While listening to “Studio 360” on the radio this morning (thank you, 89.1 KANW, for the awesomeness of your a.m. programming), I heard an interview with the poet Dana Gioia, departing chairperson for the National Endowment for the Arts. The program centered on artists' recommendations and wish lists for President Obama (say it with me, it's not a dream). Artists of all stripes are excited by the possibilities of this new administration; a commander in chief who confessed to not being a big reader has been replaced by one who is photographed with books of poetry tucked under his arm, his hands being full with BlackBerrys. It's become rote to say that America doesn't privilege art, but that's not necessarily endemic to our national character. Aside from Roosevelt's WPA program, Eisenhower recognized the importance of “soft diplomacy,” one that privileged cultural exchange, necessitating the development of our own artistic culture. Both Kennedy and Johnson were fierce proponents of arts funding as part of initiatives toward the realization of the New Frontier and Great Society. By the '80s, however, art had come to be seen as extraneous, or worse, un-American. My hard-earned tax dollars for a crucifix in a bottle of piss? Hell, no!
I doubt I'm alone, though, in feeling a sort of collective shrugging off of that attitude. So while there's pessimism about our economic future, there's a tangible sense of optimism for our artistic one. What changes do you hope the Obama administration ushers in? A return to arts education for elementary school students? The creation of a cabinet position—Department of Culture? Barack's Fireside Poetry Chat? Share your thoughts at alibi.com.