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No show: funding delay sparks censorship fears ( NEA is showing some sense--at last)
The Age ^ | 12/04/01 | staff

Posted on 12/05/2001 7:32:02 AM PST by LarryLied

An American arts funding body is embroiled in a censorship row after delaying a decision on whether to back two potentially sensitive works.

The National Endowment for the Arts is dragging its feet over grants for two arts organisations sponsoring a Californian production of Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner's new play about Afghanistan, Homebody/Kabul, and an exhibition of work by visual artist William Pope.

The agency refused to comment about the play or the exhibition specifically.

But several members of the endowment said the two grants had been delayed by the acting chairman, Robert S.Martin, and the organisations could still make the list of successful applicants to be announced later this month. The final decision is likely to be left to the incoming chairman, Michael Hammond.

One grant proposal was $100,000 for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California to help support a production of Kushner's play in April. The grant was approved by a review panel and by the National Council on the Arts, which makes its recommendations to the chairman. The chairman usually approves the council's recommendations without a delay.

But in this case, Martin chose to reserve judgment on the grant until further notice, along with an application from the Maine College of Art for $42,000 to help support an exhibition of the work of William Pope, a visual and performance artist.

Mark Weinberg, a spokesman for the endowment, said: "From time to time the chairman can request more information or evaluate further a recommendation from the council."

He said the decisions had yet to be finalised and would be announced as a group in December. "We only announce grants that are made as a matter of long-standing practice."

The National Endowment for the Arts has tried to steer clear of financing potentially divisive subject matter and in 1995 eliminated its grants to individual artists.

Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic, Angels in America, dealt with the AIDS epidemic and criticised the Reagan administration. It opened in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1996 with the protection of a last-minute court order.

But Homebody/Kabul seems to press fewer political buttons. Written well before September 11, it tells the story of a British woman who disappears in Taliban-era Afghanistan.

"I can't imagine any conceivable reason for withholding the grant on the basis of the subject matter of the play," Kushner said.

"This play isn't a polemic. Even if it were, it would be inappropriate for the chairman to deny the grant based on a political anxiety. That's censorship."

Homebody is about to begin performances at the off-Broadway New York Theatre Workshop, with previews starting tomorrow and the opening on December 19. The play is to have separate productions at Trinity Repertory Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island, and at the Berkeley Rep.

"It's a great play on a topical issue and we at this point have no grounds to believe that our application would not be approved," said Susan Medak, managing director of Berkeley Rep.

Pope, who is black, provoked political controversy in 1996 after rumours he would use his $20,000 endowment grant to walk around New York City wearing a 14-foot-long (4.3-metre) white cardboard penis as a commentary on "the supremacy of white phalluses".

Pope, 45, who teaches at Bates College in Maine and was one of the last individual grant recipients, said he performed this project before he even gained access to his grant money. The planned exhibition of Pope's work is to begin at the Maine College of Art and then tour the country. For his next project, Pope said he was planning a 22-mile (35.4-kilometre) crawl down Broadway from his mother's house in the Bronx to the Statue of Liberty while wearing a Superman costume. He said he expected the journey to take five years.

"I understand the concern," Pope said. "But I think I've been able to convince the mainstream that a maverick sensibility can be integrated into a more accepted enterprise."

One application that did not even make it to the National Council on the Arts was for a documentary film by Arthur Dong that profiles three families with gay adult children. While the film, Family Fundamentals - accepted by the Sundance Film Festival this January - was recommended by the endowment's media arts panel, it was rejected or withdrawn by the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, William Ivey, before it went to the council, a move that angered several council members.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events

1 posted on 12/05/2001 7:32:03 AM PST by LarryLied
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To: LarryLied

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2 posted on 12/05/2001 7:36:30 AM PST by WIMom
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To: LarryLied
Abolish NEA NOW!

Real art comes from creative people who can find and reach a paying audience.

Government-subsidized art is PROPAGANDA, and should be illegal.

3 posted on 12/05/2001 7:46:38 AM PST by Maceman
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To: LarryLied
A lack of gov't funding is not censorship!!!!
4 posted on 12/05/2001 7:47:56 AM PST by freedomcrusader
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To: All
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5 posted on 12/05/2001 7:58:33 AM PST by 2ndMostConservativeBrdMember
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To: freedomcrusader
A lack of gov't funding is not censorship!!!!

I am an artist, and I am absolutely appalled and embarrassed by these so called "artists". NO ONE is entitled to funding for their "art". I buy my own materials. No one "funds" my work. If I want funds, I have to sell my stuff. These people don't even know the meaning of the word, censorship.

This Pope guy is probably a genius - he has sandbagged these liberal idiots into handing him money - lots of it - for basically being someone who wouldn't even get a handout on the street.

Let the "NEA" become a charity, and rely on donations from people who "like" that kind of stuff. You'll see it dry up pretty fast.

6 posted on 12/05/2001 8:46:08 AM PST by mom of 2 GOP kids
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To: LarryLied
7 posted on 12/05/2001 10:21:32 AM PST by Libertarianize the GOP
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