Bruce Cole

In Memoriam, 1938-2018

Bruce Cole was a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His areas of expertise included the teaching of American history and civics, and private and federal cultural policy.

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Bruce Cole was a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His areas of expertise included the teaching of American history and civics, and private and federal cultural policy.

Mr. Cole, the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, was the author of fourteen books and numerous articles. His fifteenth book, Art from the Swamp, was published in 2018 by Encounter Books.

Under Mr. Cole’s leadership (from 2001 to 2009), the NEH launched key initiatives, including We the People, a program designed to encourage the teaching, study and understanding of American history and culture, and the Picturing America project, which uses great American art to teach our nation’s history and culture in 80,000 schools and public libraries nationwide. He also created the NEH’s Digital Humanities Initiative and Office, which made the NEH a national leader in this new frontier of humanities access and knowledge. Under his tenure—the longest in NEH history—the NEH developed partnerships with several foreign countries, including Mexico and China. Mr. Cole managed a budget of $150 million and a staff of 170 and was responsible for awards totaling over $800 million dollars.

Before taking the NEH chairmanship, Mr. Cole was Distinguished Professor of Art History and Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University in Bloomington. In 2008, he received the President’s Medal from the University for “excellence in service, achievement and teaching.” In 2006, Governor Mitch Daniels awarded Mr. Cole the Sagamore of the Wabash, which recognizes individuals who have brought distinction to the state of Indiana.

Born in Ohio, Mr. Cole earned his B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, a master’s degree from Oberlin College, and a doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. He was a recipient of nine honorary doctorate degrees. For two years he was the William E. Suida Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. Mr. Cole held fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Kress Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a corresponding member of the Accademia Senese degli Intronati, the oldest learned society in Europe.

Mr. Cole served as a delegate on the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on the boards of the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Norman Rockwell Museum, and as a Senate-appointed member of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. He was also a member of the boards of American Heritage and the Jack Miller Center. In 2010, Mr. Cole was appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels to a three-year term on Indiana University’s Board of Trustees.

In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Mr. Cole the Presidential Citizens Medal “for his work to strengthen our national memory and ensure that our country’s heritage is passed on to future generations.” The medal is second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom among the honors the President can confer upon a civilian. Also in 2008, Mr. Cole was decorated Knight of the Grand Cross, the highest honor of the Republic of Italy.

In August 2013, Mr. Cole was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission.


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Seeing a Donor’s Vision

Bruce Cole

Cognoscenti of Asian art as well as tourists to the National Mall will find joy, knowledge and instruction in the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries.

Articles

Wall Street Journal / November 2, 2017

Smithsonian: Still in Shambles

Bruce Cole

Overall, the new galleries in the Smithsonian Museum of American History are as bulging and confusing as their older counterparts elsewhere in the building. Americans, many of whom know little about their country’s history, will be no better enlightened, educated, or inspired than they were before.

Articles

 

Balloonists & Cherry Blossoms

Bruce Cole

On “Clouds in a Bag” at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center & “Inventing Utamaro” at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Articles

Stormy Mood, Tempestuous Brushstrokes

Bruce Cole

Titian’s portrait of ‘Doge Andrea Gritti’ is in almost the same condition as the day it left the artist’s studio.

Articles

Wall Street Journal / May 11, 2017

Jeff Koons’ Big Bunch of Banality

Bruce Cole

A proposed design for a memorial to victims of terrorism in Paris is contentless, ahistorical, lightweight, and just plain silly.

Articles

Washington Free Beacon / April 26, 2017

The Museum as “Town Hall”

Bruce Cole

There are ongoing attempts to abandon curatorial authority, and quality, in order to turn museums into something between a town hall and a community center. And, amazingly, directors and curators themselves are leading these efforts.

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Unabashed Elitism

Bruce Cole

The chief reason to buy The Spectacle of Skill, a new anthology of Robert Hughes’s writings, is for Hughes’s memoir, though everything in it is worth reading for the first or the fifth time.

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Flood of Memories

Bruce Cole

Recalling a historic flood that swept through Florence in 1966 and destroyed many of the city’s cultural treasures.

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Wall Street Journal / November 3, 2016

The Museums We Deserve

Bruce Cole

On the distinguishing qualities of two of Washington’s most prominent art venues.

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‘Della Robbia: Sculpting With Color in Renaissance Florence’ Review

Bruce Cole

They were among the most accomplished of Florence’s Renaissance sculptors, making divine beauty out of humble materials.

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Wall Street Journal / September 7, 2016

All that’s Gehrish

Bruce Cole

Serious biographies probe deeply; they examine their subjects with a gimlet eye; they are rigorously analytical; they document their statements. They are fair and judicial. Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry does none of these things.

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Guggenheim’s Throne

Bruce Cole

Museum press releases rarely boast about the purchase of a new toilet. The one recently acquired by the Guggenheim Museum, however, is no standard-issue Kohler.

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