President Obama’s picks new head of arts funding agency

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Janet Chu oversaw the construction of the Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts in Kansas City.


By Julia Halperin


The White House has nominated Jane Chu, the president of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The top post at the arts organisation has been vacant since December 2012, when the former Broadway producer Rocco Landesman retired after three years on the job.

Chu has been described as a low-profile choice with sterling administrative credentials. She led a $414m campaign to build the Moshe Safdie-designed Kauffman Centre, which opened in 2011. (Notably, the building project’s budget is almost three times as large as the $146m allotted to the NEA by the government in 2014.) An artist and pianist herself, Chu has undergraduate degrees in visual arts as well as an MBA and a PhD in philanthropic studies.

“Jane’s lifelong passion for the arts and her background in philanthropy have made her a powerful advocate for artists and arts education in Kansas City,” President Obama said in a statement. As NEA chairman, Chu will oversee the federal agency’s annual grant programme, which supplies some states with a third to a half of their total arts funding.

Chu’s nomination, which is subject to Congressional approval, comes after arts administrators across the country voiced frustration with the lengthy search process. Last month, the Dramatists Guild of America and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society launched an online petition to encourage the president to swiftly nominate a new NEA chairman. The petition had 2,024 signatures at the time of the announcement.

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