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Thursday, January 16, 2003

Time For An American "Minister of Culture"?

By David M. Huff

The time has come for an insightful and passionate dialogue on the tragic state of the performing arts in America.  Fortunately, Mr. Michael Kaiser, who is the President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has set-forth some provocative ideas that thoughtful observers in the performing arts arena should consider.  In Mr. Kaiser's opinion,  enlightened leadership and action, the development and implementation of bold and large-scale projects, and the recruitment and training of highly effective arts managers are critical measures that must be utilized to ensure the growth, development, and survival of the performing arts.  As a musician, I can testify to Mr. Kaiser's call for the preservation of arts organizations for the present generation and for generations to come.

During the years 1983-1986, I had the opportunity to participate with the Pittsburgh Symphony's Youth Orchestra at Heinz Hall, studied at the Interlochen Music Festival and Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan, and attended the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Youth program in Lenox, Massachusetts.  I recall the youthful enthusiasm, spontaneous exhilaration, and artistic and intellectual fulfillment that I experienced at each of these artistic havens.

Like Jacqueline Kennedy before him, I believe that Mr. Michael Kaiser and fellow contemporaries are pursuing a noble quest: the protection and enhancement of one of the truly unique forms of human expression - the arts.  Ultimately, I would like to see our nation realize what for so long has just been a hope and a dream; namely, the creation of a Minister of Culture position.  While in the White House, Mrs. Kennedy had urged her husband to create a Minister of Culture position for America.  Although this did not occur, I think that Mrs. Kennedy's idea was a bold and important step forward for the evolution of the performing arts in the United States.

I am sanguine that enterprising people and corporations throughout our country will summon the will to ensure that the performing arts continue to play a vital and prominent role in the advancement of our civilization.  In the final analysis, it is simply a question of willpower, resolve, entrepreneurial drive, and a commitment to artistic excellence.

David M. Huff
Washington, DC

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