This is a response to VC 17 Robert 3 ("NEA & self censorship")...
I want to add my support for the NEA, as well. I also have some personal experience with NEA grant winners, most personally with my wife, who was notified last week that she is one of the 1991 grant recipients.
I also know know about a dozen other people who have been winners over the years. Without exception, they are all artists who are extrememly serious and gifted practioners of their craft. Sometimes their works are not always "pretty" (Jesse Helms on being asked what he thought qualified as "art" replied that he thought the painting of a North Carolina sunset that hangs in his senate office met his criteria), but in that art is a non-distorting mirror of the society in which it is created and given that society is sometimes not "pretty," prettiness does not seem to me to be a necessary defining factor for art.
In my experience, all of these NEA winning artists conscientiously nurture a sense of compassion and conscience in their work; in short, their work is moral and beautiful. I think the citizenry are served well by giving some of their tax dollars in support these NEA grantwinners.