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NEA in HR stimulus package; Nezhukumatathil a 2009 Fellow

The National Endowment for the Arts was included for a special, one time appropriation of $50 million as a part of the $819 billion economic stimulus package (AKA "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill") proposed by President Obama and the passed by the US House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon, it was reported by the  NY Times, NPR, and several arts lobbying organizations on Thursday.
 
Few details are available are available as to the nature of the appropriation, save for that the NEA would target the money towards grants to artists and arts organizations, presumably those that are most severely affected by the loss of public and private funding as a result of the current economic downturn.
 
In a press release Information Regarding the Arts and Economic Stimulus  issued on Thursday,  the NEA stated that it has procedures in place  to distribute funds efficiently and quickly to artists, which make up 1.4 percent of the work force, and nonprofit arts organizations, which support 5.7 million jobs.

“Arts organizations have been hit enormously hard by the current recession,” said former NEA chairman Dana Gioia--who led the agency during the last six years of the Bush Administration--in the press release. “They've seen their support drop from corporations, foundations, and municipalities. This infusion of funds will help sustain them, their staffs, and the artists they employ.”
 
The $50 million appropriation for the NEA is not included in the current economic stimulus package under consideration before the US Senate, which is expected to debate and vote upon it beginning on Monday.
 
In other NEA news, Patrice Powell  has been appointed acting chairwoman of the organization by President Obama. She will succeed Gioia, who announced his intention to step down last September to return to his writing and literary criticism.  Powell, has in served in several NEA positions since 1991, most recently as deputy chairwoman for states, regions and, local arts agencies.  She will remain in the post until the president appoints a permanent chairperson later this year.
 
Another recent NEA announcement included good news for SUNY Fredonia based poet and associate professor of English Aimee Nezhukumatathil, a frequent contributor of poems to The News, whose two collections Miracle Fruit and At the Drive-In Volcano we reviewed in this space.
 
Ms. Nezhukumatathil has been named one of 42 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Fellows in poetry for 2009.  The designation, which provides $25,000 allocations to each recipient, is designed to encourage the creation of new works by allowing accomplished writers the time and means to write.  
 
An award-winning poet best known for her skillful balance of lightness and seriousness of tone and lush descriptions of exotic foods and landscapes, Nezhukumatathil regularly draws upon her Filipino and Malayali background to give a unique perspective on love, loss and the narrative traditions of her pan-Asian heritage.  Her debut collection Miracle Fruit, winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Prize in 2003, was also named ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year in poetry, co-winner of the Global Filipino Literary Award, and finalist for the Asian American Literary Award and the Glasgow Prize from Shenandoah magazine.

Her second book At the Drive-In Volcano, released in 2007, won the Balcones Prize,  an honor awarded each year for the most outstanding book of poetry by the Austin, Texas based Balcones Center.

A Chicago native, Nezhukumatathil spent her teen years in Western New York with her family, attending Gowanda Junior and Senior High School, before moving on to Ohio State University for her undergraduate and post graduate degrees.  She  was the 2005 recipient of the SUNY Fredonia Hagan Young Scholar Award, and also holds two SUNY-wide honors, the Drescher Award and Chancellor's Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities, for excellence in her record of publications, art production and performance.
 
--R.D. Pohl

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