Does the Nation Need Secretary of the Arts?

Effort to establish cabinet-level post also seeks to fill it with Quincy Jones

Washington, D.C., may be the biggest news back East, but out West it's all about the Sundance Film Festival where ... OK, Sundance is talking about what's going on in D.C. too.

Last week, Sundance founder Robert Redford said he didn't mind if some Sundance attendees checked out to attend the inauguration because he expects the Obama administration to be a supporter of the arts. But when asked whether Redford himself would be interested in becoming a kind of arts czar, his response was a flat "no."

As pointed out by The Hollywood Reporter, that job's already got people calling for Q -- Quincy Jones prefers to be referred to as Q.

As of Monday, there were nearly 150,000 unverified signatures on an online petition that seeks to establish a Secretary of the Arts position in President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet and to fill that seat with Q (the accomplished musician and Los Angeles resident has spent six decades in music, so rather than pick and choose which accomplishments to highlight, I'm just going to tell you to follow this link).

Begun by New York bassists Jaime Austria and Peter Weitzner, the petition was a response to comments Q made during an interview with John Schaefer on the WNYC program Soundcheck.

"We need that, don't you think?" said Q, who was recently inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

Since then, the idea has caught the attention of several publications, including Rolling Stone magazine, which said Friday that 15 organizations have joined Americans for the Arts to lobby for the establishment of the Cabinet post.

NPR dedicated a segment to the question "Does U.S. Need a Culture Czar?"

The issue has also been talked about on a blog at Psychology Today.

As Rolling Stone points out, the move would not be without precedent. Both Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie were arts ambassadors during the Cold War.

-- TJ Sullivan

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