The Washington Times - September 22, 2009, 10:15PM

The following is a response to the Water Cooler’s coverage of the NEA conference calls from Kevin Erickson, Co-Director of the Seattle based All-Ages Movement Project:



I’d really like to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re 
reporting in good faith about this stuff.  Maybe you haven’t written 
about arts policy before and you don’t have the context to understand 
what’s going on. 

You’ve essentially got the dynamic backwards.  Artists are trying to 
influence the administration, not the other way around. 

Artists & organizers requested to meet with the NEA and administration 
officials about community arts.  So they had a meeting and some 
follow-up conversations.  This is no different than the communications 
staff from the office of faith-based initiatives meeting with religious leaders.  It 
is a communication person’s job to be a liaison to leading people from 
their field.  The difference between this administration and the last 
one is that artists feel Obama’s team might actually listen to them, 
and see a strong role for artists in public life and in the economic 
recovery.  A role in public life for artists is not the same as trying 
to convince Americans of the wisdom of a set of policy proposals. 

Individual artists are not eligible for NEA funding.  The stimulus 
funding only provided money for arts organizations that already had received 
NEA funding but were facing layoffs due to the economic crisis.  There 
is no possible way that the funding could be used to leverage these 
people to work for specific policy proposals. 

Decisions about NEA grantmaking are advised by the Council on the Arts, 
which are people appointed by the president for 6 year terms.  Right 
now it’s mostly a bunch of Bush appointees like country star Lee 
Greenwood, who wrote the patriotic hit “God Bless The USA”.  The idea 
that NEA money is going to serve some socialist agenda is completely 

When I look at the people on the list, the commonality I see is 
that these are people interested in service & volunteering.  When I 
read the transcript of the call, it’s all about encouraging service. Yosi just 
pops in to give a little boilerplate pep talk. 

It is true that most creative arts professionals are interested in 
seeing health reform pass.  Artists are more likely to be self-employed or employed 
part-time so they are more likely to lack health insurance, or have a 
hard time purchasing their own.  That’s why anyone who has spent time 
time covering arts policy is completely unsurprised to see Americans 
for the Arts and other orgs supporting strong reform.  Some artists 
have been lobbying Obama to stay true to a public option plan rather 
than a co-op.  But again, the pressure is coming from the arts sector, 
TO the administration.  Not the other way around. 

You do your readers a great disservice when you claim that the NEA was 
doing anything but encouraging a bipartisan community service initiative.