The Embrace of Arts and Politics
What columnists Arthur and Barbara Gelb described as the Kennedy administration’s “extraordinary liaison between politics and art” can be attributed in large part to the efforts of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. During her husband’s first year in office, Mrs. Kennedy had a permanent stage installed in the White House and hosted performances by the Metropolitan Opera, a Shakespeare troupe, and cellist Pablo Casals. According to Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, “It was important to demonstrate that the White House could be an influence in encouraging public acceptance of the arts.” During the Kennedy years, artists who had been silenced in the McCarthy period, as Shirley MacLaine recalled, “came out into the real world again and began to fight against the politics of exclusion.” As the Vietnam War escalated, performers chose sides in an increasingly divided country, polarized by politics and culture.
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