President Joe Biden issued a executive order on Friday that includes a provision reinstating the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, a panel that was disbanded in 2017 when committee members resigned over then-President Donald Trump’s handling of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“The arts, humanities, and museum and library services are essential to the well-being, health, vitality, and democracy of our nation,” Biden’s executive order states. “They are the soul of America and reflect our multicultural and democratic experience.
“In addition, they help us strive to be the most perfect Union that generation after generation of Americans have aspired to. They inspire us; provide means of subsistence; 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; forcing us to wrestle with our history and allowing us to imagine our future; invigorate and strengthen our democracy; and point the way to progress.”
The PCAH was created under President Ronald Reagan in 1982 for the purpose of advising the White House on issues related to the arts and humanities. Members generally come from the arts and entertainment community. Politicians, educators, lawyers and business leaders complete the committee.
The more than a dozen committee members resigned in 2017 in a sharp rebuke to Trump’s response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, at which Trump blamed people on “both sides” for deadly violence and rejected calls to remove divisive Confederate monuments.
Actor Kal Penn, popularly known for his role in “Harold and Kumar,” served as a member of the committee and shared the mass resignation letter. On twitter at the time.
“We cannot stand idly by, as your West Wing advisers have, without speaking out against your words and actions,” the letter, addressed directly to Trump, read. “Ignoring his hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in his words and actions.”
“Telling the truth to power is never easy, Mr. President,” the letter continues. “But it is our role as PCAH commissioners to do so. Art is about inclusion.”
Biden’s executive order says the reformed committee will be made up of the president of the National Endowment for the Arts, the president of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and no more than 25 additional people who they are not full-time government employees.
The committee is expected to meet twice a year and provide the president with recommendations to improve the effectiveness of federal support for the arts.