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New NEA chairman traveling country

NEA Chairman Landesman Will Travel Country Taking Pulse of Arts in Communities

By Kenneth Jones
21 Oct 2009

Rocco Landesman
Rocco Landesman

National Endowment for the Arts chairman Rocco Landesman delivered a keynote address Oct. 21 to close the 2009 national “Grantmakers in the Arts Conference: Navigating the Art of Change” in Brooklyn.

Landesman, a commercial producer new to the public job since his summer appointment, announced that he will spend the next six months “learning and highlighting the ways that art works in neighborhoods and towns across America.” His national tour will begin on Nov. 6 with a visit to Peoria, IL, at the invitation of Kathy Chitwood, executive director of the Eastlight Theatre, and Suzette Boulais, executive director of Arts Partners of Central Illinois.

Landesman said in an earlier public remark that he didn’t know if Peoria had a live theatre, a statement that drew criticism — and an invitation from artists in Illinois.

The chairman’s visit to Peoria, according to an NEA statement, “will begin with a round table discussion about the impact of the arts that will be moderated by Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, and will include Peoria’s political, civic, business, and arts leaders.”

It will also include a tour of Peoria’s “warehouse district” and a performance of Eastlight Theatre’s production of the musical Rent.


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In his Oct. 21 remarks, Landesman — former president of the Broadway Jujamcyn Theaters chain — laid out the guiding principle that will inform his work at the agency, using two words: “Art Works.”

The “Art Works” tour will continue on to St. Louis, MO, the week of Nov. 23; to Memphis and Nashville, TN, the week of Nov. 30; and to other states, including California, Idaho, Kentucky, and Washington over the next months.

To coincide with this tour, the NEA is hosting a blog at, “where Americans can post examples and stories of how art works in their own communities.”

Landesman will also post dispatches from the “Art Works” tour on the website, beginning after his visit to Peoria on Nov. 6.

“In the coming months, I look forward to seeing downtown sculpture gardens, art walks along waterfronts, public performances and exhibitions, adaptive reuse of abandoned buildings, and subsidized work spaces for artists,” Landesman stated. “Despite the economic realities we are all confronting, art continues to work.”


Landesman explained that “Art Works” is viewed in three ways:

  • “Art works” is a noun. They are the books, crafts, dances, designs, drawings, films, installations, music, musicals, paintings, plays, performances, poetry, textiles, and sculptures that are the creation of artists.
  • “Art works” is a verb. Art works on and within people to change and inspire them; it addresses the need people have to create, to imagine, to aspire to something more.
  • “Art works” is a declarative sentence: arts jobs are real jobs that are part of the real economy. Art workers pay taxes, and art contributes to economic growth, neighborhood revitalization, and the livability of American towns and cities.*Some of the hits Landesman has backed as producer: the award-winning plays Doubt, Proof, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Angels in America, The Grapes of Wrath and The Piano Lesson; the Tony-winning musicals Jersey Boys, The Producers and Big River; the Tony-winning revivals of Guys and Dolls, Sweeney Todd, Nine and Kiss Me, Kate; and the Tony-winning revival of Death of a Salesman.Congress created the National Endowment for the Arts in 1965. For more about the NEA and its programs, visit
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