The Washington Times - September 21, 2009, 11:57AM



Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood has revealed new audio of the August 10 National Endowment for the Art, White House, and United We Serve conference call.  However, The Obama administration apparently met with 60 artists and creative organizers as early as May 12 according to an online document (downloadable)by the Pratt Center for Community Development, State Voices, Arlene Goldbard, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.  Other artists(link1 link 2)have corroborated this meeting happened. (h/t machogirl from FR) 

(Update 9/25/09:White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton has confirmed a White House briefing of sixty visiting artists did occur on May 12)

“This is one of hundreds of briefings as an effort to engage the community.  The office of public engagement often meets with groups to let them know what’s going on.  We have a lot of meetings here at the White House to make sure this is the most open and transparent White House this can be.   That’s a commitment the president has had and will continue to have,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told the Washington Times of the May 12 artist briefing. 

On May 12th, more than 60 artists and creative organizers engaged in civic participation, community development, education, social justice activism, and philanthropy came together for a White House briefing on Art, Community, Social Justice, National Recovery. 

This meeting combined the interests of several groups addressing intersecting issues. All are interested in the power of the arts to build communities and create change. Arlene Goldbard requested a meeting with community cultural development practitioners and thinkers to talk about how the remarkable mobilizing power of community arts can be used by the Obama administration as a tool and a pathway for national recovery. 

Claudine Brown of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, arts organizer Billy Wimsatt and Caron Atlas working with the Pratt Center for Community Development and State Voices, requested a meeting with policy makers, artists and organizers. Their intent was to identify existing efforts within the cultural and social justice movements that are in alignment with the national agenda and to discuss our common pursuits and possibilities. This diverse group includes Hip Hop organizers, green designers, creative communicators, social networkers, and other visual, performing, and media artists committed to social justice from both the non-profit and for-profit sectors who are working on such issues as green jobs, health care and economic justice. 

Each of the sponsors of this meeting had been in contact with Yosi Sergant who was then an Associate with the White House Office of Public Liaison (and is now Communications Director of the National Endowment for the Arts.) Once we understood that a larger meeting would enable us to access more advisors and policymakers, it made sense to combine forces and invitation lists. 

The Washington DC meeting had three parts: 1) a meeting at the Kaiser Family Foundation to prepare for the briefing, 2) the two-hour White House briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and 3) a post-briefing meeting at Bus Boys & Poets to interpret and respond to what we had learned and to engage in small-group strategy sessions including: cultural policy, green jobs, immigration, public/private space, healthcare reform, organizing power on behalf of community artists, and a department of alternative thinking.

The document recaps the discussions the artists had with one another after the briefing about creating a “Department of Alternative Thinking”:

Summary: There is a huge role for creativity in the White House. Artists think differently (and with a different side of their brain) about problem solving than the typical person working for the government (whether politicians, lawyers, lobbyists or policy experts). Creativity and innovation—in all aspects of the public and private sectors—are what gives our country an edge. This group was inspired to further develop an idea that struck them during the briefing: the establishment of a new “Department of Alternative Thinking.” The DoAT would be a volunteer brain trust/think tank made up of the country’s most creative and maverick minds (thinkers, artists, innovators, and inventors). It would be set up as a free, public service to the White House and other government departments. The purpose of the DoAT is to integrate creative brain consultation (sideways thinking) into every aspect of governmental decision-making (whether it is the arts, the economy, healthcare, energy and environmental policy, international policy, national security, infrastructure, NASA, education, etc). 

Modeled loosely after the Armed Forces Reserve and jury duty, the DoAT “fellows” would volunteer for service on a revolving but continuous panel. Fellows would be selected by the White House and a body of peers and enlisted for periodic, short tours of duty in Washington, DC in order to ensure a healthy turnover of ideas while allowing participants to continue their own work. The DoAT fellows would help government insiders see things from a different perspective, helping to foster innovative solutions to government issues and policy…all of which would be incredibly valuable in keeping America one step ahead. 

Healthcare Reform, Immigration Reform, Public/Private Space policy are also discussed as well in the document. 



• Arnold Aprill, Founding and Creative Director, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE)
• Caron Atlas, Cultural Organizer, Pratt Center for Community Development and State Voices
(Meeting Organizer)
• Judith F. Baca, Founder/Artistic Director of SPARC and the UCLA/SPARC Cesar Chavez Digital/Mural
• Robert “Biko” Baker, Executive Director, League of Young Voters
• Nick Behunin, HOPE Campaign
• Matthew Brady, Creative Director, Global Inheritance
White House briefing on Art, Community, Social Justice, National Recovery—12 May 2009 Page 16
• Claudine K. Brown, Director, Arts and Culture Program, Nathan Cummings Foundation (Meeting
• Denise Brown, Executive Director, Leeway Foundation
• John Cary, Executive Director, Public Architecture
• Alli Chagi-Starr, Community Partnerships & Events Manager, Green For All
• Jeff Chang, Writer
• William Cleveland, Center for the Study of Art & Community
• Dudley Cocke, Artistic Director, Roadside Theater, Appalshop
• Michelle Coffey, Executive Director, Lambent Foundation, Starry Night Fund Donor-Advised Fund
of Tides Foundation
• Duffy Culligan, The Directors Bureau
• Davey D, Hip Hop historian, Journalist, Deejay, Media and Community Activist
• Milly Hawk Daniel, Vice President for Communications, PolicyLink
• Dee Davis, President, Center for Rural Strategies
• Maria Lopez De Leon, Executive Director, The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture
• Amalia Deloney, Activist and Cultural Worker
• Kate Emanuel, Senior Vice President, Non-Profit & Government Affairs, The Advertising Council
• Diane Fraher, Director, American Indian Artists Inc. (AMERINDA)
• Ryan Friedrichs, Executive Director, State Voices
• Rha Goddess, Creative Organizer, 1+1+1=ONE
• Arlene Goldbard, Writer and Speaker (Meeting Organizer)
• James Bau Graves, Executive Director, Old Town School of Folk Music
• Kim Hastreiter, Editor, Publisher and Co-founder of PAPER Publishing Co.
• Liz Havstad, Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Programs, Hip Hop Caucus
• Ian Inaba, Co-Executive Director, Citizen Engagement Lab
• Gayle Isa, Executive Director, Asian Arts Initiative
• James Kass, Founder & Executive Director, Youth Speaks Inc.
• Bakari Kitwana, CEO, Rap Sessions
• Sally Kohn, Senior Campaign Strategist and Director of the Movement Vision Lab, Center for
Community Change
• Joe Lambert, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Digital Storytelling
• Brad Lander, Senior Fellow, Pratt Center for Community Development
• Liz Lerman, Founding Artistic Director, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
• Rick Lowe, Artist, Founder, Project Row Houses
• John Malpede, Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD)
• Liz Manne, Founder, Work in Progress
• Meghan McDermott, Executive Director, Global Action Project
• Michelle Miller, Manager of Popular Media Organizing, SEIU
• Alyce Myatt, Executive Director, Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media
• Michael D. Nolan, Independent PR Consultant
• Anne Pasternak, President & Artistic Director, Creative Time
• Maria Teresa Petersen, Founding Executive Director, Voto Latino
• Wendell Pierce, Actor/Producer, Founder, Pontchartrain Park CDC
White House briefing on Art, Community, Social Justice, National Recovery—12 May 2009 Page 17