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Biden taps Lady Gaga to co-chair an arts advisory committee that dissolved under Trump

Lady Gaga performs during President Biden's inauguration at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2021. She'll co-chair Biden's arts advisory committee.
Saul Loeb
Pool/Getty Images
Lady Gaga performs during President Biden's inauguration at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2021. She'll co-chair Biden's arts advisory committee.

Updated April 15, 2023 at 5:15 PM ET

President Biden announced a star-studded list of members for an arts advisory board that fell apart under the Trump administration, with Lady Gaga, Shonda Rhimes and George Clooney among the 24 entertainers and academics he intends to appoint.

Gaga, the singer-songwriter whose legal name is Stefani Germanotta, will co-chair the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities alongside producer Bruce Cohen. The committee will be responsible for advising the president on cultural policy, and the members were chosen due to their "serious commitment to the arts and humanities," the White House said in a statement Thursday.

President Ronald Reagan created the board in 1982, allowing artists and academics to advise government leaders on programs to support arts and culture. In the past, the committee helped organize the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards and founded the Kennedy Center's Turnaround Artsprogram, which provides low-income schools around the country with arts education services.

After Donald Trump was elected in 2016, several members of the committee quit. The rest resigned the following summer after then-President Trump refused to condemn the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

In an open letter to Trump, the remaining committee members wrote, "We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions," and called on him to resign his office. Following the mass resignation, Trump said he was planning to dissolve the committee anyway.

Last September, Biden issued an executive order to restart the committee, calling the arts and humanities "essential to the well-being, health, vitality, and democracy of our Nation." The move is part of a broader effort to restore arts programs after they were gutted under the former president.

The committee is coming back as the country faces crises from social upheaval to climate change, "not to mention the fact that the arts and the humanities and related institutions have been under attack and have faced questions of relevancy," said Tsione Wolde-Michael, the committee's executive director. "What the committee is about is how the arts and humanities can really be a vehicle for positive social change."

Berkeley City College President Angélica Garcia is one of the academics who will serve alongside the stars on the committee. In a statement, she said community colleges like hers "are anchors of democracy that often serve as the cultural centers of diverse communities, in many cases being the only spaces where the arts, humanities and libraries are accessible."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kaitlyn Radde
Kaitlyn Radde is an intern for the Graphics and Digital News desks, where she has covered everything from the midterm elections to child labor. Before coming to NPR, she covered education data at Chalkbeat and contributed data analysis to USA TODAY coverage of Black political representation and NCAA finances. She is a graduate of Indiana University.
Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.
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