President Obama's Committee on the Arts and Humanities has selected some shiny, Hollywood Stars to be on the PCAH committee including top-tier actors such as Forest Whitaker, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alfre Woodard, and Edward Norton. Other high profile personalities include cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Teresa Heinz (wife of John Kerry), Senator Dick Cohen and of course First Lady Michelle Obama, as the committees chair.
It looks good, smells good... but really - how effective is a star-studded committee going to be. If this were simply a matter of finding some recognizable faces to endorse the arts and put a little P.R. spotlight on awareness, that would be one thing. However, the President's Committee for Arts and Humanities is SUPPOSED to be a functioning committee with goals and a definative impact on the weakening state of the arts in our country.
Right now, at this very moment - city, county and state funding to the arts is being ruthlessly slashed. The blows are coming down hard and will definitely cripple, as well as outright kill, many arts organizations. This includes the few struggling arts education programs. The Georgia Council for the Arts has eliminated all funding for arts education, I was told last week by an after-school program. Certainly this is reflected in other states. In our local government, an additional 25%-50% cut in arts budgets are occurring. This impacts not only arts organizations but local after-school arts programs. For some, the death knell has begun to toll. Because the only other avenue of funding - corporate sponsorships - have dropped as much as 50-75% this past year.
People, we don't need a pretty committee of Hollywood A-listers posing for the media. We need a committee compromised of dedicated individuals, with experience in arts education and arts support, who are willing to work their asses off to save the arts in this country. We need people who are in the trenches, who are going to follow through with the campaign promises the President made to the arts. Pretty words and pretty faces and glitzy photo-ops just aren't going to make one damn bit of difference as our country's arts, artists, and cultural richness dies away.
A quote from a speech made yesterday has Mr. Obama saying, "When I was running for President, no one knew exactly what 'Change You Can Believe In' meant. One year later, I am proud to say that that is still the case." (Reference: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-borowitz/obama-says-he-has-fulfill_b_344259.html)
Is it just me, or is this all kinds of wacked? The President is PROUD that no one can define changes made? Changes that could be embraced, celebrated, and believed in? In other words, pride in remaining undefined, particularly in relationship to what the citizens assumed were positive changes to "be believed in" seems somewhat contrary. It doesn't indicate strong leadership. Rather, leadership that attempts to get away with the least amount of feather-ruffling. That is not a circumstance that lends itself to change and certainly doesn't bode well for support of the arts.
I may be doing the new PCAH committee super stars a disservice - they may be determined to really provide solutions and save arts and arts education before it is too late. But I have a sinking feeling...