With Barack Obama’s imminent inauguration, the calls to introduce a Secretary of the Arts are becoming increasingly loud. Arts advocates see Obama – who is said to be the most depicted president-elect in US history and has an iPod stocked with artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Jay-Z, John Coltrane and Bruce Springsteen – as their greatest chance in decades to make this happen.
Although we in Australia are not seen as being particularly cultured (despite our self-view – perhaps this is the very symbol of being uncultured; when we think we are despite evidence to the contrary), we have federal arts representation sitting within the menagerie of responsibilities under the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. The Arts component is mainly responsible for literature, film, indigenous arts and administering tax incentives.
It is hoped that a US Secretary of the Arts will be able to increase awareness of America’s diverse arts amongst its own people, as well as administer grants, educate young people on art history
However with the country in the midst of an economic crisis, the possibility of Obama adding a new bureaucracy, no matter how committed to the arts he is, seems unlikely.