I said I’d be posting occasionally from on the road and here I am already. After months of speculation about who would be the president’s choice to head the National Endowment for the Arts, the nominee turns out to be a big surprise — the New York theater producer Rocco Landesman, the man behind Angels in America and The Producers.
The NEA has been getting gentler treatment from Congress over the last decade than it got in the ’90s, when it was the ultimate battlefield in the culture wars. But it’s budget — Obama is asking about $161 million for 2010 — still hasn’t returned to its peak of $176 million in 1992. (Though that number is still much better than the figure of around $90 million that the Republicans held it to for years after they gained a majority in Congress in ’94. It was actually George W. Bush who started bringing the NEA budget gradually back into the light.) Money isn’t the only issue the NEA has to grapple with, but money changes everything, and one of the constant goals for Landesman after he’s confirmed by Congress will be to nudge the Endowment’s budget back to where it was in 1992 — and adjusted for inflation.