National Endowment for the Arts Statement on the Death of National Council on the Arts Member Diane Rodriguez

headshot of theater artist Diane Rodriguez
Diane Rodriguez. Photo by Jose Angel Castro, courtesy of Center Theatre Group

It is with great sadness that the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledges the death of National Council on the Arts member, Diane Rodriguez.

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter said, "Our dear friend and cherished member of the National Council on the Arts, Diane Rodriguez, was a beacon of light within the arts community. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Diane's family, her friends, and the theater community. As we mourn her death, so must we celebrate her life and the profound legacy she leaves behind. Her friends and admirers at the National Endowment for the Arts will miss her dearly."

Rodriguez grew up in a musical family. Her father was a vocal soloist, her mother was a pianist, and other relatives were musicians—all at the American Baptist church her family built with friends in San Jose, California. As Rodriguez remembered when we spoke with her in this 2016 interview, “Since I was a kid, my father was always in front of people, leading the choir and singing, and I was always trying to get on stage.” From this musical family environment Diane gravitated to the theatrical arts where she found her mètier. She goes on to share how she viewed the relationship between art and activism, why she decided to try playwriting, and what her superpower was as an artist.

There is so much to celebrate when considering the impact that Diane Rodriguez had on the arts and theater communities as noted in her bio on the Arts Endowment website. As a writer, director, and performer, Rodriguez consistently used her position to lift up traditionally unheard voices, most passionately those of Latinas. In an issue of NEA Arts Magazine dedicated to women in the arts, Rodriguez discussed the challenges and joys she faced throughout her career as a Chicana theater artist in Sharing the Latina Experience.

Rodriguez was appointed to the Council by President Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate in 2016. She continued to serve as an active and thoughtful member of the Council until her recent passing.

About the National Council on the Arts

The National Council on the Arts is convened three times per year to vote on funding recommendations for grants and rejections, to advise the chairman on application guidelines, the budget, leadership initiatives and partnership agreements with other agencies, and policy and planning directions.
Including the chairperson there are 16 members of the National Council on the Arts: Bruce Carter, Ph.D., Aaron Dworkin, Lee Greenwood, Deepa Gupta, Paul Hodes, Maria Rosario Jackson, Ph.D., Emil J. Kang, Charlotte Kessler, María López De León, Rick Lowe, David "Mas" Masumoto, Barbara Ernst Prey, Ranee Ramaswamy, Tom Rothman, and Olga Viso. Ex-officio members from Congress are Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Glenn Thompson (R-PA).

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more about NEA.


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