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January 7, 2009

Petition for arts Cabinet post is gaining steam

Qincy JonesOne of the best ways to promote and preserve the cultural health of this country would be to give the arts Cabinet-level status. After Quincy Jones (left) was quoted in a recent interview saying that he would lobby for the creation of a Secretary of the Arts position when he next chats with the new president, a petition quickly emerged and is making its way across the cyberscape. It has attracted more than 10,000 signatures already, including the likes of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop and composer John Corigliano.

It's easy to imagine a cabinet post that oversees the NEA and other exisiting cultural organizations in the government and that uses the office to push for a renassiance of arts education in schools and the shoring up of cultural institutions across the country. Other countries, including the UK, have secretaries of culture or the equivalent. There are strong reasons for the US to have one, too. William Ferris of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina outlined those reasons in a recent New York Times op-ed.  

You never know how petitions will fare in attracting attention and generating results, but the one inpired by Quincy Jones looks well worth signing and passing along. At least there's some change in the air right now, so the timing is certainly right.


Posted by Tim Smith at 12:56 PM | | Comments (5)


THIS IS NOT THE JOB OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT! They can' t run a railroad, post office; fannie, freddie, imagration....need I go on.

"Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today." —President-elect Barack Obama.
May those children be given a chance to realize their potential for not only holding a loaf of bread in one hand, but a lily in the other. (Playing on the Chinese proverb.)

It is not the proper role of the Federal government (or state or local) to fund the arts. Obviously artists want this to happen because it serves their own self-interests. But it forces the rest of us to pay for something that no one wants enough to pay for on their own. People want shoes, they pay for them, people want pencils, they pay for them, people want cars, they pay for them. People who want art and music and poetry pay for it. Don't force the rest of us to spend our hard-earned money on sculptures made of urine and huge copper ducks outside of a government building.

Tim, Since you posted this 6 days ago there has been 77,000 more signatures. I urge everyone to sign it and support the Arts. Every developed nation excluding the US has a similar post as a Secretary of Arts or Culture. It is time we join the civilized countries.

Candice Johnson

We artists (musicians, dancers, actors, poets…etc.) are some of the biggest champions of individual expression and personal freedom. Yet somehow, we think it’s okay to create a cabinet position to impose our values on the rest of the country.

This is no different from a nasty special interest group lobbying government to get some preferential treatment. It’s unfair to everyone else who has to support government growth with their wallets.

Constitutionally, it doesn’t matter whether we “like” the idea or not, because this sort of thing has no place in a free society. You and I are as free to embrace art as we are to reject it. The fact that something like this can draw so much support so easily shows just how much our understanding of the role of government has deteriorated.

Think critically before jumping on the bandwagon.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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