James K. McCully

District Of Columbia

Arts Management Fellows.jpg

Group of people standing in front of trees.

1985 NEA "20th Anniversary" Arts Management Fellows. Photo courtesy of James K. McCully

I was asked by my Artistic Director John Moriarty to assist J. Edward Corn, program director of the National Endowment for the Arts' new Opera and Musical Theater program, with the onsite evaluations of Central City Opera and its Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Emerging Artists Training Program, which had become a national model for the professional development of young singers.

Edward Corn trained me to do onsite evaluations and suggested that I apply to the National Endowment for the Arts Arts Management Fellows Program as an Opera-Musical Theater Fellow.

The following year, I became a National Endowment for the Arts Opera and Musical Theater Fellow under program director Patrick Smith (OPERA NEWS editor) and later an onsite evaluator of Professional Companies and Emerging Artists Training Programs under program directors Tomas Hernandez and Wayne Brown.

It was the National Endowment for the Arts' 20th Anniversary, co-chaired by actor Charlton Heston and First Lady Nancy Reagan. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had just awarded an Oscar to the Arts Endowment in recognition of ''its dedicated commitment to fostering artistic and creative activity and excellence in every area of human genius.'' And President Reagan had just awarded the first National Medal of Arts to seven internationally known artists and five longtime arts patrons.

It was a magical time, creating dynamic Opera and Musical Theater ''peer review panels'' with Andre Bishop, William Bolcom, Gene Boucher, Christine Bullin, Phyllis Curtin, Speight Jenkins, Ardis Krainik, Jack O' Brien, Alton Peters, Sarah Richards, Willie Anthony Waters, and Hugo Weisgall. Chairman Frank Hodsoll had insisted, ''We make our decisions on the basis of recommendations of experts from the field.'' 

The most exciting thing for me was assembling the peer review panels recommendation book for the National Council on the Arts. I was allowed to present that book to Celeste Holm, and helped to guide her through the pages during the Council meeting.

I stayed late one night to finish up Opera and Musical Theater fiscal reports and New American Works survey reports. I printed them out and placed them on the program director's desk. The next morning, the Senate called the program director asking for facts and figures. At our staff meeting, Patrick Smith told the staff, if it had not been for those reports being on his desk, he would not have had the correct information for the Senate staff. Those reports were then passed along to Chairman Frank Hodsoll.

In the Old Post Office Pavilion, I really enjoyed going to Fitch, Fox & Brown Restaurant for a working lunch with the program director. In the afternoons, it was always great to take a break to grab a caffè latte, a slice of quiche, a slice of carrot cake, listen to music on the stage below, or take in the panoramic views of Washington, DC in the Old Post Office Clock Tower above.