Arizona State University Scholar Is the New Head of the National Endowment for the Arts

Maria Rosario Jackson, an Institute Professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University is the new chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Professor Jackson, who is of Mexican American and African American descent, also holds an appointment in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State. She is taking leave from her faculty duties while she serves as head of the National Endowment for the Arts.

“My commitment to the arts began at home,” Professor Jackson said. “My father, who retired from the U.S. Postal Service, and my mother, who worked for Los Angeles Unified School District, looked to the arts to teach my brother and me about the richness of our cultures. They wanted us to be proud of our origins and curious about the histories, struggles, and aspirations of other people, aware of our similarities, our differences, and our shared humanity. I have brought those same values to the work I have done throughout my career as a professor, researcher, board member, advisor, and administrator committed to understanding and advancing how arts and culture help build healthy, opportunity-rich communities.”

The NEA is in the midst of efforts to help arts and culture groups that are reeling from the effects of the pandemic shutdown. In 2020, Congress gave $75 million to the NEA through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The American Rescue Plan appropriated another $135 million to the endowment. In addition, the NEA has created a guide to reopening for arts organizations, which offers data and best practices.

The pandemic has opened the door for re-imagination at the National Endowment for the Arts, Dr. Jackson said. “I think the arts endowment is in a position to listen and learn from what is happening around the country and find ways, in addition to regular grant-making and extraordinary grant-making related to the pandemic specifically, figure out what that is. We’re not going back to what people think is normal.”

Professor Jackson holds a master of public administration degree from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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