Dana Gioia announces his future plans

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia announced today that he will leave his position at the head of the Arts Endowment in January 2009. He will return to writing, his primary occupation prior to leading the Arts Endowment. He will also join the Aspen Institute on a half-time basis as the first Director of the Harman/Eisner (H/E) Program in the Arts.

Dana Gioia began his term in February 2003, becoming the NEA's ninth chairman. In December 2006 he was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate for a second, four-year term. Chairman Gioia has led a transformation of the NEA, reinvigorating the institution with a mission of bringing the best of arts and arts education to all Americans. He has also helped restore the NEA's leadership in fostering informed public discussion of important issues affecting the arts, artists, and education.

Under Gioia's chairmanship, the NEA has effectively democratized its programs and services, maintaining the highest artistic and educational standards while achieving unprecedented outreach to millions of Americans. Gioia has also made arts education central to the agency's mission, creating many programs that combine the presentation of arts with arts education to foster the next generation of artists, audiences and patrons.

"It has been a thrilling experience to help rebuild a great American institution, " said Gioia. "We have created a new national consensus on the importance of public support for the arts and arts education. Six years ago that would have seemed unlikely."

"I announce my departure with mixed feelings, " he added. "I will never have a more interesting job. But I am a writer. If I don't return to poetry soon, the Muse will never have me back."

National Initiatives

Many Americans, especially students, have never had the opportunity to attend a theater or dance performance, visit a museum or gallery space, listen to a live symphony or opera, or read a great work of literature outside a classroom. To bring the arts to all Americans, Gioia has established several National Initiatives, model programs of artistic excellence and national reach. These programs, in effect, create large national partnerships between individual organizations that can achieve results over economies of scale that no one organization can achieve alone.

Shakespeare in American Communities was launched in 2003 to bring the best of live theater to new audiences. Since then, the program has become the largest tour of Shakespeare in American history. To date, 77 professional theater companies have presented more than 4, 000 performances at 3, 200 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly two thousand actors have found employment in the program which has brought over one million students into professional productions of Shakespeare. Meanwhile, over 20 million students have used the NEA's free Shakespeare materials (films, CD, and print resources) in their classrooms.

A 2004 NEA report titled Reading at Risk documented critical declines in literary reading among American adults. Responding to this crisis, Gioia developed The Big Read, an effort to restore reading to the center of American culture. A partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest, The Big Read encourages communities to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 26 selections from American and world literature, such as The Great Gatsby, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. The program offers grants and educational materials. The Big Read has also established international exchanges with Russia, Egypt, and Mexico. To date, the NEA has funded more than 500 Big Read projects in towns and cities across all 50 states. More than 21, 000 public and private organizations have collaborated on these community reads.

Other National Initiatives created under his leadership are American Masterpieces, Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, and NEA Jazz in the Schools. These unprecedented national programs embody the NEA's unique mission to bring the best of the arts and arts education to a broader American public.

Raising the profile of the arts

In the course of Gioia's tenure, the NEA has produced landmark research reports, including Reading at Risk (2004), The Arts and Civic Engagement (2005), To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence (2007), and Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005 (2008). Not only have these reports provided reliable, national-scope data on the arts, they have also generated substantial national attention and debate among policymakers, the media, the arts community, and the public.

Chairman Gioia also has promoted greater recognition for living artists through several NEA Lifetime Honors. In 2003, Gioia increased the number of annual NEA Jazz Master Fellowships and added an award for jazz advocates. In 2008, the NEA announced a new NEA Opera Honors for practitioners and advocates who have made extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States. The first NEA Opera Honors will take place on October 31, 2008 in Washington, DC.

In an effort to improve arts coverage in the media, Chairman Gioia launched the NEA Arts Journalism Institutes in 2004 to improve the quality and quantity of arts news coverage and criticism in specific arts disciplines. More than 250 journalists from all 50 states have participated in these professional training programs on dance, theater, classical music, and opera. In Summer 2009 the NEA and the U.S. Department of State will co-host an institute on the visual arts for 20 U.S. and international media representatives.

Broad democratic reach

During his tenure, the NEA has achieved for the first time the goal of reaching every community in the United States, with many grants going to organizations that have never before received Endowment support. The Challenge America: Reaching Every Community grants ensure that direct grants reach arts organizations in every Congressional district in the United States. Challenge America grants are awarded to primarily small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations - those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.

Gioia also helped enhance the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program, a federal partnership administered by the NEA. Since 1975, the program has helped make possible international exhibitions in American museums by minimizing the costs of insurance. The program has indemnified more than 900 exhibitions, helping organizers mostly nonprofit museums save nearly $250 million in insurance premiums. In 2007, a new, domestic component was authorized to defray insurance costs when American museums loan works to one another. During Gioia's term, the total coverage available through the Indemnity Program has increased from $5 billion to $15 billion.

Chairman Gioia has garnered strong bi-partisan support for the NEA in the U.S. Congress. Throughout his term, the NEA has received increased funding levels from Congress. The FY 2008 budget of $144.7 million represents an increase of more than $20 million over the 2007 level of $124.5 million. This is the largest dollar increase in the NEA appropriation in 29 years.

Gioia has introduced a range of innovations while continuing the Arts Endowment's ongoing support for artists, audiences, and organizations through grants. The NEA awards more than $100 million annually, investing in every state. With each dollar awarded by the NEA generating on average $6-$7 dollars from other sources, the NEA is triggering an investment of approximately $600 million for the arts from private donors and non-federal sources.

Post-Endowment plans

After his departure from the NEA, Gioia will return to his writing career, focusing primarily on poetry. An internationally acclaimed poet and critic, he received a B.A. and a M.B.A. from Stanford University and a M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. For fifteen years he supported his writing by working as an executive for General Foods, eventually becoming Vice President of Marketing. His 1992 book Can Poetry Matter?, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, provoked discussion on the role of poetry in contemporary culture. His collection of poems, Interrogations at Noon won the 2002 American Book Award. His poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in many magazines including The New Yorker, Atlantic, New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, and Hudson Review. He was also an arts commentator for BBC Radio. He is an active translator of poetry from Latin, Italian, and German. He has written two opera libretti and collaborated with numerous composers.

In January, Gioia will take a half-time position at the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization founded in 1950, dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Harman/Eisner (H/E) Program in the Arts is a new program of the Institute and Chairman Gioia will be its first director. Funded by Institute trustees Sidney Harman and Michael Eisner, the purpose of the program is to deepen the Institute's work by incorporating leading artists and to use the Institute's convenings to support and promote the arts. Gioia will divide his time between California and Washington, DC.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, bot

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