Michelle Obama and the arts

May 19, 2009
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Not content with just catching a show at the Kennedy Center, first lady Michelle Obama made a clear statement with this week's trip to New York: She sees value in the arts and is interested in promoting them.

And not just mass appeal arts. On Monday, she attended opening night at the American Ballet Theatre and the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Amercan Wing.

“My husband and I believe strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation’s leaders of tomorrow,” Michelle Obama is quoted as saying. (See full New York Times story here.)

So what does it mean to have an arts advocate or two in the White House? How do you expect their advocacy to impact life here in the Heartland?

And if Michelle Obama were to visit here for one arts event, what would you show her?

Your thoughts?
  • I would show her the Asante Children's Theatre in performance at the Walker Theatre Center. Then I would show her the new Central Library, which may not be the arts, but certainly is masterful architecture.
  • I agree with the LA Times on the subject: Yawn.


    Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, whoever; all first ladies are cheerful enthusiasts of culture. That's most of their job and they don't do much more. Yawn.
  • E.E.,
    This doesn't sound like any other First Lady I remember:

    Our future as an innovative country depends on ensuring that everyone has access to the arts and to cultural opportunity. Nearly 6 million people make their living in the non-profit arts industry, and arts and cultural activities contribute more than $160 billion to our economy every year. And trust me, I tried to do my part to add to that number.

    The President included an additional $50 million in funding to the NEA in the stimulus package to preserve jobs in state arts agencies and regional arts organizations in order to keep them up and running during the economic downturn.

    But the intersection of creativity and commerce is about more than economic stimulus, it’s also about who we are as people. The President and I want to ensure that all children have access to great works of art at museums like the one here. We want them to have access to great poets and musicians in theaters around the country, to arts education in their schools and community workshops.

    Read full text of her speech here. [http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-First-Lady-at-the-Ribbon-Cutting-Ceremony-at-the-Metropolitan-Museum-of-Art-American-Wing/]

  • It's called politics. Nothing more.
  • If Mrs. Obama wants to make the arts her cause, good for her. Hopefully she will still have time to be concerned about education, health care and other important causes.
  • Lou,

    I think the odd thing about your entry above was the statement She sees value in the arts and is interested in promoting them as if she's the first and only to do so. I'm not how many first ladies you've paid attention to, but they all have done the same over the years, and they are all very active and usually very focused in supporting their particular causes. Check out any Wikipedia entry for any first lady in the last 30 years.

    And what exactly does she mean by And trust me, I tried to do my part to add to that number mean, anyway?
  • I agree that it's purely political. If Mrs. Obama had cited examples of her involvement with promoting the arts prior to her husband's election, I might feel otherwise. She's associating with the Kennedy's to further the political agenda.
  • This week's statements from the First Lady, combined with, among other things, the administration's boost to the NEA, the first inauguration poem since Clinton (as lame as it was), and the dedication to bringing arts into the White House (http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/05/12/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry5009017.shtml) feels like a change to me.

  • I guess we'll have to agree to disagree...

    On another note, I just noticed that the Bloomington Early Music Festival (http://www.blemf.org/festival.html) is showing the 1922film Robin Hood on Sunday, accompanied by Hesperus. I've seen the Alloy Orchestra accompany silent films at the Telluride Film Festival, and it was an unexpectedly delightful experience every time. If I were in Indianapolis this weekend, I'd definitely be driving down to Bloomington to see (and hear) it.
  • E.E.
    Good find with Robin Hood.
    FYI: As I mentioned earlier, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra will be providing live music for Harold Lloyd's Safety Last this season.

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