Illustration by Ron English for The Re-Birth of American Democracy on ADBUSTERS
To: President-Elect Barack Obama
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.
This is one of many petitions created by one of a recent movement of citizens who after being inspired by the 2008 presidential campaign have been submitting ideas for how they think the Obama Administration should change America.
In regard to the reform in the arts Suzanne Perry of The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported: “Quincy Jones, the musician and record producer, recently told a radio interviewer he plans to ask President-elect Barack Obama to create the position of Secretary of the Arts. That prompted arts lovers to start an online petition asking Mr. Obama to take up that suggestion. [Almost 30,000 people and counting] have so far signed the petition, which refers to a November 15 interview with Mr. Jones on Soundcheck, a program produced by WNYC, a public-radio station in New York.
“My passion in life now, and one of the first conversations I’ll have with President Obama, is to beg for a Secretary of the Arts,” said Mr. Jones who initially endorsed Mr. Obama’s rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but later released a video in support of Mr. Obama shortly before the November 4th general election.”
America stands out today as having jaundiced cultural funding and a suspect political bias, even our National Endowments for the Arts has long been heavily criticized for using tax dollars to fund politically saturated activities. In lean times, the Arts have historically been placed on the fiscal back burner creating a disadvantageous environment for those seeking a viable creative outlet in schools, the private sector and public work.
The appointment of a Secretary of the Arts has the potential to lend a viable voice to the Arts community and ensure that the scores of future artists have a platform to be heard and respected, but on the other hand it could also simply surrender yet another facet of life to the will of the government. Despite the fact that the petition is by no means assured to be met with any degree of sympathy by the new administration, the issue and its traction is interesting.
Here follows a selection of the most poignant public comments optionally left by petitioners:
19229. Melanie Gold: This is the best idea I have heard to date since the election
18978. Jan Chambers I heard that you were carrying a book of Derek Walcot’s poems. Is it possible that, in addition to all the other hopes and dreams you have revived, artists and those who believe in the arts as a life-changing force have been be blessed with a president who sees the arts, large and small, as the soul of our humanity, worthy of acknowledgment and support? Please don’t forget the arts. They can hold us together when nothing else can. We need art in our lives more than ever.
18641. Amy Trompetter: Arts reveal complexities of our humanity rather than grind us down into simplistic brutality.
17971. Joseph R. Lineberger: We should not beg for this. I would like for my tax dollars to be spent in support of the arts and humanities rather than in ill founded military incursions all over the world. I would like to see the legacy of the late Senator Jessie Helms reversed with significant federal and state support for the arts and humanities. Freedom of expression is the most basic freedoms in our democratic form of government and is spoken to in the first Amentment to the U.S. Constitution. We should expect all our elected officials to uphold, enable, and carry out these freedoms.
17777. Virginia Woolridge: Let’s move away from the Sparta model and toward Athens
16176. Petr Salidar: If this action were to release art from the vestiges of corporate strangleholds, then I am in favor. For the phenomenological event of masses of signing people must have a destination of certain worth for us, the artists. Since at least the Reagan era, we have been progressively minimalized in this free market of ours. Hence, I do not believe it is a victory for artists and/or society as a whole that an internet connects us the way it does. Beyond patents and copyrights, the regulatory devices of the government, there lies a mindset which must express a cultural narrative before the following generations step into this free flowing device of connectivity. We are not closer necessarily, to each other because we can expose ourselves to one another. This simply is, and will not be any true basis for a reasonable development of culture for America’s future generations. The electronic platform must be an integral part of the discussion between the Secretary and all people of the United States.
16113. Jonathan Rosenbaum: I agree with Cecilia Burokas: “To reduce resistance from the right, I suggest naming this position ‘Secretary for American Arts and Culture.’”
15961. Howard Dillon: I left England when Mrs Thatcher said: “We can no longer afford the frivolity of spending on the Arts.”
15788. Brad Allen: I’ve just finished a ukulele for you, Mr. President, which I’ve been making while listening to your books. Hope you like it and it gives you some calm moments.
14521. Edward A. Shure: The Arts are a part of what makes us a great nation. Without the Arts where would we be? Don’t just attend the Kennedy Center Honors and invite “Artists” to the White House – show us that this is as important as all the other positions in your Cabinet by creating this position.
14390. Kevin J. Cox: Artist/musician… best year ever?… $13,000
13922. Tania Kamensky: It’s a long time coming… something you, Mr. President, might understand.
13915. Elaine W. Ng: Even third world countries run by despots have a ministry of culture!
13899. Lyle Zimmerman: Choose wisely.
13630. Wendy Campbell: As FDR did, let’s get the economy moving by employing artists, writers, musicians, to help us reflect on who we are.
13615. Al Chan: It’s about time the “world leader” supports the arts!
12258. Nancy Roblin: The US is WOEFULLY behind all other advanced nations in public support for the arts. The artistic community is extremely vibrant, but is STARVING, by and large. Our finest orchestral and choral musicians, as well as our artistic institutions, are terribly underfunded and spend much too much time scrambling for scarcer and scarcer donated dollars. We need a more coherent and national policy of funding the arts and developing our most talented young persons. An “Arts Tzar” on ANY level in your Administration would be a great leap forward.
12247. Ginger Cox: NYC is a hub for the arts, and shows are closing left and right. We need your help!
12118. Elizabeth Zitrin: Art is truth. Art makes us human. Art is life. Art is essential to creative thinking. Creative thinking makes rational thought possible. Every great culture that has ever existed on earth has treasured and nurtured art. Art is essential to our healthy existence and to our growth.
12037. K. Romero: An artist created your advertising.
11943. Nicholas Newell: Arts are not a luxury, they are all that is left of a civilization long after history has forgotten it. Arts programs have also been proven to be excellent tools to engage and enlighten youth and can be instrumental in fighting preventing crime, recidivism, drop out rates and even drug use. There are tens of thousands of talented and underemployed artists in this country. It is time they were given a fraction of the support that they have in other industrial nations.
11720. Maggi Smith-Dalton: Because I am a historian, I have vision beyond the moment. Because I am a musician, I have vision beyond my Self. (personal motto) I’ve been a professional singer since the age of 11, and a professional historian since early adulthood…and all these decades later, I am still as passionate and happy about my life’s journey as I was when I began. Not a bad legacy to leave behind; and the arts gave all this to me, and, through me, to countless other souls as well.
11689. Teal Brown: I’m not certain this is the right thing in the face of other massive suggestions, for instance the whole “Department of Peace” movement and the establishment of a service corps, but I certainly don’t think this is a bad thing. I trust your judgment.
11688. Frank Marocco: Much needed to promote American Jazz, our only Art form.
11556. Joseph Robinson: As a young man, I bet my life on the promises of the Kennedy era “Culture Boom” in America. My career took me from a little town in North Carolina to the Principal Oboe chair of the New York Philharmonic for 27 years.
10095. Laila Storch: There was a time, 1950s, 60s and 70s, when the United States sent musicians, art exhibits, and sponsored cultural events in many parts of the world, contributing greatly to friendship and respect for our country. It now seems a dream long gone. There is so much young talent to be shared. How wonderful it would be to have it used again!!
9584. Jonathan Peck: My name is Jonathan Peck and I approve this message.
9081. Robert S. Cubbage: Please appoint someone who is not from Chicago
8443. Bret Primack: Please invite Sonny Rollins to play at the White House
8313. David Stoler: Assuming that this position is viable, please do not make the mistake of past administrations by appointing someone based solely on “political influence”
7926. Wendi Librach: Without the Arts, our children will grow up as 2-dimensional facsimiles of a human being.
6999. Bill Ayers: Hey Barack, this is a great idea. You better sign this on to this or we might bomb the pentagon again.
6833. David Vohden: Declining rates of concert goers, museum visitors, theater lovers, etc. is a frightening sign for our culture. As the beacon of hope for our suffering culture, I hope that President Obama looks to make major improvements in this area. Please be a model for this change.
6685. Patricia Gail Loeffler: This is a wonderful idea! One caveat, though: When the job description is written, we want to make sure that the position will exist to support and promote the arts, and not to control them.
6630. Barbara Otto: Why not include artists in reconstructing America, much like Roosevelt did in the Depression?
6449. Kelly: We do not need this. This would be the worst mistake in the art history of humanity. Everything the government touches turns to sludge. Let the government do only things the people can’t do themselves.
5741. Ann H. Sneed: The National Endowment f/t Arts is a shell of itself, far removed from its raison d’être, as conceived and created by Nelson Rockefeller and Nancy Hanks – and as supported and expanded by the Kennedy & Nixon Administrations. Ronald Reagan led NEA backward by eliminating programs and funding that fostered affordable, community arts for all the People. No president since has attempted to restore the Agency to its original purpose. Today, NEA is lofty in its perspectives, insensitive to the vital & unique role of, and the need for, The Arts for All – without selectivity or discrimination.
5193. Andrew E. Yarosh: To quote President Kennedy, “I am determined that we begin to grow again, and that there will be an American renaissance in which imagination, daring and the creative arts point the way.”
5181. John Vail: Remember that Steve Jobs attributes many of his paradigm changing ideas to a dance class he took in college
5156. Choco Orta: I’m a Puerto Rican professional female Salsa Singer, yes it is very important for us the artistic community to have a voice a Secretary of Arts in the White House presidential Cabinet. Blessings, chocolocochon!!
5075. Jonathan Kesselman: as a professional artist, who is “successful” in his field but cannot afford health care and cost of living, pls help! I’ve travelled across the world to film festivals where I see other artist’s subsidized by the government living normal middle class lives and producing better work because of it.
5007. Judith: Since both of the Obama daughters play the piano, I think P-E Barack Obama and Michelle Obama “get it”!
4483. Richard Skipper: “If we’re not fighting for the arts, what ARE we fighting for?” –Winston Churchill
4240. Dominic D. Capponi: Imagine a world without the arts…. like watching the colors fade from a dying sailfish.
3684. Patricia Joyce Lambrecht: Break A Leg!
3265. Katie McClain: THE KILLING OF DOLPHINS MUST STOP
3241. Anisa Rasheed: The Arts are a human right. Protect them!
3096. Adam Farrington: When I donate my art to charity auctions, it isn’t tax deductible in a meaningful or fair way.
2593. David Liebman: There are four functions for govt: defense, health, education and CULTURE!!
2221. Malachy McCourt: Well done. Kiss my arts.
1988. Siobhan Merrill: And don’t forget to legalize industrial hemp.
1351. Anthony Stallworth: This is seriously needed for the arts community. With media conglomerate targeting artist to survive, the FTC and Anti-trust in competition unit are non responsive, the artist unions and musician unions really don’t pay attention unless you are making a different to their bottom line, and the trademark and patent office are not really as savvy as artist need them to be in protecting the rights of new development in the creativity. Violations that are happening on social sites like my space, yahoo, msn are just the start. The internet explosion is really only in its first 10 years, and their is a great deal of theft happening to artist. Unless you are tech savvy and know what to look for and what you are dealing with you would never know what was going on. The conglomerates are targeting the artist and stealing their work seriously, it is almost retro to back in the early 30′s, 40′s, 50′s and 60′s, where the labels and publishing companies were making millions, and leaving the artist with nothing.
1335. Nicholas Jones: Art thrives in depression.
722. Dr. Maurice Holt: An emphasis on the arts in education is vital because the No Child Left Behind Act has distorted the curriculum.
505. James Foley: How about David Byrne?
322. Kevin Hurley: Klein has ruined the NYC public school system.
227. Jaclyn Strez: “ain’t too proud to plead, baby baby!”
The Secretary of the Arts Petition to President-Elect Barack Obama was created by and written by Jaime Austria (firstname.lastname@example.org). This petition is hosted at www.PetitionOnline.com as a public service. There is no endorsement of this petition, express or implied, by Artifice, Inc. or associated sponsors.