posted by September 12 at 16:53 PMon
From the Washington Post:
Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts since March 2003, plans to announce today that in January he will leave the federal agency he is credited with helping revitalize.
Yeah, he revitalized it by turning it into the most cowering, deferential source of government arts funding this side of Syria.
Which was, arguably, his job. Once Bush got elected, everybody in the arts world knew—or should’ve known—that the NEA was in serious fucking trouble. An evangelical businessman (whose favorite philosopher is Jesus) needs to do some cutting to make good on his small-government campaign promises? The NEA had to put on its body armor.
Or cower in a corner. Which is precisely what it did, with an adult literacy program, some eduction stuff (particularly jazz), lots of “Shakespeare in the heartland programs.”
Those are all virtuous activities, but not the NEA’s jobs—the first two should be coming from education budgets and if there is a single goddamned playwright in the whole goddamned world who doesn’t need the NEA’s help, it’s Shakespeare.
The NEA doesn’t have to hang Tim Miller from his testicles with a rope made of $20 bills to prove its art-street cred, but it should at least spend American arts money promoting American playwrights: would it kill us to see a little more Tennessee Williams or August Wilson?
Gioia—and his immediate predecessors—deferred to social conservatives, put a muzzle on the NEA, and saw its budget rise a little bit to $144.7 million. (Up from $99 million in 1996.) Which is, perhaps, what he had to do to save his ass and his agency. But we won’t be sorry to see him go, along with the era he represents.
I sat in on a group interview with Gioia in Los Angeles last February. Somebody asked if he would resign at the end of Bush’s second term. He gave a non-answer that seemed like a yes.
He, at least, is a man of his non-word.