Jane Chu to head US National Endowment for the Arts

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 4:38am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 6:49am

The US Senate has confirmed low-key arts executive Jane Chu as the 11th chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Chu, president and chief executive of the Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, was nominated in February by President Barack Obama after the position had remained vacant for more than a year.

"Together, we have the opportunity to show the value of connecting the arts to all Americans, and the importance of the arts in bringing communities together," Chu said.

Senior deputy chairman Joan Shigekawa had been acting chairman since former Broadway producer Rocco Landesman stepped down in December 2012, prompting criticism from arts organisations concerned that the lengthy vacancy was making an overarching vision for the agency difficult.

As the largest arts grant-making organisation in the US, the NEA has awarded more than US$5 billion since its 1965 congressional founding, but saw its budget cut in half in the mid-1990s after a firestorm of conservative criticism killed the agency's awards to individual artists.

This year's US$146 million appropriation was about equal to 2012 funding levels.

In Kansas City, Chu oversaw a US$413 million campaign to build the Kauffman Centre - home of the Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Symphony and Lyric Opera of Kansas City - which opened in 2011.

Before that, Chu - the daughter of Chinese immigrants who was raised in Arkansas - had been an executive at the Kauffman Fund for Kansas City and vice-president of external relations for Union Station Kansas City. She has advanced degrees in music and business administration.