Chairman's Corner: April 30, 2020

Jo Reed: I'm Josephine Reed from the National Endowment for the Arts with the Chairman's Corner, a weekly podcast with Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the Arts Endowment. This is where we'll discuss issues of importance to the arts community and a whole lot more. This week, we turn our attention to young audiences and take a moment to mark two very special occasions we missed this April. Mary Anne, welcome.

Mary Anne Carter: Thank you, Jo. It's good to be back with you.

Jo Reed: I know you and the agency really have been envisioning and planning a future that goes beyond the coronavirus that seems to be engulfing us all. And I know young audiences is something that really has always been very, very high on your agenda. So, what's on your docket about young audiences?

Mary Anne Carter: Yes, Jo. So, I know the coronavirus is what is on everyone's mind and, obviously, at the agency getting the funding for the CARES Act out is our number one priority at the moment. But we still are working on a lot of other things. And, actually, just this past week, the Theatre for Young Audiences, in partnership with their national association and the National Endowment for the Arts, published a report titled Envisioning a Future for Theatre for Young Audiences.

Jo Reed: Well, so, how do we see the future for Theatre for Young Audiences? What did the report say?

Mary Anne Carter: Well, we knew going into this report that young people benefit cognitively, emotionally, and socially from participating in theatre activities. We also knew that, according to our own research report titled "The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation," which is on our website, by the way, children who participate in a drama-based education program saw decreases in disruptive behavior and improvement in self-regulatory behaviors, compared with children who did not participate in such a program. So, this report identifies obstacles to achieving greater organizational stability, including funding, limitations inherent in the business models of theatres for young audiences, leadership development, and research.

Jo Reed: Those seem to be significant challenges.

Mary Anne Carter: They are. And it will be hard. But the opportunities for theatres for the young are there; such as greater collaboration among theatres targeting different audiences, and recognition among funders of the value of these programs and productions. There are great opportunities. So, it is a solid investment in our children and, in turn, all of America.

Jo Reed: I know the Arts Endowment has invested in the theatres for the young. Where exactly geographically have we done that?

Mary Anne Carter: All over America. Vermont, Montana, Minnesota, Arizona. There's actually a list on our website.

Jo Reed: Okay. Well, as dear as theatre is to me, let's change subjects and talk about this month of April, which is both National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month, two art forms that are so dear to the Arts Endowment. It seems that T. S. Elliot was prescient; this year, April certainly has been the cruelest month. Because of the national closure due to COVID-19, the Arts Endowment was unable to convene the 15th Annual Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C.; and we had to postpone all the 2020 NEA Jazz Masters events, including the concert we had been so looking forward at SFJazz in San Francisco.

Mary Anne Carter: Oh, Jo, what would have been. I can't tell you how disappointed we are that we couldn't welcome the high school students from every US state, along with Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to the nation's largest poetry recitation competition. I love this event. We are still going to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2020 state winners by releasing videos sent to the agency by the state champions. And the Poetry Foundation is going to still provide each winner with a one thousand dollar scholarship. And, so, although the national finals were cancelled, we are committed to making next year's program bigger and better than ever. And, as for celebrating or recognizing jazz, this was another really, really hard cancellation to make, because the Jazz Masters concert every year and the awards we give is always such a big event. And, you know, we were going to be able to recognize and celebrate the works of Reggie Workman, Dorthaan Kirk, Bobby McFerrin, and Roscoe Mitchell. They were our National Endowment for the Arts 2020 Jazz Masters. And we're still trying to figure out the best way to honor and cheer their extraordinary careers. And have no doubt: We will definitely celebrate them.

Jo Reed: And I'm looking forward to it. Mary Anne, thank you so much. I'll talk to you next week.

Mary Anne Carter: Okay, Jo. Have a great, great weekend.

Jo Reed: Thank you.

Music Credit: “Renewal” written and performed by Doug Smith, from the cd The Collection.

The chairman discusses some of findings in the recent Arts Endowment report Envisioning a Future for Theater for Young Audiences, and we mark two special events we missed in April: Jazz Masters Tribute Concert and Poetry Out Loud National Finals.