E. Jeanne Gleason will likely soon find herself in a nationally prominent role where she can continue her longtime mission of promoting the arts in small towns and rural communities.
President Donald Trump recently nominated Gleason, a Westmont resident, for a position with the National Council on the Arts, which advises the National Endowment for the Arts' chairperson. She must now be approved by the U.S. Senate in what is expected to be a pro forma vote.
“It's my belief that there are great arts and cultural organizations everywhere,” said Gleason, founder of the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance. “They don't have to be in the big cities. They are. But there are just as many in rural areas of America and people work just as hard to support them and enjoy them. I think an agency should look at where the arts exist and how well they are done. Because, for me, it's about quality. You can live in rural areas and still do extremely quality art and culture. And Johnstown, I think, is an excellent example of it.”
She added: “That's where my heart is really, with rural America, although we need all of our major cities, which supply us with the big, big organizations – symphonies, theaters, ballet companies.”
Gleason, throughout the years, has worked with numerous groups that promote the arts, including the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Bottle Works and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
She previously chaired the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
“I've spent my whole life in the arts and it's been rewarding, and wonderful, and disappointing and everything,” Gleason said. “It's been everything. This is like the top of the mountain here to be named to the National Endowment for the Arts.”
As a member of the national council, which was founded in 1964, Gleason will provide advice concerning policies and programs, along with reviewing and making recommendations to the chairman on applications for grants, leadership initiatives and funding guidelines.
“This is really big,” Gleason said.