What is Obama’s policy on the arts?

President Obama has named his appointees to his Committee on the Arts and Humanities. The names include actors such as Forest Whitaker, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alfre Woodard, and Edward Norton, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, philanthropist (and wife of John Kerry) Teresa Heinz, and our own Senator Dick Cohen. Firlst Lady Michelle Obama serves as the committee’s honorary chair.

The committee works directly with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. But with all this talk about health care and the economy, you may not know just exactly what President Obama has planned for the arts (I certainly couldn’t point to any projects off the top of my head).

Well I did a quick search and found this from his campaign trail days, when candidate Obama needed to have talking points on every issue out there.

In summary, our President has promised America the following:

- To reinvest in arts education, by expanding public/private partnerships between schools and arts organizations. He also, based on his work in Chicago, promised to create an “artist corps” consisting of of young artists trained to work in low-income schools and their communities. And he promised to be publicly champion the importance of an arts education.

- To support increased funding for the NEA. (Did that – restored NEA funding to its highest level since 1992 when he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February)

- To promote cultural diplomacy. By that he means put more money into U.S. embassy programs that send American artists on tour around the world.

- To attract foreign talent. Since 9/11 it’s been difficult, if not impossible to get a visa to perform in the United States. President Obama has promised to streamline the visa process so artists and art students can make their way here more easily.

- To provide affordable health care to artists. (Because if you provide affordable health care to everybody, that includes artists. Two birds, one stone.)

- To ensure “tax fairness” for artists. Candidate Obama said he supports legislation that would allow artists to deduct the fair-market value of their work, rather than just the costs of the materials, when they make charitable contributions.

It’s a pretty big list, and since Obama has only just named the committee meant to work on the arts, over ten months into his tenure, it will be interesting to see what they can accomplish.

Update 11/09/09: PIA CATTON of Politico offers this nice analysis of what it takes to advise President Obama on the arts. Short answer? Money.

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