Understanding how arts policy affects culture and community

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Megan Beyer
Megan Beyer, immediate-past Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, spoke with Arts Management students and faculty about the importance of arts in society and her role with the committee. Photo provided


Members of the George Mason University’s Arts Management community recently joined forces to highlight opportunities for cultural policy innovations under a new administration, and the impact of the arts in the political landscape.

This is the first arts policy-centered event to take place in the Arts Management Program on this level,” said Setarra Kennedy, assistant director of the Arts Management Program in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “With the change of administrations and continuous threat of funding cuts, arts policy has taken center stage as an interest and learning area for future arts leaders.”

The Mason Arts at Home live event was held virtually on April 7 and presented in coordination with Arlington Forward. Nearly 100 registrants tuned in for the conversation between Associate Professor Carole Rosenstein and immediate-past Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) Megan Beyer.

The committee, created under the Reagan administration in 1982 as an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues, included policy experts, actors, artists, and entertainment executives, who focused on arts integration programs, cultural diplomacy, and economic revitalization through the arts. It was abolished under the Trump administration, opening up an opportunity for rethinking the role of the executive branch of federal government in our nation’s arts and culture.

Beyer is an award-winning journalist, commentator and advocate for the arts and women’s rights, and a recognized leader in gender equality and cultural diplomacy.

During her tenure as executive director, a national student poet laureate program was established. Additionally, she led the first official U.S. Cultural Delegation to Cuba in 2017, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Smithsonian Institution. This trip resulted in government-to-government collaboration and highlighted new opportunities for cross-cultural opportunities between the two countries.

Her other achievements include the White House South by South Lawn event in 2016, and steering the transition of Turnaround Arts from the President’s Committee to the Kennedy Center through the creation of a legacy fund and execution of a cooperative agreement.

Emily Dugal, a senior in the Arts Management Program, said that arts management is based on making connections and expanding one’s network, so hearing the tactics that Beyer used to succeed was particularly beneficial to her.

“Because the pandemic has hit the arts and culture industry so hard, this event was important for finding our footing in the industry moving forward,” said Anna Burklin, a second-year master’s student and graduate assistant in the Arts Management Program who attended the event.

Beyer admitted there was a sense of loss when the committee was not re-authorized, though many committee members had resigned in 2017, following deadly riots in Charlottesville.  She is hopeful that PCAH will rebound under President Biden’s administration.

“We can’t keep under-estimating the arts,” said Beyer.

Carole Rosenstein
Carole Rosenstein, photo provided

Rosenstein said that since the Kennedy administration, presidents have had an important role in leading the arts and cultural sector forward in the United States.  

“At every time of great challenge in this country, from the Civil War to the Great Depression to the Civil Rights Movement, artists have helped to express our pains, fears and hopes, and have helped to show the way toward justice and solidarity. But for that to happen, we need to support them and give them platforms to share their work,” said Rosenstein.


Learn more about Mason Arts at Home here.