Nearly every arts leader in the Treasure Valley turned out to greet Chairman Rocco Landesman at an informal reception at the Esther Simplot Academy on Wednesday.
Landesman spoke to the group about national policy, initiatives and arts education. He encouraged political advocacy on behalf of the arts and extolled the citys virtues.
Boise isnt just one of my favorite places, it might be my favorite place, Landesman said. I was looking forward to coming back here. Its a great place both in the scenic beauty and the vitality of the arts.
This is Landesmans second visit to Boise since taking office in 2009. He again came at the invitation of Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, who chairs the House Interior Appropriations Committee that funds the NEA.
Congress established the NEA in 1965. It has since awarded $4 billion to state arts agencies, such as the Idaho Commission on the Arts, individual artists and arts groups. The chairman is appointed by the president and confirmed by Congress.
Landesman a theater artist and Broadway producer from the Midwest has made a genuine connection during his tenure at the NEA with Simpson a watercolor artist and personal supporter of the arts who grew up in Blackfoot.
Recently the House voted down an amendment to cut the NEAs budget by $20 million.
Because of Mikes position and respect he has in the House, at a time when the arts are under attack, the constituency for (arts) in Congress seems to be increasing, he said.
What if we had someone there who didnt love the arts so much? We would be in a completely different position.
Landesmans 2009 visit included a trip to see an Idaho Shakespeare Festivals Shakespearience company perform at Jerome High School. That helped change his perception of the role of rural states and communities in the national arts dialogue.
This trip was just for fun, Landesman said. He and his wife, Debbie, spent a few days in Ketchum hiking and relaxing before coming to Boise for the reception and a night at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival to see Noises Off with Rep. Simpson.
Landesmans visit shows that Boise and Idaho are becoming a destination, said Ballet Idaho artistic director Peter Anastos.
Its very flattering to us that hes here. Were no longer a fly-over state.
One of the side benefits of the event was getting arts leaders in one room together, said Ballet Idahos Paul Kane.
We get used to seeing ourselves as our organizations, he said. Its good to remember were part of a larger community dealing with the same issues.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland