The Ultimate Culture Guide 2009: Y

Yes, He Can!

Barack Obama ran on a promise to change the culture in America. His election has raised hopes among arts organizations that he’ll change Culture. This president, the thinking goes, “gets” the arts and recognizes their importance to education and the economy. That $50 million for the NEA in the stimulus package, which he stood behind even against opposition from inside his own party, was a huge symbolic gesture—a statement that the arts are a priority.

Some, notably Quincy Jones, have called for a cabinet-level secretary of culture. While Jones hasn’t gotten his wish, Obama did create a staff position in the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, giving the arts an advocate in the White House. However, with the economy in shambles, how far will any shifts in cultural policy go?

It’s unlikely that the man on those ubiquitous Shepard Fairey posters will become this generation’s FDR, creating artist work relief programs. For a reminder of how that experiment turned out, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., is showing “1934: A New Deal for Artists,” through January 2010.