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Obama Enlists Hollywood Names For Arts Committee

A year after President Barack Obama's election, the White House is enlisting "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker, Forest Whitaker and others from Hollywood and beyond to help push the president's arts initiatives.

On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden will install 25 new members of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. First lady Michelle Obama serves as honorary chairman of the group, which promotes cultural programs.

"We are a bridge between the public and private sectors," said committee spokesman Kimber Craine. The high-profile actors and arts patrons will be asked to raise money and visibility for the committee's priorities, which are still being formed, he said.


Cultural diplomacy is expected to be a major emphasis, along with after-school programs for kids. Current initiatives include the Save America's Treasures grant program and the Coming Up Taller Awards that recognize community arts programs for youth.

Parker and Whitaker are among the most famous names joining the initiative, along with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and actors Edward Norton, Kerry Washington and Alfre Woodard. The group also includes "Vogue" magazine editor Anna Wintour, architect Thom Mayne and philanthropist Teresa Heinz, wife of Sen. John Kerry.

The committee will be led by George Stevens Jr., executive producer of the Kennedy Center Honors and founder of the American Film Institute, and Broadway producer Margo Lion.

During the 2008 campaign, Lion and Stevens led Obama's arts policy committee. They said Obama would make arts education a priority, as well as cultural diplomacy and increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts to spur economic development.

Last week, Congress approved funding for the arts endowment at the highest level in 16 years.


During the Bush administration, Adair Margo, a longtime friend of first lady Laura Bush from Texas, served as the committee's chairman, and its members included many arts patrons and scholars.