UPDATE: 10/24/19: On October 22, the DC Council voted unanimously to override Mayor Muriel Bowser’s veto of an emergency bill that would have clarified the DCCAH’s independence. “The underlying legislation cemented DCCAH’s separation from the executive’s office after a tumultuous summer during which the mayor tried and failed to grab control of the District’s public arts.” (see original post below)
According to the DC Attorney General’s office, Mayor Bowser violated District law when she created the new office to manage the city’s art collection while attempting to take control of its Art Bank, a vault of city-owned public art.
Arts councils and their funding must be shielded from political pressures. But this week, in a political face-off, Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed a bill intended to bolster the autonomy of the DC Arts Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH). The bill would have cemented DCCAH’s independence from the mayor, who throughout 2019 has repeatedly attempted (and failed) to take control of the council, its funds and the artworks in its care. The bill passed unanimously in the council last month. DCCAH, which needs nine votes to override a mayoral veto, will hold a vote in two weeks.
Early last November, DCCAH floated an amendment to set limits on the content of their grantees’ work in clear violation of viewpoint neutrality. It remains unclear as to how the amendment was originally approved, and several DCCAH commissioners expressed their concern over its threat to artistic freedom. NCAC and other arts and free speech organizations came together to demand that the the council’s new amendment be retracted and that they issue a statement reaffirming their commitment to the fundamental democratic value of artistic freedom. Mayor Bowser’s office then rescinded the amendment in an apparent victory for free expression.
Please watch this space for updates.