UCLA Luskin | A former urban planning student leads the National Endowment for the Arts

Graduate in urban planning Maria Rosario Jackson PhD ’96 has been confirmed as President of the National Foundation for the Arts, becoming the first African-American and Mexican woman to lead the federal agency. “The arts are essential to our well-being, to robust economies and to healthy communities where everyone can thrive,” said Jackson, a professor at Arizona State University, who has served on the National Arts Council since 2013. For over 25 years, Jackson’s work has focused on understanding and elevating arts, culture and design as essential elements of strong communities. She has served as an advisor on philanthropic programs and investments for national, regional and local foundations, including the Los Angeles County Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She serves on the board of the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, among other organizations, and her work appears in a wide range of professional and academic publications. She also taught a UCLA courses on arts, culture and community revitalization. Jackson grew up in South Los Angeles and credits her parents with instilling a love of the arts in her family. “Our art, our culture and our creativity are among our country’s most precious resources,” she said. “They are proof of our humanity, our ability to learn from our examined experience and our ability to imagine and innovate.” President Joe Biden nominated Jackson for the NEA in October, during National Arts and Humanities Month; his appointment was confirmed by the US Senate on December 18.

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