You can now purchase “Art for Obama” from Americans for the Arts, a non-profit 501(c)(3) group which promotes the arts…or the president…or both.
From AFTA's perspective, this is just a way for artists to give back to the arts community — perhaps with a little adulation of the president on the side.
“We are honored that the authors of Art for Obama chose to donate their profits from the book back into arts,” said AFTA president Robert Lynch in a written statement in response to The Examiner's inquiries. “In keeping with our mission, a portion of the sales will help advance the arts in people’s lives, schools, and communities.”
But in the Obama White House, the line between art and political advocacy has been consistently blurry. White House and National Endowment for the Arts officials hosted a controversial August conference call designed to co-opt artists and arts groups as boosters for its health care agenda. (NEA spokesman Josi Sergant lost his job after details of the call were made public.)
Two days after that conference call, 21 arts groups issued a letter on health care. It was not just a vague, conceptual promotion of health care reform, but rather a specific promotion of Obama's program, including the government-run “public option” health insurance plan for which the president originally campaigned.
AFTA, which headlined that letter, was not represented on the infamous conference call, according to a statement released by the group on September 23. But its president wrote on the group's website that he had met with the president of the National Endowment for the Arts, Rocco Landesman, at some point in August and that the two had discussed health care reform, as the Washington Times reported. Moreover, 16 of the 21 groups on the letter, including AFTA, had received some $1.9 million in stimulus arts grants in the months leading up to the call. And as we reported in August, top officials from a handful of the arts groups receiving stimulus grants from Obama's NEA sat on the Obama campaign's Arts Policy Committee last year.
In short, a minor Obama promotion on AFA's website is part of a larger phenomenon. Between the Obama administration and the tax-exempt, stimulus-beneficiary arts groups that support it, each hand washes the other.