Art Works Blog

Inside the NEA: Getting to Know Ralph Remington

March 11, 2010
Washington, DC

Welcome to Ralph Remington who joins the NEA on Monday as the new director of theater and musical theater. A Howard University grad, Remington also previously spent time in DC as an artistic associate at Arena Stage. Most recently, he has served on the city council in Minneapolis, where he also founded the Pillsbury House Theatre. By e-mail, Remington chatted with us about moving back to DC, his life in arts and politics, and the Partridge Family.

NEA: In five words or less, who is Ralph Remington?

RALPH REMINGTON: Bold, innovative, thoughtful, inquisitive, pragmatic.

NEA: What are you looking forward to most about moving back to Washington, DC?

REMINGTON: Working at the NEA during the Obama administration, being in close proximity to Philly (my hometown), New York, Boston, etc., and having the ability to check in on my alma mater, Howard University, from time to time.

NEA: What do you hope to learn while you're at the NEA?

REMINGTON: The culture of the agency and the different personalities who work there. The entire process of administering federal grant proposals. Learning about the current innovative and fresh work being done by theaters across the nation.

NEA: Working as a city council member seems like quite a shift from the artistic life. What made you decide to pursue public service in Minneapolis?

REMINGTON: My life has always been a mixture of arts and politics. After George W. Bush was elected the second time, I wanted to serve in some capacity. I've always been a strongly opinionated political person, so after being encouraged by friends, I decided to put my money where my mouth was. In 2005, I attended Camp Wellstone, launched my candidacy for Minneapolis city council, and won by the end of the year. I'm also a United States Army military vet.

NEA: How do you think your background as an artist prepared you for political life?

REMINGTON: I have frequently produced and directed theater work of socio-political import. I also think that my training as an actor helped me to learn how to effectively communicate an authentic message. Artists have to be thoughtful and engaged with their environment. It all adds up in the end.

NEA: Our mission statement at the NEA is "Art works." What does that phrase mean to you?

REMINGTON: To me it means that art works in all aspects of everyday life. It isn't an elitist pursuit or pastime to be enjoyed by the privileged but instead a right to be enjoyed by all. It helps all of us to become better, more engaged participants in our respective communities.

NEA: What are you most proud of to date in your career?

REMINGTON: Founding Pillsbury House Theatre (in Minneapolis) and all of their educational programming

NEA: What would most people be surprised to learn about you?

REMINGTON: The first three albums that I ever owned, at eight years old were: The Beatles (Let it Be), The Jackson Five, and The Partridge Family (Update). That says a lot about my eclectic tastes and curiosity even today. Other facts of note: I was a huge Ben Vereen and Mikhail Baryshnikov fanatic. I am an avid cinephile.

NEA: Any last words?

REMINGTON: I am excited and thrilled to be joining the amazing team at the NEA. I can't wait to get started!

Add new comment