President Obama announced yesterday that he has nominated Rocco Landesman, a theatre owner and producer who brought Proof, The Producers, and other Tony Award winners to Broadway, as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Landesman, whose appointment must be confirmed by Congress, will fill the post recently vacated by Dana Gioia and oversee an arts agency with an annual budget of $145 million, although the president last week requested an increase to $161 million for 2010.
The sixty-one-year-old received his undergraduate education at Colby College and the University of Wisconsin; he earned a doctorate in dramatic literature at the Yale School of Drama. After leaving Yale in 1977, he started a private investment company, which he ran for ten years. In 1987, he was appointed president of Jujamcyn Theaters, a company that owns five Broadway theaters. He purchased the company in 2005. The New York Times reported yesterday that Landesman will resign from his position at Jujamcyn, but retain his ownership stake in the company.
Robert Lynch, president of the lobbying group Americans for the Arts, described Landesman to the Washington Post as "a bold decision-maker." Lynch added that he finds the selection "exciting." Democratic representive Louise Slaughter, who cochairs the Congressional Arts Caucus in Washington, said in a statement that Landesman "knows the power that arts can have in our lives and the role that musicians, artists, and theater has played in our nation's culture."