Earlier this month, to the disappointment — but, perhaps, not surprise — of arts enthusiasts across the nation, the formidable Jane Chu stepped down as Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The resulting vacancy is filled by presidential appointment, which presents an interesting opportunity, since the approach to the arts of the current POTUS lies somewhere between indifference, gold plating and Miss Universe.
The most likely answer is No One, based on the Administration’s “arts policy” thus far. The first two drafts of this year’s federal spending bill sought to eliminate both the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Going back to 2013, when Trump was a mere developer-menace-at-large — he managed to eject both institutions from offices they’d occupied since 1983 when he took over the Old Post Office Building in Washington, DC, to build the corrupt Trump International Hotel. Other examples of Trump’s personal relationship with arts and culture can be perhaps best gleaned from his statements:
Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.
Or there’s the anecdote of Trump “tossing his overcoat and some binders onto a Donald Judd floor piece, apparently mistaking it for a conference table.”
But should the Dealmaker-in-Chief take an interest in setting the nation’s artistic agenda, The Clyde Fitch Report is prepared. Here, in no particular order, are Trump’s Top 10 most likely contenders.
10. Clint Eastwood
You might think Eastwood an establishment pick, but not so long ago he was pushing the performance-art envelope as a one-man show at national political conventions. In addition to his conservative bona fides, he may just be a dark-horse advocate for the artistic avant-garde.
9. Carrot Top
In addition to an endless and handy supply of prop distractions, the presence of Carrot Top makes anyone else appear markedly less orange.
8. Kid Rock
As POTUS and the Detroit Cowboy are essentially the same person, they share a certain alignment of aesthetic. The two are venerated Bards of Twitter with a flair for merchandising. Hopefully Rock will be available, though he’s potentially busy with a bid for US Senate. Note Rock’s slogan: “Are You Scared?” (Yes. For the love of God, yes we are).
7. Frederick Douglass
It wasn’t long ago that Trump clearly noticed the “amazing job” that the activist-writer is doing these days. Sean Spicer drove the point home, noting that, through Trump, “I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.” What remains to be seen is whether Douglass loves steak, golf or freedom.
Can we take the chance that Ted Nugent won’t be appointed to something else?
6. Kanye West
A master provocateur appointed by another master provocateur: there’s nothing these two Yeezuses like more than being embroiled in some brouhaha. Citing a common “dragon energy” with Trump, West recently proclaimed his agreement with “half” of what the President does. The other half contains “the ability to do what no one said you can do, to do the impossible.” It’s likely that Kim Kardashian has been greasing the skids for West; they obviously come as a set.
5. Chuck Norris
At 78, it may be time for America’s favorite badass to settle into a desk job. From this comfortable vantage, he can add bureaucratic formality to his already-outsized role in our creative imagination. Norris’ global popularity, as expressed by the Eastern European penchant for naming cross-national infrastructure after him, may also prove a tangential asset in the dumpster fire that is US foreign policy.
4. Pussy Riot
An obvious choice: they’re doing half the Chair’s work already. They’re Russian, pro-pussy and they made this neat video about making America great again.
Roseanne Barr has unforgettably proven her patriotism and artistic credentials time and again. Her work is drawn from her conviction that she is Der Führer, reincarnated, not to mention her penchant for conspiracy theories. She also makes Americans feel comfortable about their beliefs again. Plus she’s available.
2. Ted Nugent
A son of Motor City, Terrible Ted boasts a CV rife with qualifications to be NEA Chair under Trump. He is the composer and interpreter of such American legacy works as “Wang Dang Sweet Pootang,” performed here in just briefs. As an engaged citizen, I ask this on behalf of my country: Can we really take a chance that Nugent won’t be appointed to something else?
1. Donald Trump
POTUS may be the greatest (con) artist in the world. He’s a well-documented authority on beauty. He frequently quotes Andy Warhol — with whom he shared a brief, bizarre friendship — affirming his role as artist-as-businessman:
I’ve always liked Andy Warhol’s statement that, ‘making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.’ I agree.
In addition to being the nation’s foremost creator, Trump paid for a $10,000 portrait of himself, allegedly, with charity funds.
Perhaps the President’s strategy for the NEA is that it doesn’t need a Chair. After all, he once said, “the beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”