A collaborative style is one of the most dramatic changes President Barack Obama has brought to Washington — and it is one that artists here and throughout the country can relate to."That tone he sets of reaching out, of listening, of welcoming diverse ideas — it feels very familiar because artists are collaborators. You make music in an orchestra by being in tune with a lot of other people," said Marc J. Vogl, of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in Menlo Park and a member of the Obama Arts Policy Committee during the campaign.
Still, there are good signs. Obama, a best-selling author and admirer of poetry, J.S. Bach and Stevie Wonder, has expressed a desire to deepen the federal commitment to arts education and to create an Artist Corps patterned after the Peace Corps, sending artists into low-income schools and communities. Some even predict Obama could establish a Cabinet-level Secretary of the Arts, an idea advanced by Quincy Jones, who has posted an online petition.
The needs are urgent, but there's a "fairly narrow window right now to capture this moment where the new administration in America is focused on public service and the importance of the arts," said Kiff Gallagher, a singer-songwriter and former Clinton administration officer who has established MusicianCorps, a service organization in the Bay Area to bring musicians into schools and after-school programs.
In its $820 billion economic stimulus package, the House of Representatives included $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts to funnel to arts groups to create and save jobs. The Senate over the weekend was hammering out its own version of the economic plan.
Though $50 million is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the House funding package, national arts leaders say what's significant is that they are being invited to the table — like banking and auto industry leaders — by an administration seeking a new path. As Lisa Mallette, executive artistic director of the scrappy little City Lights Theater Company in downtown San Jose, put it, "There's no way to go but up."
Obama's decision to have an arts policy committee working for a year to develop recommendations during his campaign was unprecedented. Within days of his election, the administration appointed former NEA Chairman Bill Ivey to lead the arts and humanities transition team. Ivey recently convened a meeting of about 20 national arts groups — representing museums, dancers, chamber and orchestral musicians, Latino arts groups and more.
He sees the arts as part of the nation's economic engine — able to deliver jobs, and quite a few. The 100,000 nonprofit arts groups in the United States directly support 1.3 million jobs, said Robert Lynch, president and chief executive officer of the national lobbying group Americans for the Arts. Those numbers may be too big to ignore, and arts groups hope they will translate into greater clout. Ivey believes the administration is "seriously considering" a new position in the West Wing for a senior official with an arts-and-culture portfolio in the President's Domestic Policy Council. That official could have the president's ear and begin to connect the dots between federal arts agencies and programs.
Now, arts groups wait to see if Obama will adopt any of the recommendations made by the Obama Arts Policy Committee during the campaign, such as creating new tax incentives for nonprofit arts groups, and exercising the nation's "soft power" by sending artists around the world to reinvigorate cultural diplomacy.
In 1997 David and Renate Jakupca from the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) were appointed American Cultural Ambassadors to EXPO 2000, the Worlds Fair held in Hanover, Germany. The US Network for EXPO2000 will be celebrating its 10 years of innovation, ingenuity and iceality at the opening of the Expo 2010 held in Shanghai, China.
1987 to 2007- Twenty Years of Community Service
International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA)