You have probably gotten at least seven email forwards imploring you to sign a petition to have President-Elect Obama appoint a Secretary of the Arts. It was all started because of a comment Quincy Jones made on a radio show stating that the next time he talked to Obama he would "beg" for a Secretary of the Arts.
My first impression was disinterest. I don’t really like “The Arts” as an idea. I am not interested in many of “the arts.” And I am not interested in lumping theater, literature classical music, popular music, fine art, visual art, whatever it is that I do that’s art and all the rest of it into one big marketing wet dream for a brighter tomorrow.
A significant concern about appointing an “Art Czar” or “Art Tsar” (the threat of that term coming into vernacular is enough reason to oppose it) is agenda. In the art world there is a lot of bickering about people and institutions having “aesthetic agendas.” Certain artists or types of art getting more love than others. Imagine the effect the agenda of a cabinet-level chieftain would have on the cultural production of this country? What sort of things would receive support, what sort of things would be excluded? Obviously there would be need for impartiality.
Clearly this and many other concerns would be addressed, at least in a cursory manner, in a petition supported by Quincy Jones and widely reported by several news outlets. Maybe the details of the proposal would be so boring that I only read the first paragraph.
Except the petition, in totality reads:
To: President Barack ObamaIf you count the classy ALL CAPS BANNER AT THE TOP, then it also says:
Congratulations and thank you for all you do.
Your good friend Quincy Jones said: "...next conversation I have with President Obama is to beg for a Secretary of Arts."
[November 14th 2008 WNYC interview by John Schaefer on "Soundcheck."]
We the undersigned support Quincy Jones' plea.
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD! PLEASE INVITE AS MANY AS POSSIBLE TO SIGN! MAKE IT A GOAL TO GET AT LEAST 3 OTHERS TO SIGN. LET'S ALL WORK TOGETHER FOR A BETTER WORLD AND FUTURE! PRESIDENT OBAMA WILL NEED MASSIVE NUMBERS OF GRASSROOTS SUPPORT TO HELP HIM IMPLEMENT LONG LASTING AND POSITIVE CHANGES.
That’s the petition. That is why I am not signing this overblown chain letter. I think there are more pressing matters for the incoming administration, and I don’t think having this position is at all necessary. It actually makes me cringe a little. It is akin to asking for a Secretary of Religion.
Over at The Art Newspaper David A. Ross has a pretty good list of suggestions that are concise, clear thought out and give some detail. Number 9 of the 10 things addresses the whole Secretary issue. I disagree with him on proposing a position that high, but maybe if his blurb were the petition I’d have signed. Even with his single multiple-clause sentence, Ross has done a far more thorough job in outlining the idea than the author of the petition, Jaime Austria.
> THE TEN FIRST STEPS THAT BARACK OBAMA COULD TAKE TO RENEW THE ARTS