by Griffin Davis, Communications Intern
After a long delay, on Thursday, June 2, Dr. Jane Chu was confirmed by the Senate as the 11th chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts. Chu, who succeeds acting chair Joan Shigekawa, was nominated for the position by President Obama in February after a vacancy of more than a year following former chair Rocco Landesman’s departure. This week, she’ll make her first public appearance as Chair on Friday morning’s National Council on the Arts meeting.
Chu comes to the position with a wealth of knowledge in both the arts and philanthropy, and we were delighted to learn that she’s a musician herself—in this interview for the Art Works podcast, she tells of learning to play the piano at age 8. She holds bachelors and masters degrees in music education, a masters of business administration and a PhD in philanthropic studies. Prior to her nomination, Chu served as CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, MO. During her tenure as CEO, Chu, who has been praised for her abilities as a fundraiser, oversaw the campaign to build the center, which is now home to the Kansas City Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. The center also hosts a variety of performances in music, dance and theater by artists from around the world, and as the Washington Post noted, “That the Kauffman Center was built during the recession in a moderate-sized city surprised and impressed many in the arts-management field.”
In these tough economic times, the NEA has been woefully underfunded, at $146 million in FY 2014, down from a peak of $167 million in 2010; by comparison, the Canada Council For the Arts serves our neighbors to the north with a budget of roughly equivalent size, despite having only a tenth of the population. Nonetheless, the agency has played a key role in encouraging innovative thinking toward new and better ways of supporting artists and arts organizations in diverse local communities. Recent years have seen strong moves towards recognizing the full diversity of American musical traditions, and more interagency collaboration to better integrate the arts into more areas of civic life. We congratulate Dr. Chu on her confirmation and can’t wait to see what she does in her new post.