Country music official Bill Ivey has become the seventh chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Clinton nominee was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate May 21. He succeeds Jane Alexander, who resigned in October 1997 from the post she held for four years.
He will oversee the body that grants millions of federal dollars to arts groups throughout the U.S., and which has come under fire, mainly from right-wing groups and politicians, for support of what has been seen as controversial artworks.
President Clinton said, "Mr. Ivey possesses a deep understanding of and commitment to artistic creativity. His demonstrated leadership in both the nonprofit sector and the entertainment industry, combined with his extensive experience with the NEA, make him a tremendous asset to the agency and to American cultural life."
Ivey's confirmation process was a remarkably smooth one. Nominated on Feb. 11, just over three months passed before he was confirmed for the post. Many observers had anticipated a Senate hearing at the very least.
NEA spokesman Cherie Simon said that Ivey had made several trips to Washington, D.C., over the past month, meeting with a number of Senators and Congressmen. "One must imagine that the meetings went extremely well," she said. She also pointed out that Ivey's vast experience in both the nonprofit and commercial sectors may have contributed to his acceptance. Ivey is the director of The Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit education and research organization which operates the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Since 1994, he has been an appointee on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and has also served as a panelist, panel chair, and consultant to the NEA's music, folk arts, challenge, and advancement programs. Ivey is expected to be quietly sworn in next week and to begin his duties soon after. An official swearing in will occur later on.
-- By Robert Simonson