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Monday, March 9, 2009

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Executive Director's Column

NASAA Executive Director Jonathan Katz

The next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will have the advantage of a set of priorities already articulated by President Obama's campaign Arts Policy Committee. These priorities include greater support for arts education, establishing an "Artist Corps," and promoting cultural diplomacy. They can be implemented by a combination of integrating artistic resources in White House policy agendas, fostering inter-agency collaboration, and focusing NEA activity. An additional priority put forth by the Committee is increasing funding for the NEA. As we have seen in recent administrations, commitment to artistic excellence, continuous and meticulous liaison with Congress, and identifiable programs that make visible the benefits provided by investment in the arts correlate with budget growth.

Making the case for increased funding should go hand in hand with building the influence and effectiveness of the NEA on the foundation that already exists. In other columns and in NASAA's policy paper, Advancing America's Creativity, I've put forth suggestions that emphasize big-picture policies and the importance of a strong partnership between the NEA and state arts agencies. In addition, I believe the public value of the NEA can be enhanced by policies, practices and programs that won't make the front page, but would strengthen relationships with stakeholders and beneficiaries and build the kind of infrastructure that translates into active support and long-term investment. Here's a menu of suggestions in two overarching categories that I'd like to see tested in consultation with stakeholders and through a variety of public processes.

Advance a culture of strategic, information-based decision-making.

Expand relationships and build infrastructure for long-term arts support.

As I say, it's a menu. One can't do everything at once, and some things take longer than others. But to push the metaphor for a purpose, what the items have in common is the kind of preparation and presentation each requires to realize the desired result. They each require good information, consultation, and a sense that public service is an endlessly challenging privilege. As always, I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.