Making the Arts a Permanent Fixture

Norton Bill Would Set Aside Funding for Programs on the Mall

Posted October 12, 2007 at 4:30pm

With four jazz musicians playing behind her on a blustery fall day, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) announced last week she would introduce legislation to revitalize and expand the National Mall by as early as next spring.

The band was symbolic of the type of arts that Norton

would like to bring to the Mall regularly. Saying the Mall has “majestic potential,” Norton drew a picture of string quartets playing and small tables positioned on the Mall where people could order something other than fast food, making it a destination for tourists and office workers during their lunch hours.

“It doesn’t take a lot to bring the Mall alive,” said Norton, gesturing to the ensemble.

The bill, which Norton will introduce today, also calls for an expansion of the National Mall to include Hains Point and East Potomac Park.

“I’m not talking about paying for it so there’s no cost there,” Norton said, adding that she envisioned volunteers playing music and doing poetry readings. [IMGCAP(1)]

Getting musicians on the Mall wouldn’t be a problem, said Charles Fishman, executive director of the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival.

“There’s no reason why there couldn’t be a trio. It doesn’t have to be jazz. It just has to be good,” he said. Fishman, who has organized the jazz festival for the past three years, said that concert alone draws nearly 30,000 people to the Mall.

Norton also has supporters in the National Capital Planning Commission and Commission of Fine Arts.

“The National Capital Planning Commission applauds Congresswoman Norton for her ongoing support to protect the treasured space of the National Mall for the enjoyment of all,” Marcel Acosta of the NCPC said in a statement. “The Congresswoman recognizes the importance of identifying alternative locations for future commemorative works.”

The NCPC has been working on a National Capital Framework Plan that has identified sites near the Mall for new memorials.

The Congresswoman would need appropriations money set aside for putting up chairs and tables, making additional restrooms available and contracting with restaurants. She is talking with Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Chairman Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) to get a small amount of money set aside.

The bill would require the secretary of the Interior to submit a plan within 180 days of passage of the bill. Who exactly would be in charge of organizing the musical programs and expanded space was not clear.

“The secretary of Interior would turn to the Smithsonian and others for ideas,” Norton said. “Somebody who would have to carry it out.”

Norton said she deliberately kept the dollar amount low to ensure fast action. She is hoping to get a plan in place by next spring.