It took a while, but Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, has done the right thing—dissociated himself and his agency from the loose-cannon actions of Yosi Sergant, who lost his position as NEA’s communications director over his unauthorized indiscretions. What’s more, Landesman explicitly reaffirmed the non-partisan nature of NEA and its grantmaking.
Here’s the full statement, hot off my inbox. [UPDATE: It’s now posted on NEA’s website.]:
STATEMENT FROM NEA CHAIRMAN ROCCO LANDESMAN
September 22, 2009
As chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, I would like to clarify the issues concerning an August conference call in which an NEA employee participated.
Here are the facts.
Fact 1: The former NEA Director of Communications helped organize and participated in an August 10th conference call to introduce members of the arts community to United We Serve and to provide them with information on how the Corporation for National and Community Service can assist groups interested in sponsoring service projects or having their members volunteer on other projects.
Fact 2: The former NEA Director of Communications acted unilaterally and without the approval or authorization of then-Acting Chairman Patrice Walker Powell.
Fact 3: This call was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false. Rather, the call was to inform members of the arts community of an opportunity to become involved in volunteerism.
Fact 4: Some of the language used by the former NEA Director of Communications was, unfortunately, not appropriate and did not reflect the position of the NEA. This employee has been relieved of his duties as director of communications.
Fact 5: This call was completely unrelated to NEA’s grantmaking, which is highly regarded for its independence and integrity. Artistic quality, excellence and merit are the guidelines for decision-making; favoritism or political affiliation plays no role in NEA grantmaking.
Fact 6: The NEA is a successful, independent federal agency that has supported the best of the arts and arts education for nearly 45 years. We take our responsibility to the American public very seriously and are committed to upholding this public trust.
Although my time here has been brief—in fact I arrived at the agency on August 11th the day after the conference call—I am proud to lead the National Endowment for the Arts, proud to work with its capable and energetic staff, and proud to play a role in enhancing the quality of life for the people of our great nation.
This statement comes a day after Patrick Courrielche posted on the Big Hollywood blog the complete audio and transcript of the Aug. 10 conference call that sparked the Glenn Beck-fueled firestorm over politicization of the NEA. I had listened in on a subsequent conference call that neither involved NEA nor promoted any controversially partisan actions, but that did strike me as an inappropriate attempt by the White House to recruit artists to participate in and promote a Presidential initiative.