Chairman's Corner: May 7, 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.  You may be forgiven for not realizing that this Public Service Recognition Week. It’s not as well-known as bring your child to work day say, but since 1985, the first week of May has been set aside to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county, and local government employees.  And this year especially, boy, is recognition deserved. Here’s Mary Anne Carter--

Mary Anne Carter: Jo, you are so right. If ever Public Service Recognition Week was warranted, it's this year, 2020. The appreciation from all of us that we owe so many public service workers, from public health officials to public transportation workers, to sanitation workers, to postal workers, and, of course, our first responders, who are literally on the front lines day in, day out, and have been for months-- these everyday people are public service workers who are risking their lives to keep us all safe, I know I join everyone across the country in applauding their tireless efforts.

Jo Reed: I cannot agree more. It makes me really think about the words "public service" in a deeper way. And I'm so grateful and, also, humbled by their example.

Mary Anne Carter: I know. But, you know, I don't want to overlook other public service officials either and especially the work done by our own staff here at the National Endowment for the Arts. I am so proud of our staff, but, honestly, not surprised. We have such an exceptional and dedicated staff. And I think it's because we are so mission-focused. And, as you know, Jo, so many of our staff members are artists themselves. So, they feel deeply and personally the extraordinary dislocation and desperation felt throughout the arts communities right now.

Jo Reed:  Yes. Because it's not theoretical and it's not just a job. It really is a mission.

Mary Anne Carter: It absolutely is. And I know that that's why within twelve days of the president signing the CARES Act legislation we had developed and posted applications guidelines for direct grants and within eighteen days of the CARES Act becoming law, the agency had awarded forty percent of the CARES Act funding to the state and regional arts agencies. The commitment of the staff made that happen. And I have been hearing from people all across our field, all across the nation, the deep appreciation they have for the clarity and the swiftness of our response to the many questions that have come our way.

Jo Reed: And this isn't the first time the Arts Endowment has responded to a national catastrophe.

Mary Anne Carter: No. When Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, of course, the non-profit art sector was decimated as well. And some members of our staff, deployments of Brian Lusher and Andy Mathis, they went to those areas multiple times as representatives of the National Endowment for the Arts on the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response and, also, the Heritage Emergency National Task Force. And they have done extraordinary work there and will again when we can travel again. And the reason they have made such a difference there, and FEMA has recognized it, and HHS has recognized it, is because they saw the deep belief they had in the mission of this agency. And the fact that art matters and all Americans should have access to the arts, that might even be more important now during these extremely troubling times.

Jo Reed: You know, it seems Mary Anne, like, several lifetimes ago, but I think it was just last year that the Arts Endowment was ranked the fifth best place to work for a small federal agency.

Mary Anne Carter: That's right. In fact, that was the most recent, "Best Places to Work" in the federal government report, a report put out by the partnership for public service. And they sited the National Endowment for the Arts as ranking fifth out of twenty-eight small agencies. And one reason for this was the high level of job satisfaction that our staff members have. They use their skills effectively and creatively in their work. And then another result is of the high quality of work that they produce. And they see their work put to good use. Let me give you an example. For the innovative outreach strategy that we developed for HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities, the Arts Endowment received a public partnership award, which was presented to us by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. You know, Jo, I can't tell you enough, especially this week, how very proud I am of the work done by everyone at the Arts Endowment. And I'm so happy to be able to acknowledge that every week, but especially this week during the 2020 Public Service Recognition Week.

Jo Reed: I think that's a great place to leave it. Mary Anne, thank you.

Mary Anne Carter: Thank you, Jo. I'll talk to you next week.

Jo Reed: I'll talk to you next week.

That was the Chairman of the National Endowment for Arts, Mary Anne Carter.  You can get a good sense of the work of the arts endowment by going to  I’m Josephine Reed stay safe and thanks for listening.

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

It’s Public Service Recognition Week, and Chairman Mary Anne Carter applauds public service workers across the country, especially the Arts Endowment staff, as they help the country through the pandemic.