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“The Arts are for Everybody”: 10 Quotes That Inspired Us from Jane Chu, Former NEA Chair and Recipient of SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award

NEA Chair Jane Chu
The NEA thrived under Jane Chu’s leadership. (All photos by Kim Leeson)

Jane Chu earned a Master of Music degree from SMU and has spent her career in arts administration and philanthropy. During her four-year term (2014–18) as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Chu traveled to all 50 states, visiting more than 400 arts organizations in 200 communities.

It was a bustling Homecoming weekend at SMU. The Division of Art hosted a conference that brought in experts in the field from around the world. Opera soared from the lobby. That morning, Jane Chu sat with the students of the joint M.A./M.B.A. (with Cox Business School) in Arts Management and M.M. in International Arts Management to chat about ethics, career paths, and what it means to lead. Chu led with optimism on the state of the arts, and recalled her time at SMU Meadows. Her responses to the students of the graduate programs, like her memories, were crackling with inspiration. Later that day, she was presented with the SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

“The arts belong to everybody each and in their own ways. You don’t have to solve all of the problems in the world. We have the opportunity to show that arts are leading the community. It’s in you already.”