the president) who serve staggered six-year terms, and six Congressional members. “The Presidential appointments, by law, are selected for their widely recognized knowledge of the arts or their expertise or profound interest in the arts. They have records of distinguished service or achieved eminence in the arts and are appointed so as to represent equitably all geographical areas of the country.”

Greenwood joins a group that includes museum directors, educators, artists, lawyers and actors. Since ‘the arts’ encompasses such a wide range of disciplines, a membership of 14 seems barely large enough to represent all of the different areas that are lumped in under the term (the council was made up of 26 members from 1965 until 1997, when Congress reduced the number).

Another council member that might be of interest to New Westerners is Boise’s Mark Hofflund, managing director of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. President Bush nominated Hofflund in 2005, and NEA Chairman Dana Gioia noted, “Mr. Hofflund has helped to make the Idaho Shakespeare Festival one of the premier theater venues in America. He is an indefatigable champion of bringing great theater to a broad public. I’m sure that he will be an important leader on the Council.”

Gioia, an internationally acclaimed poet from California, “has succeeded in garnering enthusiastic bi-partisan support in the United States Congress for the mission of the Arts Endowment, as well as in strengthening the national consensus in favor of public funding for the arts and arts education. (Business Week Magazine referred to him as The Man Who Saved the NEA.)” He was re-nominated by President Bush in 2006 for a second term at the NEA, and unanimously confirmed by the senate, but earlier this year announced that he will be leaving the chairmanship in mid-January, two years before the end of his current term.

Sooo… it’s an interesting development. I can’t say that Greenwood would leap to mind if someone stopped me on the street and asked me who I would nominate for membership on the National Council on the Arts. And just the fact that Bush nominated a country musician has created a lot of teeth-gnashing and clothes-rending in the blogosphere. But, on the other hand, none of the other members of the council are exactly household names, either. If Greenwood were up for the chairmanship of the NEA, then I think the issue would be worth a closer look… and the chairmanship is going to be one of the early items on Obama’s plate, with Gioia leaving. But as for Greenwood being a member of the Council, it shouldn’t really have too much impact, other than being a nice bone to throw to us who happen to enjoy country music.

About R. Keith Rugg

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