I want to express my sincere and deep appreciation to you for giving me the opportunity to be the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Each of you in the room this afternoon has played a role in this process.
I’d like to acknowledge our two Missouri Senators, Senator Claire McCaskill and Senator Roy Blunt, for your sponsorship and endorsement, and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, of Missouri’s 5th Congressional District, for your willingness to administer the oath of office. Thank you also to Members of Congress who are here for your support of the arts, and for the key roles your own staff have played in keeping the confirmation process moving. Thank you to Herb Kohn from Kansas City, for your personal guidance through the selection, nomination, and appointment process, and to Amanda Moose from the Presidential Personnel Office, for shepherding me through the personnel and vetting procedures. I’d also like to give a shoutout to the 25-30 people who jumped on a plane from Kansas City to get here. You didn’t go the second mile to attend this event; you went the 1,000th mile to be here and support me. There are also around 40 NEA staff members here today. I’m so proud of them, and I hope you will talk with them. You’ll find that the NEA team has unparalleled knowledge in their areas of expertise.
We have an opportunity to start a new dialogue on the ways in which the arts, and the ways the NEA supports them, are an essential component of our everyday lives. Although many people don’t realize it, the arts actively intersect with areas such as the economy, human development, and community vitality – all connections we have been working to build and showcase.
There are three things that I believe are priorities for the National Endowment for the Arts right now. These priorities lie in the areas of: how we foster Value; how we foster Connection; and how we foster Creativity and Innovation; all from being engaged with the arts.
In terms of Value:
My most important job is to help all Americans understand the value and meaning the arts have in their lives. To do that, we have to tell the story of why the NEA’s work is so important and vital to individuals, to communities, and to the economy through the grants we give out to thousands of nonprofits and other organizations across the nation each year.
In terms of Connection:
I’m taking this message straight to the people. I’ll do a fair bit of traveling across the country to see for myself the great work that is being carried out by our grantees. The objective here is to show how the arts impact individuals and communities and to paint a vivid picture of why the arts matter on a larger level; how they connect us to each other, and to something greater, and provide us with a sense of belonging.
In terms of Creativity and Innovation: Creativity and innovation is at the heart of what America is all about! And it’s at the heart of the NEA too, especially in two main areas. One of them is arts education. Numerous studies show that students engaged in the arts perform better academically, socially, and participate in other civic activities. Arts education is critical to raising America’s next generations of Creative, Innovative thinkers. The other area we will further delve into lies at the intersection of art, science, and technology. We believe that synthesizing these differing perspectives can foster those Creative and Innovative thinkers to help us solve problems, think out of the box, and provide new insights. We want to turn the focus from STEM education to STEAM education, and integrate Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math into our nation’s classrooms.
There is no other agency or organization that has the combination of resources, the national platform, and the vision that can help all Americans engage with and benefit from the arts. I am honored to be your new Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Thank you again for giving me this opportunity.