Nation Is Due for Better Arts Endowment Nomination of Jane Alexander Brings Renewed Optimism for Agency

Article excerpt

On Wednesday, a Senate committee approved President Bill Clinton's choice to head the National Endowment for the Arts, actress Jane Alexander. There is renewed optimism that the nomination of a distinguished artist to head the arts agency could signal an end to the political battles that have besieged it for the past four years. If Alexander is confirmed by the Senate, she has an opportunity to devise positive new strategies that address the needs and concerns of the American public.

The president made a superb choice in nominating Alexander. She is a forceful advocate and understands the business of the arts. There is a need to restore America's confidence in funding for the arts; she will be an articulate spokesperson. The endowment plays a critical role in people's everyday lives and serves as an economic catalyst as well as an educational tool.

The biggest winners are the American people. The endowment makes the arts happen, brings jobs to communities, teaches our children about the arts and gives every American the chance to participate in their culture at the local level. Each year, nearly 4 million children receive arts education because of the endowment's efforts, and the arts help free their imaginations and creativity while building discipline, self-confidence and self-expression.

In concrete terms, the arts mean business. Over the past 30 years, the number of artists in the workplace has jumped to more than 1.5 million from 560,000. Economic impact studies show that the arts provide billions of dollars in new jobs, services and contracts. …