NEA Chairwoman to Step Down in June

Posted May 2, 2018 2:14 p.m. EDT

Jane Chu, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts, announced that she would step down from her post in June, according to a statement released by the NEA last week. Now, it will fall on President Donald Trump to appoint the new head of an agency that he has tried and failed to eliminate twice.

Even so, Chu’s statement contained no reference to the uncertainty the NEA has faced since Trump took office.

“I am so appreciative of having had this opportunity,” Chu, the endowment’s 11th chairwoman, said. She cited the NEA’s “effective and meaningful work” in “communities large and small, densely populated, rural, and remote” — a subtle pushback against some conservatives who have said for years that the endowment is an example of wasteful government spending, even though the actual cost to taxpayers is a tiny fraction of the federal budget. (Last year, Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson said the NEA was an example of “welfare for rich, liberal elites.”)

Since Chu was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2014, the agency has doled out more than $400 million in grants in all 50 states. She was on the road often, making hundreds of trips to arts communities all over the country. Her efforts have earned the agency widespread bipartisan support, including from key Republican senators like Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. In the recent $1.3 trillion spending bill, a Republican-controlled Congress actually gave the NEA a slight increase in its budget, a direct rebuff to Trump.

Before becoming chairwoman, Chu, an accomplished pianist, was the president and chief executive officer of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Children from all walks of life are expanding their skills artistically and academically through the arts,” Chu added in her statement. “And arts organizations are not only providing programs for audiences, they are also seen as leaders in their communities because the arts can bring people together.”

It’s unclear who the front-runners are to replace Chu. Mary Anne Carter, the endowment’s senior deputy chairwoman, will serve as its acting leader. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.