For art’s sake
As it does each year, the National Endowment for the Humanities just doled out millions of dollars to hundreds of individuals and institutions. The agency’s largesse — $23 million in 2010 — supports schools, scholars, museums, and libraries. (One batch of dough this year will help 30 US libraries develop programs related to Louisa May Alcott.) But what caught our eye was a $300,000 grant to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Based in Cambridge and founded 230 years ago by John Adams and John Hancock, the Academy is an exclusive club composed of writers (Philip Roth, John Updike) innovators (Steve Jobs), architects (Moshe Safdie, Frank Gehry), academics, and others. So what? Well, Jim Leach, the former congressman who’s chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, happens to be a recent inductee into the Academy. (At the ceremony in October, Leach lamented a looming crisis in the humanities and said, “mutual understanding — the bridging of cultures, near and far — is the requirement of our age.’’) Now, just two months after he was inducted, Leach and the NEH have given the Academy a $300,000 check. Not bad. The Academy might consider inducting Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg. The press release we received provides no details on how the Academy will spend the $300,000. It merely says “American Academy/NEH partnership for the Humanities Indicator.’’ Calls to the NEH and the Academy were not returned yesterday.