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US Senate Confirms Rocco Landesman as NEA Head
Rocco Landesman, the head of Broadway’s Jujamcyn Theaters, has been approved by the Senate to assume the top position at the National Endowment for the Arts, reports David Ng for the Los Angeles Times. The Senate also unanimously confirmed Jim Leach to head the National Endowment for the Humanities. An imposing figure on the New York theater scene, Landesman was seen by many as an unusual but welcome choice by the Obama administration to head the troubled NEA, which has been reeling from years of budget cuts and accusations of irrelevancy. On Broadway, the sixty-two-year-old Landesman has had a hand in producing such high-profile shows as Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and Mel Brooks’ The Producers. His nomination to the NEA post was announced in May.

Landesman, who is expected to begin his new job shortly, will take over from Patrice Walker Powell, who has served as interim chairwoman since February. Dana Gioia, a poet, stepped down as NEA chief at the beginning of the year. In an interview with the New York Times’s Robin Pogrebin, Landesman shows little patience for the disdain with which some politicians still seem to view the endowment. He was particularly angered, he said, by parts of the debate over whether to include $50 million for the agency in the federal stimulus bill, citing the comment by Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, on CNBC’s Squawk Box in February, that arts money did not belong in the bill. That kind of thinking suggests that “artists don’t have kids to send to college,” Landesman said, “or food to put on the table, or medical bills to pay.”

In American politics generally, he added: “The arts are a little bit of a target. The subtext is that it is elitist, left wing, maybe even a little gay.”

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