A new chair for the NEA

Historically, the person leading the National Endowment for the Arts has had significant influence over the way government funds are distributed to US artists and arts orgs, and has even had trendsetting powers in the way the public sees the arts. With a new Trump-appointed and now Senate-confirmed leader for our national arts funder and administrator, we’ll just have to see where it leads.

Mary Anne Carter doesn’t have much experience in arts administration, and taking the helm of a ship that our president has taken aim at for years can’t be an easy job, under any circumstances, and she does seem to show an enthusiasm for her adopted field not seen in Trump’s appointees to other posts, such as Education and the Interior. We’re crossing fingers, and wishing Ms. Carter all the best.

Press release follows. Here’s the original post on the NEA website

To offer some sense of the anticipatory mood in the lairs of our nation’s arts reporters, here are just a few links to reactions we’ve found on the web since the initial announcement at the start of the month:

Artsy.net, Aug 2: “The U.S. Senate confirmed Donald Trump’s pick to lead the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Clyde Fitch Report, Aug 18: “What I Got Out of My Lunch with the New NEA Chair

Juneau Empire, Aug 15: “Empire Live: Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts speaks in Juneau[Someone’s standing up for Alaska!]

Mary Anne Carter Confirmed as National Endowment for the Arts Chairman

Headshot of Mary Anne Carter
Photo courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts

August 1, 2019

Washington, DC—The United States Senate voted today to confirm Mary Anne Carter as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.  Carter had served as acting chairman of the agency since June 5, 2018 and becomes the Arts Endowment’s 12th chairman since its inception in 1965.

“I look forward to continuing to lead a talented and dedicated staff of professionals in our important work of ensuring that every American – in every community and in every neighborhood – has access to the arts,” said Mary Anne Carter.

Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch said, “From inspiring thousands of arts administrators and supporters in cities and states across America, to representing the United States abroad in demonstrating the importance of collaboration and communication across cultures at the International Federation of Arts Council and Cultural Agencies conference in Kuala Lumpur, Mary Anne understands the inherent value of the arts, the importance of using the arts to help enhance quality of life, and the transformative power it has to individuals as well as to places. Americans for the Arts is grateful to have a partner who shares our steadfast commitment to providing access to the arts for all Americans, and we look forward to working with Mary Anne in the coming years.” 

“The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) is delighted to hear of Mary Anne Carter’s confirmation as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts,” said NASAA President and CEO Pam Breaux. “Her deep engagement with state arts agencies demonstrates her dedication to the federal-state partnership that allocates 40 percent of the Endowment’s program funds to states and regions. It is clear to NASAA and to our members that Mary Anne understands the economic, educational, civic and cultural value that the arts bring to communities throughout the nation. We enthusiastically look forward to continuing this meaningful work with her and her team.”

Since arriving at the agency, Carter has pushed to make the National Endowment for the Arts more accessible to the American people, directing an expansion of Creative Forces (an arts therapy program for U.S. service members and veterans recovering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and other psychological health conditions) and bolstering many of its national initiatives, including Shakespeare in American Communities, NEA Big Read, Poetry Out Loud, and the Jazz Masters and National Heritage Fellowships. 

To further expand the reach of the Arts Endowment, Carter has held the past several public meetings of the National Council on the Arts at locations outside the agency’s offices. These include a meeting in Charleston, West Virginia in June 2018—the first such meeting outside of Washington, DC in 27 years—and in June 2019, in Detroit, Michigan.

Carter brings a unique perspective to the Arts Endowment. Prior to her appointment, Carter was engaged in public policy analysis, issue tracking, and corporate and campaign communications through her work as a public affairs consultant. During her time at the Arts Endowment, she has demonstrated that lessons learned in her prior professional life are effective tools in directing the work of an agency dependent upon the support and confidence of Congress.

Her knowledge and genuine love for the arts are rooted at the most personal of levels—through the learning differences initially observed in her daughter at age seven. This challenge led Carter to schools that employ the arts as a teaching method in every class, making the learning process both productive and enjoyable for her daughter. Carter understands the power of the arts, as she witnesses that power every day.


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