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Note to Obama: How about a secretary of the Arts?

January 12, 2009 | 12:31 pm

Quincy_jones_2Last November, music producer and songwriter Quincy Jones mentioned to John Schaefer during an interview on the New York radio program “Soundcheck” that he thought President-elect Barack Obama should create a Cabinet-level position of secretary of the Arts. “One of the next conversations I have with President Obama is to beg for a secretary of the Arts,” he told the WNYC talk-show host.

Jaime Austria heard about Jones' comments and thought that was a great idea. So Austria launched an online petition. So far, more than 63,000 people have signed, with "spread the word" e-mails recently making the rounds on the Left Coast.

What do you think? Should there be a secretary of the Arts position?

--Lisa Fung

Photo: Quincy Jones. Credit: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (17)

You can read more about Quincy's dream and the petition at QuincyJones.com.

Yes Yes Yes. In the last 24 hours over 19,000 people have signed it. This has all been done by word of mouth , emails and blogs. http://www.petitiononline.com/esnyc/petition.html This is not about money. This is about a society that recognizes art as important for strong nation. This cabinet position would give Artists and the Arts the respect that is much needed in this country. Go and sign the Petition, make your comments and ask others to do so. http://www.petitiononline.com/esnyc/petition.html

Thank You,
Candice Johnson

No nonono. State sponsored art always sucks, cut the grants, all the ways for artistes to get around truly growing and competing to get better. The nation has not deserved the awful excuses for art we have been getting, Or maybe it has? And why so few care to go see any. I do support social events, older arts that have been proven to matter. Jazz clubs and orchestras, TV where ares are shown, education hwere possible, but the fact taht we are going intoa depression should wake you up. Arts will have to be done through volunteers, people need to see the common good, not thier own preciosity. artsit are no more, or less, important than bakers, soldier, bankers, thieves, er last two are connected. And those the ones that financed contemporary arts decadence.

NO individual grants. NO stating a norm, but using it for real public projects, ones that wil financially benefit the public in the long run. Decorate, design, but no more childish self expression. Times canot afford taht absurdist self indulgence. grow up, and realize no one is more imporant than anyone else, espcially artistes.

"artsit are no more, or less, important than bakers, soldier, bankers,... " Exactly how about equal status. We have a Secretary of Agriculture, A Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Interior....Why NOT a Secretary of Arts/Culture.

I lived in France and worked as an artist for 11 years... I saw both the right and left in power. But no matter who was in power the Minster of Culture always promoted the ARTS. Artists were respected in France and considered equals to the bakers, soldier, bankers. Unfortunately I do no find that true in the States. Artists are the Marginals. I want that to change and I want my country to respect the ARTS and Artists. Sign the Petition and tell others...http://new.petitiononline.com/esnyc/petition.html

By establishing a Cabinet position of Secretary of the Arts, we are no longer turning our back on the rich cultural history of every citizen that has built and strengthened the United States.

The A+ Schools Program is an example of how the arts can successfully transform our communities to offer hope and change lives nationwide. http://aplus-schools.uncg.edu/research.shtml


Now is the time to spend more?

This is why America is in trouble.

People without money want to spend more and more ....

So they ask the working taxpayers to pay for this.


If QJ wants this foundation and new appointment, have HIM pay for it. And anyone who wants THIS orgrnization and new government paid position, YOU contribute, make a donation.

I cannot possibly make enough money to cover all your butts anymore -- but Quincy can.

Hey Quincy -- why don't you foot the bill on your own and quit being so ridiculous as to ask the government to pay more when they've just spend a trillion dollars of our money and B Hussein Obama is ready to spend another trillion.

Bunch of ridiculous socilists.

I'm all about the arts -- but THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO ADD TO THE DEFICIT.

Hopefully there are enough SMART people who will be realistic about this and stop this senselss push for more spending.

Artists have FAILED their jobs, for they do have one. To visualize the fabric of life, not self absorbed whinings of children, so much waste in the world, few more than the Arts as they are now. A Revolution is in the offing, ignore the self interested businesses known as the academies, they have never turned out artists wortha damn.

No money for the arts except for organizations, and with a Depression on, they must streamline, get rid of the 99% garbage, and focus on what is real and about US, the people of both the US, and the world, All of humanity for that is our job. Self Expression is for babies. No individual grants, only for proven entities, real artist will work no matter waht, the fake ones will fall aside, a they are taking up too much space and hiding what little of value there truly is.

We are only starting the second phase of three of this depression. It is not a Great Depression like the 30s, but as in the 1800s. The deficit will kill us, inflation will rise, and wipe out savings itmsut be minimized. Only essential services. arts must be paid for by those who are in it and love it, get rid of the entertainment aspects which revolt normal human beings. Titillating the rich with absurdities is NOT art. But decadence, and what we have been doing for forty or more years.

Times like these separate the wheat from the chaff, France hasnt turned out anything wortha damn longer than we have, socialism kills art. Its about ballance, not wings of ideologies. Art is the relationships built between defining humanity, exploring nature, and searching for meaning in god. Even when not of some established religion, all these thre things are in all great art, from the very beginnings of time. Silly academic questions that are easy to fulfill are NOT art, Great questions are open ended, lead to more, and reveal how opposites are part of the whole.

Artists have failed, tis time we debated with works what its true role is. Not this everything is art nonsense. Words are symbols, without definitions they are meaningless,and so art has lost its purpose. It must find it once more, as it is needed, now, while the world hasnt for the last fifty years. And left it for the rich as their toys.

art collegia delenda est

Oh my, what ignorant comments this subject has brought forth. Facts are troublesome things. They expose such hypocrisy and ignorance. The fact is that a healthy society is directly related to it's cultural and artistic successes. The arts make our lives more vibrant, more meaningful. The arts make our culture more attractive, our country stronger and our citizens that much more in-tune with the human experience. The fact is that every dollar spent on the arts brings back 10 to the economy. The mistaken idea that artistic expression should be able to survive on it's own in the marketplace is laughable in a society where pop culture, blatant commercialism and downright greed is glorified and promoted for economic reasons to the detriment and the exclusion of all else. It is deplorable that we have taken music and the arts out of the schools where it can truly change lives and create an informed population of enlightened future generations. It is a sad state of affairs that our country has experienced for far too long that it does not support the arts in a meaningful way. That, my ignorant friend, is why we are in trouble as a nation, certainly not because we spent too much money on the arts. that is laughable. I feel sorry for those who are going through life with blinders on, who are so uninformed as to the importance of the arts in a society, and who no doubt wouldn't recognize a creative idea if it fell on them. Yes indeed we need a cabinet level Arts/culture position desperately.

Culture Czar? Sounds more like a "Cult Czar" to me.

I am a life long artist and musician and I am 100% opposed to the idea of a "Culture Czar". Culture is something that arises naturally from the people that make up a society. Artists and musicians will do what they do regardless of government funding (the good ones anyway).

At best, such a government office would be a huge waste of money. At worst, government sponsored "culture" will be used for political purposes and to brainwash young children into accepting some kind of "global culture" (ie New World Order).

As a life long musician, artist and private supporter of the arts, I say we should RUN not walk from any suggestion of a "Culture Czar"

99% of teh people of America dont care about the arts anymore. Why? Artistes. Youa re only concerned with yourselves, and so no one cares, Witness MoCa and its miserable attendance. People go to the Norton Simopn adn lacma, because they contain art, tings relevant to humanity, not a tiny minority of spoiled and self absorbed children, Peter Pan has left the building, time to grow up, adn the arts wil once again be meaningful. Until then support organizations taht allow those to view arts on TV, adn proven commodities. Yes, ignorance abound, and no whre more than in teh Academic arts arena, and all those who are so sherltered adn deatached to graduate from such nonsesne day care centers.

art collegia delenda est

You right-brained, socially-liberal, dreamy, idealistic artists are the biggest champions of individual expression and personal freedom I know. Yet somehow, you think it's okay to create a cabinet position to impose your values on the rest of the country.

Why should YOU get special treatment? Oh, is this everyone rush to the government and see who can cry loudest? I thought we had a constitution to protect us from that, my bad.

If (and heaven forbid) you do get this position made, be prepared so see the relative importance of it dwarfed by the hundreds of other cabin positions created for the various other "interest" groups.

If you still think you're doing the right thing, consider this: As a result of federal funding for the arts, private donations to organizations have gone DOWN. If the funding were to cease, private donations would more than compensate for what government once provided.

If you need an analogy, consider this: If everyone got their little 2 cents in with the government, it would bring this country to its knees. How do you think special interest groups operate? The benefits are concentrated but the costs are dispersed. It's unfair to the 99.9 % rest of the population who does NOT benefit.

I don't care how much faith you have in Obama; what we need is LESS government.

I am a pianist, organist and composer, and I attended PGSA in 2006. I am an advocate of the arts, yet I would NEVER, support something like this - a petition to put control of something so precious as music, art, dance, poetry, and drama in the hands of bureaucrats. I sincerely hope the US Constitution is alive and well somewhere because it is certainly not noticed here.

The ignorance continues, sigh...

Yes, indeed. The incredible ignorance of the arroganct academic artistes never ceases to astound. Totally ignorant of science, history, religion, philosophy, nurturing, children, family, work, technique, sexuality, sensuality, passion ethics, its rather effeminant, decadent separation from hunamity is quite astonishing, and so useless, purposeless, selfish, and dead. RIP Contemp art. \
Something different will arise, based on Obamas focus, responsibility and oneness. Its about US, not I. Meism is dead, long live art.

art collegia delenda est

With all due respect to Quincy Jones, this is one of the two or three dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard. Like most of what passes for political thought these days, it is not really so much an idea as a bumper sticker slogan.
First of all, all cabinet level officers are the heads of departments. So along with a Secretary of the Arts, we will get a Department of the Arts. Presumably it would be created the way the last new cabinet level position, the much beloved Department of Homeland Security, was created, by assembling a collection of already existing agencies and programs under the new department. So the new Department of the Arts would include the National Endowment for the Arts, a few other odds and ends of federal agencies and a shiny new multibillion-dollar budget, the bulk of which would be used to pay Washington bureaucrats.
Now back to our Secretary of the Arts. As we all know, these jobs don’t necessarily go to the most qualified person. They go to a person who is politically connected, doesn’t have too much of an embarrassing past and may have had something to do with the Department in the past. Maybe the Arts would get lucky and actually gets someone who knows anything about the Arts. Maybe not. And at some point, there will be a Secretary of the Arts who will actively seek to control artists, and by doing so, diminish the Arts.
So who is this Secretary of the Arts going to advocate for? If you believe that advocacy in Washington is mostly controlled by anything other than money and the political influence that it can buy, you are extremely naïve. So the best advocacy will be bought by those “artists” who need it least. Time-Warner and Quincy Jones come to mind. The government has just spent $350 billion to bailout the financial system. How much have you or anyone you know received?
From a public perception point of view, “artists” will all be lumped together. So all of you serious artists will be perceived publicly as being one with the high-profile self proclaimed “artists” like, say, Larry Flynt. If you think you have free speech issues now, just wait until you are linked in the public mind with the “artists” whose sole mission in life is pushing the bounds of free expression.
And what of the individual artist’s expression of political ideas? Do we spend our time creating, or do we spend our time learning to speak and write bureaucratese? If you don’t think that’s going to be the case, reflect upon how much artistry you expend on government grant writing and taxpaying now. If you are dependent upon a government advocate, you’d better learn how to speak the language.
And you’d better not offend. You may not be censored, but if all or most of your funding is from the government, you’d better make sure that the government is happy with what you’re saying.
So can we look forward to a future where artists are taken care of with the skill and consideration given to Katrina victims? Can we look forward to a future where the Arts goes backwards as rapidly as education has since the creation of the Department of Education? Can we look forward to a future where the Bill of Rights freedoms enjoyed by artists are given the same consideration as they are by the Department of Homeland Security?
It is instructive that Quincy Jones uses the word “beg” to describe his upcoming conversation with President Obama. One of the last bastions of individualism and freedom in this country is its community of artists. If artists beg to trade their freedom for “advocacy” on their behalf, the world has truly gone mad.

“Never stand begging for what you have the power to earn.”
Miguel de Cervantes

“As for begging, it is safer to beg than to take, but it is finer to take than to beg.”
Oscar Wilde

“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it. Let me not look for allies in life's battlefield but to my own strength. Let me not cave in.”
Rabindranath Tagore
“If you beg from another, then you shall be shamed and destroyed.”
Guru Gobind Singh

The purpose of this Secretary/Department of the Arts isn't to simply hand out money to artists who are "begging." It is to enrich our culture. It is to educate the children about the arts. It is a long term plan. With one department, they would have more money to give to more deserving artists who would then be able to study at finer schools and with finer teachers and grow into even greater artists.

Or even before that level-- Arts are always the first department to get slashed in public education. Perhaps that trend would end with this proposed department. And remember, cognitive ability and study of the arts have been scientifically linked. Even if a student didn't end up becoming an artist, the arts would still aid in his or her career and enrich his or her life.

This cabinet position is to make the people of the United States smarter and more cultured. Maybe soon, we can be proud of the cultural level of the average person. But when jazz and classical music barely comprise 5% of music on the radio and Thomas Kinkade earns $53 million from his paintings, then it is clear that this country has a long way to go. The American people deserve to be exposed to the greater arts, and greater artists deserve to be exposed.

Its when Damien Hirst can make almost $200 mil in two days that you know the Apocalypse is upon us, the rich fiddled while Rome burned. No, you artistes need to give, not receive. Most of you are trust fund hippies, donate, volunteer, that is Obamas message. Art must invigorate, renew, by first rebuilding itself into something relevant to America, and humanity. Its been all self absorbed therapy and adolescent whinings, what about ME!!! was the cry of the day. Now, its must be about US. Meism, is dead. What can YOU do for your country, your fellow man? Now what can the government do for me?

Money should go to the NEA as a showcase, local organizations need some, but will still be cut, we are in a depression people. Local folks must raise money, the rich,and they still got lots of cash, gotta give some back that they stole. Thsoe without, volunteer something even more valuable, your time. And knowledge, if you have any. Mentor, teach, build, feed the body, mind and spirit, but work hard to have somthing nourishing first. dont fil their minds with selfishness, those days are over. Peter Pan and Wendy must grow up.
Responsibility was Obamas word. Learn it.

art collegia delenda est

Who is Donald Frazell? How many comments has he left on this page? Why is he so dictatorial and adamant about demoralizing artists? So many desolate neighborhoods have been revitalized by artists. In NYC SOHO is a great example. Once a revitalized neighborhood becomes trendy, real estate developers jump on the bandwagon and artists have to start all over again in other neighborhoods. Now that's happening in the Meatpacking district and in Williamsburg Brooklyn as well as other places all over the country. It is a true boon to society. Why shouldn't artists get the same funding as developers that profit from previous artists vision, frugality and hard labor? Imagine if all the money the United States spent on NASA's endless pet projects, International Warmongering and world aid such as the financial bolstering of Israel over the past several years set aside just one month worth of that money for Arts Administration and Culture. How much money would that be? How many slums and poor neighborhoods in America could be turned around and jobs created? After all it is the small businesses of America that create the most jobs. Creative people do make a difference in society! They design everything that you use in daily life, like your house, furniture, dishes, clothes, gadgets, personal mode of transport, the buildings that you go in and out of and every day. Basically everything that you touch has been touched by an artist/designer. Everything in life is connected. It has been scientifically proven that children who study music do better in Math. The Fine Arts are systems of 2 and 3 dimensional visual language. Today color printing and photos are everywhere, we need children to become well become versed in new visual technologies that integrate more and more science with art, so that the United States remains competitive with other technologically advancing societies. Most especially now that we are falling behind. Now more than ever!


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