Former NEA Chair Dana Gioia Joins Aspen Institute

February 24, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC. – February 24, 2009 – The Aspen Institute announced that Dana Gioia, the former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), has become director of its Harman-Eisner Program in the Arts. In this newly created post, Gioia will shape the Institute’s expanding programs in the arts, including the Harman-Eisner Artist-in-Residence Program, which was launched in 2006.

A regular speaker at and adviser to the Aspen Ideas Festival, Gioia joins the Institute after having served six years at the helm of the NEA. In addition to cultivating strong bipartisan support for arts funding in Congress, he worked to spark broad public enthusiasm for and engagement with the arts by creating an ambitious series of National Initiatives. These programs, such as Shakespeare in American Communities, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Poetry Out Loud, and The Big Read — the largest literary program in the history of the federal government — strive to bring art to millions of Americans of all backgrounds.

“I am delighted that Dana has joined the Institute to lend his vision and creativity to our programs in the arts,” said Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson. “Under Dana’s leadership, we look forward to expanding our current offerings and finding new ways to integrate the arts into the work of the Institute.”

The Harman-Eisner Program in the Arts was established with the support of Institute trustees Sidney Harman and Michael Eisner to support and invigorate the arts in America and to return the arts and artists to the center of the Institute’s “great conversation.” It brings artists and artworks to the Institute, and it also brings together leading artists, arts managers, sponsors, and patrons to generate, exchange, and develop ideas and policies to assure vibrancy and dynamism in all artistic realms, and to enrich civic culture in ways only the arts can do.

“There is nothing else quite like the Aspen Institute,” said Gioia. “It brings together the people who are shaping the future. At a time when the arts have become almost invisible in public culture, we have a unique opportunity here to reconnect them to the leaders of social and cultural change. This is not only good for the arts — it’s good for society.”

“The arts were at the heart of the Institute when it was founded 60 years ago. The addition of Dana will add immeasurably to our renewed focus on arts and culture. And perhaps in times of such great economic challenge, it”s important to recognize that arts are not a luxury for good times, but are rather at the heart of innovation, imagination, and creativity — all essential not only to American identity and pride but to its economic vitality as well,” said Elliot Gerson, Aspen Institute Executive Vice President, Policy and Public Programs, International Partnerships.

Gioia served as the chairman of the NEA from 2003 to 2009 where he helped create the largest programs in the agency’s history. He also led the US cultural delegation to UNESCO. He is the author of numerous books, including Interrogations at Noon (2002), which won the American Book Award in poetry, and Can Poetry Matter? (1992), which was short-listed for the National Book Critics Circle Prize. A translator and opera librettist, Gioia has also edited over two-dozen literary anthologies.

Before becoming a full-time writer in 1992, Gioia worked for 15 years in the corporate world—while writing at night and weekends—becoming vice president of Marketing for Kraft-General Foods. He has been a visiting writer at Johns Hopkins, Sarah Lawrence, Colorado College, Wesleyan, and other universities, and has also been an American cultural commentator for BBC Radio. He served on numerous boards and has 10 honorary doctorates. He attended Stanford (BA), Harvard (MA in Comparative Literature), and Stanford Business School (MBA). Gioia was born in Los Angeles in 1950.

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