IU alumna nominated to head National Endowment for the Arts

President Barack Obama has nominated Indiana University alumna Jane Chu to head the National Endowment for the Arts.

Chu has been president and chief executive of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo., since 2006, when the center was still in the planning stages. She oversaw the $414 million campaign to build the center, which opened in September 2011.

Jane Chu

Jane Chu

“Jane’s lifelong passion for the arts and her background in philanthropy have made her a powerful advocate for artists and arts education in Kansas City,” Obama said in a White House news release. “She knows firsthand how art can open minds, transform lives and revitalize communities, and believes deeply in the importance of the arts to our national culture. I’m proud to nominate her as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.”

While Chu holds multiple degrees, her doctorate in philanthropic studies is from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, housed at IUPUI. The first of its kind in the nation, the school was named in honor of the Lilly family last year.

“We are extremely proud that an alumna of our Ph.D. program has been selected for this prestigious honor,” Gene Tempel, founding dean of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, told Art at IU via email. “Jane is an outstanding person and an exceptional leader. Her academic preparation, her experience leading a large arts organization and her expertise in philanthropy make her perfectly positioned for this important new role. I am confident that she will serve our country and the arts community wisely and well.”

Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, a leading national advocacy group that pushes for better NEA funding, praised Chu in the Los Angeles Times as “a strong nominee” who brings “a valuable mix” of skills that are “important to our nation’s key public sector arts position.”

And an editorial in today’s Kansas City Star also praised Obama’s choice, saying, ” In tapping … Chu to become the next leader of the NEA … Obama has selected a veteran arts administrator who’d be very much up to the dual challenges of the job: selling the idea of the arts as an essential component of modern life and education and navigating the choppy waters of real and potential controversy.”

Chu’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

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