Rocco Landesman, nominated by President Barack Obama as the tenth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts
, was confirmed yesterday by the U.S. Senate. Upon his confirmation Mr. Landesman said:
"I am honored to receive the Senate's vote of confirmation. I look forward to serving the nation as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. I believe this is an auspicious time for the NEA and the country. Art is essential to the civic, economic, and cultural vitality of our nation. It reflects who we are and what we stand for -- freedom of expression, imagination, and vision. I am eager to work with our many partners to bring quality arts programs to neighborhoods and communities across the country."
Mr. Landesman follows Dana Gioia who left the chairmanship in January 2009. Patrice Walker Powell, the NEA's deputy chairman for state, regions, and local arts agencies has served as acting chairman in the interim.
Mr. Landesman was born (July 20, 1947) and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He pursued his undergraduate education at Colby College and the University of Wisconsin, Madison and earned a doctorate in Dramatic Literature at the Yale School of Drama. At the completion of his course work, he stayed at the school for four years, working as an assistant professor.
Mr. Landesmans ensuing career has been a hybrid of commercial, philanthropic, and purely artistic engagements. In 1977, he left Yale to start a private investment fund which he ran until his appointment in 1987 as president of Jujamcyn, a company that owns and operates five Broadway theaters; the St. James, Al Hirschfeld, August Wilson, Eugene O'Neill, and Walter Kerr theaters.
Before and after joining Jujamcyn, Mr. Landesman produced Broadway shows, the most notable of which are Big River (1985 Tony, Best Musical), Angels in America, and The Producers (2001 Tony, Best Musical). In 2005, he purchased Jujamcyn and managed it until President Obama announced his intention to nominate him to the NEA chairmanship.
Mr. Landesman has been active on numerous boards, including the Municipal Arts Society; an advocacy organization concerned with New York City's public spaces and preservation; the Times Square Alliance which has radically changed the heart of the city by improving its safety, sanitation, and aesthetic; and the Educational Foundation of America. In addition and over the years, he returned to the Yale School of Drama and Yale Rep to teach.
Mr. Landesman has also vigorously engaged the ongoing debate about arts policy, speaking at forums and writing numerous articles, focusing mainly on the relationship between the commercial and not-for-profit sectors of the American theater.
Mr. Landesman's biggest passions are theater, baseball, horse racing, and country music. On any given day he will insist that one of these is the perfect expression of American culture. At one time or another, he owned three minor league baseball teams, various racehorses, and a collection of Roger Miller long-playing records.
Mr. Landesman is married to Debby Landesman, formerly the executive director of the Levi Strauss Foundation and currently a philanthropic advisor to corporations and foundations. Two of his sons are journalists working in New York.