President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities

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The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) is an advisory committee to the President of the United States on cultural issues. It works directly with the White House and the three primary cultural agencies: the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), as well as other federal partners and the private sector, to advance wide-ranging policy objectives in the arts and humanities. These include considerations for how the arts and humanities sectors can positively impact community well-being, economic development, public health, education, civic engagement, and climate change across the United States.  

The committee is composed of both private and public members. The private members are appointed by the president and are prominent artists, scholars, philanthropists, and former state and local public officials who demonstrate commitment to the arts and humanities. Its public members include the heads of the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. Ex officio members are the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the Director of the National Gallery of Art; and the head of the Library of Congress. The President also appoints a chair or co-chairs from among the private members.

In August 2017, all private committee members resigned in protest of then-president Donald Trump's response to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.[1][2][3] Authority for the committee subsequently lapsed on September 30 under the provisions of Executive Order 13708.

On September 30, 2022 President Joseph Biden reinstituted and expanded the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities by Executive Order 14804. Tsione Wolde-Michael, most recently the founding Director of the Smithsonian’s Center for Restorative History,[4] is the current Executive Director of the PCAH. On April 13, 2023, key appointments to the Committee were announced.[5]


The PCAH was established by Executive Order 12367 of June 15, 1982, under President Ronald Reagan.[6] The PCAH plays a unique role in bringing together the White House, federal agencies, civic organizations, corporations, foundations and individuals to strengthen the United States' national investment in its cultural life. The committee has a strong track record of addressing pressing policy questions in the arts and humanities, initiating public/private partnerships in those disciplines, and to recognizing excellence in the field. PCAH has also conducted major research and policy analysis, and catalyzed important federal cultural programs, both domestic and international. Central to the PCAH mission is using the power of the arts and humanities to contribute to the vibrancy of our society, the education of diverse publics, the creativity of our citizens and the strength of our democracy."[7]

Trump Administration Resignations[edit]

On August 18, 2017, 16 of the 17 committee members, including Kal Penn and Chuck Close, resigned in protest of President Donald Trump's response to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The resigning commissioners stated in a letter to the president, "Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville."[1][2][3] The initial letters of each paragraph of the resignation letter spell 'RESIST'. The only member of the committee who did not immediately sign the letter was theater and film director George C. Wolfe, whose representatives stated that he, too, would be resigning and would add his name to the letter.[8] PCAH became the first White House department to quit the Trump administration.[9]

The White House responded with a statement reading in part, "Earlier this month it was decided that President Trump will not renew the Executive Order for the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), which expires later this year."[10]

Andrew Weinstein, who had been appointed to the committee by President Obama,[11] went on to serve on the board of the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

September 2022 Reinstitution[edit]

Under a new Executive Order[12] issued by President Joseph R. Biden on Sept. 30, 2022, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities was officially reinstituted. The Executive Order outlines that PCAH will continue to provide recommendations to the White House, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to advance wide-ranging policy objectives in the arts and humanities, helping to support advance the economic development, well-being, and resilience of all communities, especially those that have historically been underserved.

The President noted that, "The arts, the humanities, and museum and library services are essential to the well-being, health, vitality, and democracy of our Nation. They are the soul of America, reflecting our multicultural and democratic experience. They further help us strive to be the more perfect Union to which generation after generation of Americans have aspired. They inspire us; provide livelihoods; sustain, anchor, and bring cohesion within diverse communities across our Nation; stimulate creativity and innovation; help us understand and communicate our values as a people; compel us to wrestle with our history and enable us to imagine our future; invigorate and strengthen our democracy; and point the way toward progress."[12]

On November 21, 2022, President Joe Biden officially appointed Tsione Wolde-Michael as the new executive director of the PCAH.[13]


National Student Poets Program[edit]

The PCAH, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers partnered to present the National Student Poets Program (NSPP),[14] the nation's highest honor for young poets (grades 9–11) creating original work. Five students are annually selected for one year of service as literary ambassadors, each representing a geographic region of the country. By elevating and showcasing their work for a national audience, the program strives to inspire other young people to achieve excellence in their own creative endeavors and promote the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success.

Turnaround Arts[edit]

Turnaround Arts[15] is a national program that brings arts education to high-poverty elementary and middle schools across the country. It was the first federal program to specifically support arts education as an improvement tool in the country's lowest-performing schools, and was run by the PCAH, in coordination with the White House, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), and several foundations.

National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards[edit]

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards recognized the country's best creative youth development programs for increasing academic achievement, graduation rates and college enrollment by engaging children and youth in the arts and humanities.[16] Formerly titled Coming Up Taller, these annual awards focused national attention on outstanding programs across the country that promoted the creativity of America's young people, providing them learning opportunities and the chance to contribute to their communities. Accompanied by a cash award and a ceremony at the White House with the First Lady, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards not only rewarded these projects with recognition but also provided organizational and capacity building support over the course of the year.

Film Forward[edit]

Sundance Film Forward was an international touring program designed to enhance greater cultural understanding, collaboration and dialogue around the globe by engaging audiences through the exhibition of films, workshops and conversations with filmmakers. Sundance Film Forward is an initiative of the Sundance Institute, which partnered with the PCAH and other federal arts programs.

Save America's Treasures[edit]

Established by Executive Order in 1998, Save America's Treasures (SAT)[17] is a federal public-private partnership that includes the NEA, NEH, IMLS, the National Park Service (NPS), the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and formerly the PCAH. The PCAH and the National Park Service jointly oversaw the management of the federal competitive matching grant component, which helps preserve, conserve, and rescue our nation's most significant cultural and heritage resources, including historic structures, collections of artifacts, works of art, maps, manuscripts, and sound recordings. Although funding for the program was suspended, the PCAH and AAF convened a series of thought leadership forums to develop elements for framing and catalyzing a preservation strategy that built on the strengths and success of SAT.

Special Initiatives[edit]

Through its work with the private sector, the PCAH was able to raise private resources, which were directed to special initiatives that supported youth programs, recognized artists, broadened arts awareness, and celebrated the nation's cultural life. Examples include:

  • Educational workshops and cultural events programming at the White House
  • The National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medals
  • Annual NEH Jefferson Lecture on the Humanities
  • U.S. Cultural and Heritage Tourism Summit (2005)


Honorary chairs[edit]

Committee chairs[edit]

Executive directors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b O'Keefe, Ed (August 18, 2017). "Members of White House presidential arts commission resigning to protest Trump's comments". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Members of the President's Commission on Arts & Humanities resignation letter to President Trump". Scribd. August 18, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Kamal, Sameea; Bierman, Noah (August 18, 2017). "16 members of White House arts panel resign to protest Trump's response to Charlottesville". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  4. ^ "Center for Restorative History". National Museum of American History. October 29, 2021. Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  5. ^ House, The White (April 13, 2023). "President Biden Announces Key Appointments to Boards and Commissions". The White House. Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  6. ^ "Executive Orders | Executive Order 12367--President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities". National Archives. August 15, 2016. Retrieved August 19, 2017.
  7. ^ "About Us | President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities". Archived from the original on October 27, 2017. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
  8. ^ "Citing Trump remarks, most of president's arts council quits". WJLA. AP. August 18, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  9. ^ E.W. (August 28, 2017). "The White House has become a cultural wasteland". The Economist.
  10. ^ Bat, John (August 19, 2017). "Arts and Humanities Committee members resign in protest of Trump". CBS News. Retrieved August 19, 2017.
  11. ^ "In rebuke to Trump, arts committee resigns en masse with scathing letter". NBC News.
  12. ^ a b House, The White (September 30, 2022). "Executive Order on Promoting the Arts, the Humanities, and Museum and Library Services". The White House. Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  13. ^ "Smithsonian's Tsione Wolde-Michael Tapped to Lead President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities". Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  14. ^ "National Student Poets Program (NSPP)". Archived from the original on January 16, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  15. ^ "Turnaround Arts". Archived from the original on December 25, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  16. ^ "National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards". Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  17. ^ "Save America's Treasures (SAT)". Archived from the original on September 14, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2015.

External links[edit]