Save the NEA

Voice Card  -  Volume 16  -  John Card Number 4  -  Thu, Aug 30, 1990 09:04 PM

This is ONE OF 2 responses to Vol 16 Stuart 5 ("More horning in on Roland")...

When I was in Squaw Valley, I signed a petition to save the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from the Jesse Helms types in Congress who are trying to either eliminate it or bring it under tight political control. If any of you feel the same way, you may want to send a letter to your Representative(s) and say something like this:

"I wish to add my strong support to the National Endowment for the Arts. I urge your advocacy for full and unfettered reauthorization of NEA funding, with grant applications evaluated and authorized by peer-review panels."


By the time you read this, Congress will have passed a reasonable compromise which should save the NEA from the clutches of right wing censors. I just watched part of the debate on CSPAN, and I am rather proud to say that the Congressman from Canyon Creek (and Western Montana), Pat Williams, was the architect of that compromise. He is chairman of the House Subcommittee which oversees the NEA.

Under his plan, the funding will be renewed and the grant decisions will remain with the board of the NEA. Any artist whose funded work is later found to be obscene by the courts will have to give the money back. As you know, the Maplethorpe photographs which caused all the ruckus in the first place were recently found NOT to be obscene by an Ohio jury.

This effectively thwarts the rather sinister scheme of the right wing, who wanted a specific list of what could and could not be portrayed in funded works of art (and as you can imagine, the list was a long one). It was fascinating to watch the battle unfold on the floor of the House. In order to save the NEA, Williams put months of work into forging a solid coalition of representatives on both sides of the aisle, and then arranging favorable debating conditions from the Rules Commitee. There were some truly eloquent speeches defending art and truth and freedom of speech, including one from the guy who used to play "Gopher" on The Love Boat! If any of you are interested, it might be worth leafing through October 11th's Congressional Record.