Conversations with Crosby is an ongoing series of discussions with special guests on the importance of our cultural institutions in preserving heritage and sharing ideas.
“There are two distinct languages. There is the verbal, which separates people… and there is the visual that is understood by everybody.” —Yaacov Agam
What is the role of the arts and humanities in helping to understand and mediate the nation’s challenges? Over the past year, our nation has faced a myriad of struggles: health and safety risks and loss with the COVID-19 pandemic, struggles for racial justice and equality, and economic suffering—gaps in our society that existed before 2020, but were exacerbated by it.
And yet, the arts and humanities persist. In the face of division, we can look to creative expression to better understand each other and bridge cultural gaps. For this riveting discussion, Director Kemper welcomes Jane Chu, former Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, to share her story and perspectives about how the arts are a powerful force that can unite us all.
Read the transcript (PDF, 213KB).
Watch the recorded video or view it on our YouTube channel.
Jane Chu combines her academic research and professional practice in the arts, philanthropy, and business administration. In 2014, she was appointed to serve as the eleventh chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts, completing her term in June 2018. Chu is also a practicing visual artist, and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
During Chu’s four-year tenure at the National Endowment for the Arts, she traveled to 50 US states and four countries, 200 communities, and made more than 400 site visits to meet with artists and arts leaders, government and civic leaders, philanthropists, and the general public. The NEA awarded $430 million over the four years to support the arts in 16,000 communities covering 50 states, US jurisdictions, and in every Congressional District. In 2016, the NEA was ranked number one in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government for small agencies.
Prior to coming to the National Endowment for the Arts, Chu served as the founding president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, overseeing a $413 million campaign to construct and open the performing arts center in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
Jane Chu straddles multiple cultures, having been born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and raised in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She received bachelor’s degrees in piano performance and music education from Ouachita Baptist University, as well as a master’s degree in piano pedagogy from Southern Methodist University. Additionally, Chu holds an associate degree in visual arts from Nebraska Wesleyan University, an MBA from Rockhurst University, a Ph.D. in philanthropic studies from Indiana University, and five honorary doctorate degrees.
Crosby Kemper is the sixth director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He was commissioned by the White House on January 24, 2020, following his confirmation by the United States Senate. IMLS, an independent government agency, is the primary source of federal support for the nation's museums and libraries.
Kemper is a dedicated advocate for education and learning for people of all ages and backgrounds. He comes to IMLS from the Kansas City Public Library, where, as director, he established the library as one of the city’s leading cultural destinations and a hub of community engagement. Kemper also recently served as chair of the board of directors of the Schools, Health, & Libraries Broadband Coalition, which supports open, affordable broadband connections for local community organizations. His full biography is available on the IMLS website.