Art Works Blog

Inside the NEA: 2012 Distinguished Service Awards Winners

Through the Distinguished Service Awards program, employees across the federal government are recognized for their outstanding contributions in furthering their agencies' missions. This year, the NEA recognized the work of ten colleagues: Jillian Miller, Bonnie Nichols, Kathy Plowitz-Worden, Ned Read, Don Ball, Frank Pappajohn, Cliff Whitham, Mike Gurevich, Steve Shewfelt, and John Sotelo. We caught up with four of the honorees to find out what brought them to the NEA, how they describe the work of the agency, and what they think is the value of public service.

Frank Pappajohn
Information Technology Specialist

Frank Pappajohn.  Photo by Jennifer Kreizman

NEA: How long have you worked for the NEA, and what brought you to the agency?

FRANK PAPPAJOHN: I started working here in April 2012, as an IT Specialist in application programming. I saw the vacancy announcement while at my previous programming job, and was extremely interested in applying.

NEA: Why did you want to work at the NEA?

PAPPAJOHN: I envisioned that working here would combine my two vocational loves: music and IT. I’ve been a professional musician since high school, and picked up software development during my 20 years as a member of the United States Air Force Band. I was excited at the prospect of supporting the arts through technology, and the NEA has proven to be everything I thought it would be!

NEA: If you had to describe the work that the NEA does in five words or less, what would you say?

PAPPAJOHN: Proliferating love for the arts.

NEA: What do you think is the value of public service?

PAPPAJOHN: Getting a chance to give back to the country we love. It’s humbling when you think about all the citizens you support and serve.

NEA: What’s been your best/favorite/most unexpected NEA moment to date?

PAPPAJOHN: Best/favorite: Completing the NEA Grant Search website project and witnessing the usefulness it has provided people.

NEA: What does “Art Works” mean to you?

PAPPAJOHN: Participating in the creation, or consumption, of all types of art simply creates better human beings---better, healthier, and happier people. And again, as a working musician, I know that the arts can provide a fulfilling and rewarding career while improving the quality of life in communities worldwide.

Don Ball
Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Publications

Don Ball. Photo courtesy of Mr. Ball.

NEA: How long have you worked for the NEA, and what brought you to the agency?

DON BALL: A job ad brought me to the NEA; that was in 2001. Before that, I had worked for government contractors on environmental issues and public housing, but art is far more fun to write about.

NEA: Why did you want to work at the NEA?

BALL: To be able to write about art instead of pig waste or dilapidated housing. Not that there’s anything wrong with writing about pig waste or dilapidated housing.

NEA: If you had to describe the work that the NEA does in five words or less, what would you say?

BALL: Promote the importance of art.

NEA: What do you think is the value of public service?

BALL: Helping to make the country a better place in which to live.

NEA: What’s been your best/favorite/most unexpected NEA moment to date?

BALL: It was realizing that I had been here 12 years and still wasn’t bored. Mostly.

NEA: What does “Art Works” mean to you?

BALL: What “art works” means to me is that art is successful---art functions. How does it function, how does it succeed? By making people think---whether it is about something they hadn’t thought about before, or something that they thought they knew, or a new way of seeing or hearing something---art presents innovative and different approaches to understanding the world around (and within) us.

John Sotelo
Budget Officer

John Sotelo.  Photo by Jennifer Kreizman

NEA: How long have you worked for the NEA, and what was your first position?

JOHN SOTELO: I started working at NEA as a budget analyst in April 2004, so a little over 9 years.

NEA: Why did you want to work at the NEA?

SOTELO: I appreciate art and the impact it has on our lives. I wish I could say that I have some artistic talent, but I’m more on the audience side of the house. I wanted to work at the NEA, given its unique mission, because art in many forms has had a tremendous impact on my life---and always will.

NEA: If you had to describe the work that the NEA does in five words or less, what would you say?

SOTELO: Public support for the arts.

NEA: What do you think is the value of public service?

SOTELO: It’s a means to support and give back to the community.

NEA: What’s been your best/favorite/most unexpected NEA moment to date?

SOTELO: Seeing Michelle Obama present the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, and watching her interactions with the kids and hearing her enthusiastic support for the impact of the arts. It really reinforced why we do what we do.

NEA: What does “Art Works” mean to you?

SOTELO: “Art Works” is about creating and the ultimate impact/impression art can have on a person.

 

Steve Shewfelt
Program Analyst

Steve Shewfelt. Photo by Jennifer Kreizman.

NEA: How long have you worked for the NEA, and what brought you to the agency? 

STEVE SHEWFELT: I came to NEA in November 2011, brought in as a Program Analyst in the Office of Research & Analysis.

NEA: Why did you want to work at the NEA?

SHEWFELT: I enjoy the challenge of doing research and evaluation on questions that don’t lend themselves to easily quantifiable answers.

NEA: If you had to describe the work that the NEA does in five words or less, what would you say?

SHEWFELT: Are you kidding me?

NEA: What do you think is the value of public service?

SHEWFELT:

Public service is both an opportunity and a responsibility to contribute your best to something larger than yourself.

NEA: What’s been your best/favorite/most unexpected NEA moment to date?

SHEWFELT: Finding out just how easy and simple it was to get things done. From working with Admin Services to get office supplies, to working with IT to get upgrades to our computer systems, to working with HR to publish new job postings, the folks here at NEA have consistently exceeded my expectations.

NEA: What does “Art Works” mean to you?

SHEWFELT: It means that there are tons of interesting questions we can ask about how art works. How, where, when, why, and under what conditions does art work for individuals? And how do art jobs contribute to economic growth, neighborhood revitalization, and livability?

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