David Kipen (born August 14, 1963) is an arts journalist, editor, and broadcaster. The former literature director of the National Endowment for the Arts, he has worked in the areas of journalism, government, film, television, online, radio, and nonprofit arts entrepreneurship. A USC/Getty/Annenberg Arts Journalism Fellow for 2013, Kipen’s reporting, reviews and essays appear in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Ozy.com and elsewhere. He resides in his native Southern California.
After starting out editing sections for Variety and the Los Angeles city magazine Buzz, from 1998 to 2005 Kipen served as book critic and editor for the San Francisco Chronicle. While there he wrote the magazine essay on screenwriters that became his first book, The Schreiber Theory: A Radical Rewrite of American Film History (Melville House).
Kipen’s radio show and podcast Overbooked ran for three years on KCRW-FM. Concurrently, he reviewed every fortnight for NPR’s Day to Day. He has also appeared with Katie Couric on NBC’s Today Show and on MSNBC’s Countdown With Keith Olbermann. While at the NEA, he served as the film correspondent for The Bob Edwards Show on Sirius XM Radio.
From 2005 to 2010 he served as Director of Literature and National Reading Initiatives at the National Endowment for the Arts, where he helped develop and ran The Big Read. This nationwide initiative to promote reading via One City, One Book programs is entering its ninth year, with over a thousand cities and towns already reached and ongoing dedicated funding in place.
In 2009, Chairman Dana Gioia added to Kipen’s NEA portfolio an 18-month collaboration with the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to bring a delegation of fifty Southern California writers and artists to Guadalajara, Mexico, at the world’s second largest book fair, which he then moderated on site in English and Spanish. He has programmed film retrospectives for both Cal State Northridge and the American Film Festival in Moscow, and given talks at film festivals in Utrecht, Holland; Thessaloniki, Greece and Cheltenham, England.
Online, Kipen is a contributing writer for Ozy.com, where his stories have been featured on NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered. At the NEA, he also pioneered one of the first-ever federal blogs, which continues today.
Upon his return from Washington to Los Angeles in 2010, Kipen assumed a prominent role in the Los Angeles cultural scene. He is a frequent consultant for the city and county cultural affairs departments and has juried several prizes. He continues to talk about books and culture on KPCC-FM in Pasadena, California.
In 2010 Kipen founded Libros Schmibros Lending Library & Bookshop, a nonprofit collaborative project that brings low- and no-cost reading to residents of its Boyle Heights neighborhood and Greater Los Angeles. Under his artistic direction, Libros Schmibros has produced multiple events throughout Los Angeles, including a ten-week, held-over public-engagement residency at the Hammer Museum. Libros Schmibros’ cultural contributions to Los Angeles include a massive literary map of Los Angeles, since purchased by UCLA Special Collections for permanent public display.
Kipen appears regularly in venues including the ALOUD stage of Los Angeles Public Library, Writer’s Bloc, and Zocalo. He frequently addresses enthusiasts of the city in architectural, historical, and arts convenings. He has also engaged a wide range of creative people in interviews — whether public, published or broadcast — including Steve Martin, David Foster Wallace, John Cleese, Hal Holbrook, Salman Rushdie, Bruce Dern, Jonathan Franzen, Tommy Lee Jones, Forest Whitaker, Christopher Hitchens, Manohla Dargis, and Ray Bradbury.
In addition to The Schreiber Theory, a well-reviewed staple of film school syllabi — of which Lawrence Weschler has written, “I loved that book. It’s still on my bookshelf and I lend it out occasionally” — Kipen has edited and introduced reissues of the WPA guides to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and California. Melville House has also published his translation from the Spanish of Miguel de Cervantes’ novella The Dialogue of the Dogs.