THE BLOG
12/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dear President-Elect Obama, Could We Please Have a Ministry of Culture like Every Other Country in the World?

Firstly, congratulations on winning by a landslide. Now there is so much hard work to do!

Where Culture is concerned, I don't just mean paying dues to UNESCO or putting PBS and NPR back on their financial footing or even finally increasing the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts to more than what one European city's opera budget is... I mean really creating a Ministry of Culture. Why? Because Culture is the number one thing we export, so maybe we ought to start taking a look at how and what we put out into the world via "American culture"!

I know in a world where the economy is the primary focus (or perhaps those missiles Russia just sidled up to the Polish border), some people might think this idea is foolish...but our number one export is Entertainment... so why can't we make Culture a priority and not focus on selling the lowest common denominator, but actually being proud of and helping to define ourselves by supporting art and artists, unbiased public broadcasting, education in the arts like they had when I was a child. Why does everything have to be run 100% by non-profits and private foundations? Why can't we make Culture about more than selling old TV series to the Russians, or placing superheroes in Happy Meal boxes in fast food restaurants around the world?
We have writers and painters and singers who should not have to starve to death to study, and we have future generations of citizens who need to know that creativity matters, not just because you win a competition on television and get a zillion dollar recording contract, but because creativity is inherently part of being a complete human being.

We need to invest in multi-dimensional human beings. We need to show that the country cares about culture. We have some of the best museums, concert halls, and most talented people on the planet living in the US. Yet many organizations, scholarship and grant-making organizations for artists, find it harder and harder to find financial support. Students in Art Therapy saw programs cut long ago under Reagan. The NEA under Bush Sr. virtually disappeared. Bush Jr. put Bo Derek on the board of the Kennedy Center! And try paying for NYU Film School as an average person without going into serious debt.

Even those who like to think of art as simply business need to remember, that one must always invest in Research and Development, even if that part of the process is not profit-making. This means investing in our creative future, without thinking about the profit motive all the time. Maybe we can bring back the "public" approach to the Arts by actually creating a Ministry for Culture which will forever show the world that we are serious about how we express ourselves to the world.

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