Thanks to native Arkadelphian Rex Nelson for a heads-up on a former Arkansan making good.
President Obama has nominated Jane Chu, president of the (stunning) Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, as the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Chu grew up in Arkadelphia and is a graduate of Arkadelphia High School and Nelson’s alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University. Her father taught at OBU and her mother, Feng Ming, was a dorm mother at OBU (“Mom Chu,” she was known as, Rex says) for 42 years. Here’s a profile of Jane Chu in the Kansas City newspaper, which recounts her birth in Oklahoma to parents who’d fled China after the rise of communism. Her talent as second runner-up in the Miss Arkansas contest was playing the piano, Ravel’s “Albarado del gracioso”
The NEA position has been vacant for a year. It can sometimes be controversial. Conservatives have not always been happy with the nature of artistic expression the NEA has supported. Remember that other famous OBU grad and Rex’s former boss, Mike Huckabee? He mounted his unsuccessful Senate campaign against Dale Bumpers in 1992 in part by calling Bumpers a pornographer on account of art supported by the NEA.