NEA nom for Landesman causes stir

Broadway landlord nabs surprise nod to top org

The appointment of Broadway producer and theater owner Rocco Landesman as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts will cause a shakeup not only in Washington but in Gotham as well.

The outspoken Landesman, owner and prexy of Rialto landlord and producing org Jujamcyn, has roots planted firmly in the for-profit sector. For the agency that supports nonprofit arts groups throughout the country, his surprise nomination likely signals a new era — but precisely how so is anyone’s guess.

In New York, Landesman is expected to step down from his post as president of Jujamcyn while holding on to ownership of the company. How the leadership of Jujamcyn, owner of five Rialto venues, will be affected likewise remains a matter of speculation.

Jujamcyn’s producing director, Paul Libin, and creative director, Jack Viertel, both seem plausible candidates for enhanced leadership roles, as does resident producer Jordan Roth, currently brushing up his business acumen by attending Columbia Business School part-time.

At the NEA, Landesman, 61, will succeed the poet Dana Gioia, who ankled earlier this year at the expiration of his term. The legit exec has previously criticized nonprofit theaters for muscling in on the commercial sector but is expected to become a vigorous champion for their causes.

His appointment was immediately applauded by the D.C.-based lobbying org Americans for the Arts.

“Mr. Landesman has a great entrepreneurial spirit, which is much needed in the arts world,” said one exec for the org. She said the group had sought the appointment of an NEA topper who understands both the for-profit and nonprofit arts worlds and who will help explore ways they can work together. “We feel this is exactly where the arts needs to head in America,” she added.

Legit nonprofits, meanwhile, can celebrate the nomination of an industry vet who seems primed to turn the spotlight on funding for regional theaters, many of which have recently cut back on staffing and programming in an effort to stay afloat in a tough economy.

Arts groups are seeking a restoration of federal funding for the NEA and its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities, to its highest level of $176 million. The administration has requested $161 million for fiscal year 2010 but has also included $50 million for arts-related employment in its stimulus package.

Earlier this year, President Obama appointed attorney Kareem Dale to a staff position in the White House to oversee arts and cultural issues.