The 17 remaining members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, including the artist Chuck Close, resigned en masse on Friday in response to Donald Trump’s response to the protests in Charlottesville which led to the death of one anti-nazi protester.
Citing Trump’s “support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville”, the letter states: “The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions.”
The Committee was created in 1982 under president Ronald Reagan to advise the White House on cultural issues. The remaining committee members had been appointed by Barack Obama but had agreed to stay on until the new administration made its appointments.
The letter continues: “We were hopeful that continuing to serve in the PCAH would allow us to focus on the important work the committee does with your federal partners and the private sector to address, initiate, and support key policies and programs in the arts and humanities for all Americans. Effective immediately, please accept our resignation from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.”
The Trump administration responded to the resignations from the PCAH, whose honorary chairman is Melania Trump, with an announcement that the president had already decided he was going to disband it anyway.
Speaking truth to power
It adds: “Speaking truth to power is never easy, Mr. President. But it is our role as commissioners on the PCAH to do so. Art is about inclusion. The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both.
“You released a budget which eliminates arts and culture agencies. You have threatened nuclear war while gutting diplomacy funding. The Administration pulled out of the Paris agreement, filed an amicus brief undermining the Civil Rights Act, and attacked our brave trans service members.
“You have subverted equal protections, and are committed to banning Muslims and refugee women & children from our great country. This does not unify the nation we all love…
“Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions. We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
“Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.”
Other signatories of the letter include the actor Kal Penn and author Jhumpa Lahiri. The director and playwright George C. Wolfe, whose name was not included on the letter, has also resigned from the committee.