President Barack Obama last week created a new position to oversee arts and culture in the Office of Public Liasion and Intergovernmental Affairs. Kareem Dale, who was previously named special assistant to the president for disability policy, will hold the new position under senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.
The White House has not yet described the new position, but Bill Ivey, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) who served on the president's transition team for the arts and humanities, told the New York Times that he expects Dale will be involved in coordinating the activities of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as they relate to the White House. "It's a big step forward in terms of connecting cultural and government with mainstream administration policy," the Times quoted Ivey as saying. He added that former White House staff members assigned to culture usually served in the office of the first lady.
Stan Katz, in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, pointed out that there are other federal agencies beyond the NEA, NEH and the IMLS that deal with culture, naming the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute, and the National Publications and Records Commission as examples. "If President Obama were genuinely to develop and implement a broad cultural policy for all the federal cultural programs," Katz wrote, "he could accomplish something quite unusual and important. We’ll have to see how this develops, and what sorts of relationships the new heads of the Endowments develop with Dale and the White House."