President Joe Biden launched an unprecedented purge of the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts Monday, according to a letter reviewed by The Federalist demanding resignation letters by 6 p.m. from four of the seven members, including the chairman.
Those members include sculptor Chas Fagan, architect Steven Spandle, landscape architect Perry Guillot, and Chairman Justin Shubow, a writer and expert on architecture and civic beauty.
Fagan is a renowned sculptor and painter whose statue of former President Ronald Reagan stands in the Capitol Rotunda, and whose statue of Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks stands in the National Cathedral. His paintings include the Vatican’s official portrait of St. Mother Theresa and first lady Barbara Bush’s official portrait.
Spandle’s work includes the White House’s beautiful new Tennis Pavilion, and Guillot’s works include the new White House Rose Garden and Children’s Garden.
Shubow also serves as the president of the National Civic Art Society, a non-profit that fights for classicism in public works, and is at the forefront of the battle to rebuild Manhattan’s destroyed Penn Station.
The commission is an independent federal agency established by Congress that advises Congress and the White House on public (civic) architecture on federal lands and in the District of Columbia. Established in 1910, its seven members are chosen from “disciplines including art, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design,” and are appointed by the president to serve four-year terms. No commission member has ever been asked to tender their resignation before their term was up.
The Trump administration stressed classical architecture, though traditionally the issue has been non-partisan and has included such champions as former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and former Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
While classical architecture remains the hands-down favorite of the American public, its opponents are powerful in academia, elite architecture circles, and, it seems, in the Biden White House. Biden revoked former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Beautiful Again” executive order early in his administration, with supporters claiming classical architecture is somehow connected to fascism.
Shubow was joined by fellow commissioner James McCrery, an architect and the head of the Catholic University of America’s architecture department, joined The Federalist Radio Hour for a podcast discussing the Trump administration’s order in December.