Sep 1, 2009

Up Is Down...

...when the Adorno-hugging George Hunka links approvingly to an article on the Limbavian fever swamp that is Big Hollywood.

I'm looking deeper into this as I write, but the facts so far are this: Filmmaker/marketer Patrick Courrielche was invited to participate in a conference call on Aug. 10 by Yosi Sergant, the NEA's communications director, to talk about involving artists in the United We Serve program, a volunteer initiative of the White House that seems pretty unimpeachably decent and civic-spirited, and whose agenda is described in pretty anodyne language: "to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda - health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.” The email invite goes on to say: "It is time for us as artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, tastemakers, leaders or just plain, cool people to join together and work together to promote a more civically engaged America and celebrate how the arts can be used for positive change!"

Though the email invite clearly came from Sergant's office, the NEA is mentioned only as a co-host of the call*, and Courrielche shows no proof that the NEA steered the discussion or plans in any way to direct resources to a specific policy agenda. At most, he shows that the p.r. guy for the NEA was part of a conversation about how artists can get involved with United We Serve, a program run by the Corporation for National and Community Service, and he accordingly invited artists to join him. That may sound a little too cozy, perhaps, but it's a far cry from demonstrating that the National Endowment for the Arts is planning to fund art to advance the government's agenda.

But, in a touch worthy of Glenn Beck, Courrielche closes by quoting, but not attributing, what he says is the call's wrap-up salutation (italics his), "This is just the beginning. This is the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government. What that looks like legally?…bare [sic] with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely…"

For the record, obviously the NEA shouldn't be in the business of funding art that advances the political agenda of its funders, and I would be opposed to any policy that did so, explicitly or tacitly. I do wonder, though, why Courrielche is the only participant in the conference call to have come forward to talk about it, and I further wonder why he produces just one apparently damning quote from the entire call.

There's more to find out here. I've put in a call to Yosi Sergant to ask about the NEA's involvement in United We Serve, and to find out what else was covered in the conference call. Stay tuned for more.

*Until Hunka's comment corrected me, I mistakenly wrote that the NEA wasn't referred to in the body of the email.

1 comment:

George Hunka said...

Actually, the last paragraph of the invitation letter reads, "The United We Serve team, in collaboration with the White House Office of Public Engagement and the National Endowment for the Arts is hosting a conference call outlining steps our community can take to spread the message of service ..." So they are cited in the original email that Sergant forwarded.