Immediately after President Obama took office, his Hollywood benefactors clamored for the creation of a "Secretary of Culture." Tinseltown was disappointed with the administration's crony arts czar choice (Chicago lawyer Kareem Dale), but left-wing artists and entertainers have now been mollified.
Instead of one government-supported arts czar, the White House has designated an entire herd of them.
On Tuesday, as part of Obama's "Winning the Future" initiative, the president designated members of the liberal activist group Creative Coalition as official "America's Champions of Change for the Arts." This is the latest in a series of "public engagement" efforts overseen by Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and her high-paid, tax-funded staff of thinly veiled campaign workers operating out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Honored guests at the event included ardent Obama supporters and Hollywood stars such as Patricia Arquette, Omar Epps, Minnie Driver and Rachael Leigh Cook. Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk crowed in a p.r. release: "Rarely before in the history of our country has change been more important, so we are proud to be recognized as a 'Champion of Change.' By sharing our ideas on the arts and arts education with the Obama administration, we can ensure the next generation of Americans have the same opportunities to express their creativity."
Ignore the high-minded talk of artistic free speech. This is nothing more than a Celebrity Rewards Program masquerading as cultural "dialogue" (or, more accurately, echo chamber chatter).
When the Creative Coalition -- comprised of some of the entertainment world's most zealous and wealthy Obama donors -- talks of the need to "make the arts a topic of priority," it means massively increased funding for the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts. It means using the power of government to turn artists and entertainers into Obama policy lobbyists. And it means buying access not for "ordinary Americans," but for the out-of-touch elitists who use all public channels and platforms to denigrate traditional values and principles.
The Creative Coalition is the group that threw the swankiest inaugural parties for Obama, studded with producers, actors, directors and writers. The Creative Coalition/Obama galas included a lavish inaugural party sponsored by Moet & Chandon, which passed out big fat bottles of pricey wine sporting customized "Obama is the Man" labels. (Quick, someone alert that crazy Rutgers professor who attacked GOP Rep. Paul Ryan over his beverage choices.) They clamored for $50 million in stimulus pork and still want more.
Members of the Creative Coalition were also entangled in the 2009 NEA/White House campaign to recruit 75 artists, musicians, writers and poets as political "counter-narrative" creators during the health care takeover battle. Then-Office of Public Engagement top officials Tina Tchen and Buffy Wicks urged participants to "sustain energy from the election process" and "think through how their networks and organizations can participate in areas such as the arts in education, health care and preventative care, energy and environment, or economic opportunity."
In other words: Not art for art's sake. But art for Obama's sake.
The White House and its "Champions of Change for the Arts" are flirting dangerously with an Orwellian-style Ministry of Arts Agitprop akin to Europe's and China's. America doesn't need ideologically skewed keepers of the culture in government-sanctioned positions espousing what's best for readers', viewers' and listeners' consumption -- and using tax dollars to shape our tastes and politics.
The best way for this White House to stimulate free, unfettered conversation about the arts is to butt out of it.