13 May 09 | Chad W. Post

It still has to be approved by Congress, but Rocco Landesman has been appointed to serve as the next chairman of the NEA, a post most recently held by poet Dana Gioia.

I’m not much of a theatre-goer, so Landesman is new to me. Based on the info in the New York Times article, he sounds like a lot of fun:

Mr. Landesman, who would fill the post vacated by Dana Gioia, is expected to lobby hard for more arts money. But he is not famous for his skills as an administrator or diplomat. Rather, he is known for his energy, intellect and irreverent — and occasionally sharp-elbowed — candor.

In 2000, for example, he caused a stir by accusing nonprofit theaters of being too much like their commercial counterparts. And, as a producer of “The Producers,” Mr. Landesman created the controversial $480 premium ticket to combat scalpers.

And I love Tony Kushner’s over the top comment:

“It’s potentially the best news the arts community in the United States has had since the birth of Walt Whitman,” said the playwright Tony Kushner. “He’s an absolutely brilliant and brave and perfect choice for the job.”

Now let’s just hope that he keeps (or increases) the core funding for nonprofit publishing, audience development, and translation in place . . . Gioia created a lot of new literary initiatives that, although most didn’t directly fund publishers or writers, funneled a lot of endowment money into the “literature” category. I have to admit that I’m sort of worried about a discipline backlash, with literature money being redirected towards other arts . . . which is a chairman’s prerogative, but for the sake of nonprofit literature, hopefully the core funding available for presses like Open Letter remains unchanged. (This is probably a needless fear.)


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