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Kiss for the new art czar


Post by our man in City Hall, Dustin Metz:

[We’ve been waiting for this for six months–the re-establishment of the Office of Arts and Culture and the appointment of its head. Then, neither of us could make it to Mayor Nutter’s announcement. So we asked Dustin Metz to go. Here’s his report. (If you want to skip to the all important who, it’s down after the subhead “Drum roll please…”).]

As I entered the Reception Room for the Mayor in City Hall the TV cameras were in the process of setting up and there were still a few seats open, so I jumped in one. For the next 20 minutes a river of people flowed in, quickly filling up the setting and proceeded to fill the room until standing room was a luxury. There were suits and babies, men and women, boys and girls all with smiles and an air of giddiness, filling the place.

Surrounded by portraits of old men, some in wigs, all looking towards the grand chandeliere hanging in the center of the ceiling, we waited for Santa- aka Mayor Nutter to present our long awaited gift to the arts community.

Finally Mayor Michael Nutter and his entourage entered the room; actually they had to squeeze in past the crowd. He started his speech by thanking his board of advisers and the arts community at large. He then proceeded with the task at hand. “Philadelphia cannot become the strong center for the arts recognized nationally without an arts office in City Hall.”

Walking from the podium to the desk where he would sign his executive order to recreate the Office of Arts and Culture, the Mayor received a roar of applause and standing ovation from everyone one in attendance. Once he sat down he jested, “What are you going to do when I actually sign the thing?”

He then went on to describe what the newly reinstated Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy will be responsible for:

  • Improving access to the arts for both residents and visitors
  • Expanding arts education for young people
  • Overseeing all the City’s arts programs
  • Supporting the growth and development of the City’s arts, culture and creative economy sector, by promoting public and private investment in the creative economy sector
  • Coordinating with relevant City agencies to unify the City’s arts efforts
  • Serving as a liaison between the City’s many cultural institutions

After the Mayor laid all of these details out, he signed the order and received yet another standing ovation. Returning to the podium he commented on the how the arts community expected him to create this office in January, between his inauguration and lunch the same day…then he looked at his watch and said, “Well its before lunch today, only 6 months later”. He said that he understood the importance of this office and wanted to give it the respect it deserves by working hard to put it together rather than doing it hastily.

He then went on in announcing the Chief Cultural Officer, who will head the Office, and sit directly on the mayor’s cabinet.

Drum roll please……

The new Chief Cultural Officer for the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy is Gary Steuer!!! Steuer was former Vice President of the New York based non-profit Americans for the Arts. Here’s a link to his bio.

” After an exhaustive national search, I am tremendously pleased to have Gary Steuer join my Administration,” said Mayor Nutter. “His experience both as an arts manager and as an arts advocate will give him a unique perspective on how to best grow the arts community–an important step to creating a healthier and more vibrant Philadelphia.”

As Steuer took the podium, he too received a warm welcome in the form of a standing ovation.

“I am extremely happy and looking forward to meeting and working with all in the arts community of Philadelphia,” said Steuer. “I am thrilled by the opportunity the Mayor has provided me to work with him, his team and the great arts and civic leaders of Philadelphia to serve this City. …With the growing recognition of the importance of the arts in workforce development, business attraction and retention, community revitalization, civic engagement, and tourism, it is more important than ever that cities integrate the arts into City programs and policies. Mayor Nutter understands this and I look forward to serving him and the people of Philadelphia.”

He kept his speech short and sweet commenting on the work ahead of him and on his switch from a Mets hat to a red Phillies cap.

Nutter then announced that the Executive Order also re-established the Cultural Advisory Council which will serve to advise the Mayor and Administration officials on issuses relating to arts and culture. Mayor Nutter introduced his appointee to head this council- Joe Kluger. Kluger is currently an Associate Principal at the arts consulting firm WolfBrown and previously worked with the Philadelphia Orchestra and has served on other regional art boards. Kluger said that the rest of his team is still forming and asks anyone interested in being on the council to send in their resumes!

In the Q and A after the speeches a reporter asked if the Mayor could comment on the inferiorty complex the arts has in Philadelphia. Nutter said that he was “unaware that we had one.” He proceeded to point out that Philadelphia has the most public art in the country and is constantly breaking records in exhibition attendance and other notable areas in the arts. He reminded us that people are constantly coming down from our “little sister city of New York” and moving to Philadelphia for the arts.

He concluded that the newly created Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy is not just a created for a financial need (which he doesn’t deny the need for funds to the arts) but also as a way to coordinate and unite the city’s vast art communities.

–Artist Dustin Metz interviews artists for the Funnel Pages blog.