Over the next several weeks, President-elect Joe Biden will assemble his Cabinet. Politicos are scrutinizing the rumored contenders, from the suddenly all-important post of Health and Human Services, to the question of if there will be a place available for Biden’s viral surrogate Pete Buttigieg (Veterans Affairs, perhaps?).
But unlike the governments of at least 50 other countries — including France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Ethiopia, Thailand, and Syria — there will be no culture czar to look for on Biden’s list. The United States has no Department of Culture, and thus no Secretary of the Arts.
That doesn’t mean Biden shouldn’t attempt to create such a post while president: In the aftermath of a White House that was historically hostile to the arts, and in the midst of a pandemic that threatens some of the country’s most treasured institutions, the American people need a centralized official with a direct line to the president to advocate for the humanities, both as a spiritual necessity and an economic one.