Get our free newsletter
What arts leaders in their right mind would want to work with the feds after this year’s series of boondoggles? Even before the big mess that was this year’s government shutdown, sequestration—the automatic spending cuts triggered after a congressional “supercommittee” failed to agree on a budget—dealt the first blow to federally funded cultural organizations. Kicking in March 1, the sequester slashed defense as well as domestic spending, including institutions like the Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, and the National Endowment for the Arts. During a time when the Smithsonian and NEA were already facing setbacks—the Hirshhorn Bubble was about to unravel, and the NEA was, as it remains, without a permanent leader—shuttered galleries and weakened grant programs served as a reminder of just how vulnerable national arts organizations are in times of federal dysfunction. Temporary relief from the constant threat of a government meltdown may come with the budget deal Congress passed, but as the Smithsonian searches for a successor to outgoing Secretary G. Wayne Clough, hopefully “functions well during times of congressional imbecility” is high on its list of preferred qualities.