Joe Biden signed an executive order on Friday to relaunch the President’s Committee on The Arts and the Humanities, an advisory group that has been dormant since a highly publicized standoff between its members and Donald Trump.
The purpose of the committee will be “to inform and support the national engagement with Americans necessary to advance the arts, the humanities, and museum and library services,” according to the text of the order. (Read it here).
The committee will include the chairs of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as 25 non-government members appointed by the president. A chair or two co-chairs will be designated among the non-government members.
Among the duties of the committee will be to enhance the federal support of the arts. The Institute of Museum and Library Services will provide funding and administrative support, and may raise private funds to help pay the committee’s expenses.
Arts advocates have urged Biden to relaunch the committee, name an arts adviser or even establish an office of the arts within the White House.
The President’s Committee was first established under President Ronald Reagan, and Frank Sinatra was among its initial members. But in August, 2017, most of the remaining members of the committee, appointed by Barack Obama, resigned as a protest to Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville riots. The members included Kal Penn, Paula Boggs, Chuck Close, Richard Cohen, Fred Goldring, Howard L. Gottlieb, Vicki Kennedy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anne Luzzatto, Thom Mayne, Eric Ortner, Ken Solomon, Caroline Taylor, Jill Cooper Udall, Andrew Weinstein, George Wolfe and John Lloyd Young.
The White House responded after the mass resignations by saying that Trump had already decided not to renew the executive order for the committee, due to expire later that year.
New members of the committee have not been announced, but the advisory body will need to be renewed in two years.
In the order, Biden also pledged that his administration would “advance the cultural vitality of the United States by promoting the arts, the humanities, and museum and library services,” including when it comes to advancing equity, accessibility and opportunity. The order also pledges to “strengthen America’s creative and cultural economy, including by enhancing and expanding opportunities for artists, humanities scholars, students, educators, and cultural heritage practitioners, as well as the museums, libraries, archives, historic sites, colleges and universities, and other institutions that support their work.”
During Biden’s presidential campaign, Penn and Megyn Beyer were among the members of the campaign’s Arts Policy Committee and promoted the idea of elevating the stature of the arts in the White House.