Rocco Landesman Confirmed As New NEA Chair, Americans for the Arts Responds

By: Aug. 07, 2009

Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch issued the following statement on the U.S. Senate's unanimous consent confirmation of Rocco Landesman as the next Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts:

"Today's Senate confirmation of Rocco Landesman to serve as the next National Endowment for the Arts chair and Congressman Jim Leach to serve as National Endowment for the Humanities chair marks a moment of great opportunity for our nation's cultural agencies. Landesman embarks as Chair of the nation's arts agency with a robust agenda, an upward trajectory of funding, broad Congressional approval, and a White House committed to attracting national attention to the value of the arts and integrating them into broader domestic policies.

"The arts are a powerful force in our lives, schools, and communities. Both the nonprofit and for-profit arts have grown as the creative industries have dramatically expanded and become a core part of America and its economy. An effective and innovative NEA, one that aspires to its core values of broadening access to the creation and presentation of artistic excellence along with a dedication of forgingnew partnerships and opportunities for artists and their audiences,
will not only strengthen the arts industry but maximize the social and economic benefits the arts provide throughout the country.

"Through his service in Congress, Jim Leach proved himself to be a strong leader and strategist on behalf of both the arts and the humanities. I am certain he will lead the NEH to support the
innovative and critical work of the nation's humanities groups."

Americans for the Arts has requested that Congress should provide a substantial increase in funding for the federal cultural agencies. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $15 million
increase for both the NEA and NEH for FY 2010. Currently funded at $155 million, this increase would bring both agencies' budgets to $170 million.

Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. With offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, it has a record of 49 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts.

Landesman grew up in St. Louis, where his father and uncle owned the Crystal Palace cabaret, giving young Rocco an early intro to stars like Barbra Streisand, Mike Nichols and Lenny Bruce. With a doctorate from the Yale School of Drama in hand, Landesman taught at the school for a spell, owned a handful of racehorses, and ran a small hedge fund before teaming up with the Production Company Dodger Theatricals. With Dodger, Landesman co-produced the retro musical Pump Boys and Dinettes in 1982 and the Tony-winning Big River in 1985. In 1987, he became president at Jujamcyn Theaters, the owner of five Broadway venues (the ST. James, the Eugene O'Neill, the Al Hirschfeld, the Walter Kerr and the August Wilson) and the third-biggest Broadway theater owner behind the Shubert and Nederlander Organizations.

The play that established Jujamcyn as a force to be reckoned with was David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, which took home the Tony for Best Play in 1988. Over the next decade and a half, Landesman produced dozens of plays and musicals under the Jujamcyn banner, including hits like 42nd Street, City of Angels, Angels in America, Grease, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Kiss Me, Kate, Proof, Urinetown, and Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change.

Following the death of Jujamcyn's chairman Jim Binger in 2005, Landesman bought the chain for a reported $30 million. Today, fellow Broadway producers Tom Viertel and Paul Libin also own a small stake in the company, and creative decisions are handled by Jujamcyn's artistic director, Jack Viertel, Tom's brother. Since the acquisition, Landesman has managed an extremely favorable hit/flop ratio, putting on successes like John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, Sweet Charity, Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, Jersey Boys, Grey Gardens, and Curtains. Jujamcyn's Eugene O'Neill Theater hosted the mega-hit Spring Awakening, which swept the Tonys in 2007, winning the Tony for Best Musical and six other statuettes.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a United States federally funded and donation assisted program that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. It was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. Its current chairman is the poet and former CEO Dana Gioia and it has its offices in the Old Post Office building, in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: BWW-Staff

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