Rocco Landesman has been confirmed as the new Chair of the NEA. For the past several years, the NEA has tried to quietly build and generally avoid controversy. A brash and confident New York producer, that doesn't seem to be Landesman's style. Of particular concern is a recent statement that implies he is going to value artistic excellence way, way more than geographic distribution:
"I don't know if there's a theater in Peoria," he says, "but I would bet that it's not as good as Steppenwolf or the Goodman," he said, referring to two of Chicago's most prominent theater companies. "There is going to be some push-back from me about democratizing arts grants to the point where you really have to answer some questions about artistic merit."
I am all for artistic merit. But if that is taken too far, all the funding is going to end up going to 5% of the arts organizations, groups that already get probably 75% of the funding. You can read a comment I made about it on Lee Rosenbaum's blog, Culturegrrl.