Sunday, November 25, 2012

Naming Rocco's Successor

Good morning.
“And the beat goes on.............................

Let me add my name to the chorus of praise for Rocco’s leadership over the term of his three plus year tenure as Chair of the NEA.  Once he got the lay of the land, he effectively used his bully pulpit to champion the arts, and he launched several major initiatives that ought to have a positive impact on the future of the sector - including meaningful expansion of the Endowment’s relationship with other federal agencies, a long overdue stepped up research agenda and strategy, and the Our Town and Creative Placemaking projects.

I hope to post interviews with both Chairman Landesman and Chief of Staff Jamie Bennett before the year is out.

Now the question looms who should replace Rocco as the new Chair of the NEA?  Joan Shigekawa, Senior Deputy Director, will helm the agency until a new appointment is made.  I doubt this appointment is high on the President’s agenda, and I also doubt (though I certainly may be wrong) that they already have someone in mind.

I think it might be advisable for us to do two things:  First, openly discuss the kinds of qualities and skills that we - as a field - think any new nominee for the post should have, and Second, suggest at least a short list of names for the President to consider.  My own hope is that the next Chair of the Endowment might be someone from within our own ranks - someone with nonprofit arts experience and familiarity.

Here are some questions we might openly begin to discuss concerning a new Chairman:

  • What are the qualities an NEA Chair needs to be successful in the next four years?
  • What would a person rooted in private foundation experience bring to the NEA Chair position?
  • What would a person rooted in public policy experience bring to the NEA Chair position?
  • What would a person rooted in nonprofit arts organization experience bring to the NEA Chair position?
  • What would a person rooted in private sector business experience bring to the NEA Chair position?
  • What would a working artist bring to the NEA Chair position?
  • What would a person who is a celebrity  bring to the NEA Chair position?
  • What would a former elected official bring to the NEA Chair position?
  • Which of the former NEA Chairs have been successful and why?
  • What should be retained from the Rocco Landesman Chairmanship and what should be jettisoned?

Perhaps we might form a small select Blue Ribbon Committee to formally suggest a small list of vetted names to President Obama.  I think this might be an opportunity to establish a small precedent wherein the arts field itself is at least tangentially involved in the section process to name its most visible and important leader, and so I hope the field will insert itself into these deliberations, and come up with a list of names the President might consider.

Here then is my list of just a few of the possible candidates (by no means a definitive list, and I am sure you out there can come up with scores of other names we ought to toss around - AND I invite you to add to this list via your comments to this posting.)   I realize some names on the list would seem to be outliers, and perhaps they are, but in many respects virtually all the previous appointments to the Chairmanship have been outside the field.  Maybe this would be a good time to go inside the box.  And, in any event, I hope it sparks some debate out there as to what we ought to be looking for in the final selection.

BTW this list reflects my own personal thinking and my biases and limitations and in no way implies WESTAF’s sanctioning of these names or any endorsement on their part.

An Open letter to President Obama:

Dear Mr. President:

Congratulations on your re-election.  In recognition of, and grateful appreciation for,  your past, and continuing support for art and culture in America, the nonprofit arts community was highly supportive of your campaign, and thrilled at your victory.

As you begin the process of selecting Chairman Landesman’s successor, we respectfully suggest that you look within the nonprofit arts field to fill the post.  There are scores of qualified people who would do an outstanding job in that position, and would bring credit to your Administration, and the time has come to name one of our own.

Here are just a few suggestions for your consideration:

Bob Lynch - nobody has more experience, a better wider perspective, or a more intimate knowledge of the issues and the players.  Would be a fitting crowning achievement in an amazing career.

Janet Brown - has both experience with the philanthropic community and local arts agencies as well as a solid background in advocacy and legislative relationships.

Anthony Radich - brings a strong organizational / entrepreneurial perspective and complete familiarity with the Endowment’s state agency and regional partners.

Laura Zucker - knows all the issues and what is involved in trying to address those issues,  and more importantly how to get things done.  Doubtful anyone would be more effective.

Steven Tepper - would bring strong policy credentials to what is a policy centric agency, and would help elevate the national dialogue.

Adam Huttler - an innovator’s voice - his of the next generation of arts leaders and his appointment would signal a new era at the agency.

Dennis Scholl - a risk taker, with a commitment to quality, he worked closely with Rocco and he would add another dimension to the post.

Richard Kessler - would articulately champion Arts Education better than anyone.

Joan Shigekawa - why not simply name Joan the permanent Chair?

Aaron Dworkin - an artist with strong organizational skills, and with a national platform and reputation for his commitment to diversity.

Cora Mirikitani - former head of the Irvine Foundation arts program, and current head of the Center for Creative Innovation she is one of our best thinkers and fully understands the needs of artists in America.

Ben Cameron - certainly no one would use the bully pulpit better than he.

Alan Brown - would bring an academic and researcher’s perspective to the post.

Maria Lopez de Leon - a passionate and articulate voice for America’s fastest growing constituency and a proven bridge builder.

Colleen Jennings Roggensack - would articulate the Presenter’s point of view and build bridges to at least a faction of the private sector.

Thank you for your consideration.

Oh, and if you just can't find anyone to serve in the post, call me.  I'll do it.

Have a great week.

Don’t Quit.