Audiotape Reveals Artists Being Asked to Support Obama's Agenda

An official at the White House Office of Public Engagement encouraged a group of artists on a conference call with the National Endowment for the Arts to produce works that supported the Obama administration's agenda, a transcript of the call reveals.

The 44-page transcript, which was posted Monday on BigGovernment.com, details an hour-long conference call on Aug. 10 hosted by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement and United We Serve, a nationwide initiative launched by President Obama to increase volunteerism.

"We're going to need your help, and we're going to come at you with some specific 'asks' here," said Buffy Wicks, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. "But we know that you guys are ready for it and eager to participate, so one we want to thank you, and two, I hope you guys are ready."

Wicks, who did not respond to requests for comment, was one of several officials on the call -- along with then-NEA Director of Communications Yosi Sergant and Michael Skolnik, political director for hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons -- seeking focused efforts by the artists in health care, energy and environment, education and community renewal.

Sergant, who was reassigned by the NEA last week, said on the call that the effort was the first of a "brand new conversation." 

He told the artists, "Pick -- I would encourage you to pick something, whether it's health care, education, the environment, you know, there's four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service. My ask would be to apply artistic, you know, your artistic creative communities' utilities and bring them to the table."

Sergant could not be reached for comment. 

Patrick Courrieleche, one of the artists on the call, first wrote about the experience on the blog Big Hollywood. Courrieleche, 39, of Los Angeles, said the ubiquitous Obama "Hope" poster by artist Shepard Fairey and musician will.i.am's "Yes We Can" song and music video were offered as examples of the artist group's clear impact on Obama's landslide election.

"What I heard was a well thought-out pitch to encourage artists to create art on these issues," he told FOXNews.com in August. "We were told were consulted for a reason, and they specifically stated those issues we should focus on, to plant the seed. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what they're attempting to do."

According to the newly-released transcript, Skolnik told Courrielche and the other artists that he had "been asked by folks in the White House and folks in the NEA" to participate about a month prior to the call.

"You are the thought leaders," Skolnik told the artists. "You are the ones that, if you create a piece of art or promote a piece of art or create a campaign for a company, and tell our country and our young people sort of what to do and what to be in to; and what's cool and what's not cool. And so I'm hoping that through this group and the goal of all this and the goal of this phone call, is through this group that we can create a stronger community amongst ourselves to get involved in things that we're passionate about as we did during the campaign but continue to get involved in those things, to support some of the president's initiatives, but also to do things that we are passionate about and to push the president and push his administration."

In a statement to FOXNews.com earlier this month, NEA officials denied that the call was intended to promote a legislative agenda.

"This call was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false," the statement read. "The NEA regularly does outreach to various organizations to inform of the work we are doing and the resources available to them."

White House spokesman Shin Inouye echoed the NEA's statement, saying it was not intended to promote any legislative agenda.

"It was a discussion on the United We Serve effort and how all Americans can participate," Inouye told FOXNews.com on Sept. 10.

Officials from the NEA and the White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment.