It’s time to change the NEA’s motto


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In New York on Monday, First Lady Michelle Obama cut the ribbon to inaugurate the renovation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American wing. The dais was set up in front of the Neoclassical marble facade of Martin E. Thompson’s 1822-24 Branch Bank of the United States, which might not have been the best bit of symbolism right now. (The bank was originally located on Wall Street.) Still, the ceremony went off like clockwork.

Now that the high-profile media event is done, and with a provocative new chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts in the pipeline, here’s a suggestion. It’s also symbolic and it’s cost-free too: Let’s change the motto of the NEA.


The endowment’s current slogan is ‘A Great Nation Deserves Great Art.’

Wince. That imperial bit of provincial pomposity has things exactly backward.

Here’s a new NEA motto: ‘Great Art Makes a Great Nation.’

After all, that is how it works.

--Christopher Knight