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Arts leaders from around the country wrapped up a three-day conference here with an agreement on the need to create “a national network of support” for individual creative artists.

The invitational conference, which ended Thursday and was held at a secluded oceanside resort in Montauk, N.Y., brought together 150 representatives from federal, regional, state and local arts organizations, as well as foundations, corporations--and artists as well--to explore ways to better assist artists in a time of increasing economic hardship.

“We came away with a sense that it is time for us, as a national community, to start thinking about the artist as well as about arts issues and arts institutions,” said Theodore Berger, executive director of the New York Foundation for the Arts, sponsor of the conference, in reporting the results of the meeting by phone from his office here Friday. “We concluded that there is no one way to help artists, but that a comprehensive program is needed, nationally, on a state by state level,” he added.


Describing the purpose of the conference, which is thought to be the first of its kind on a national level, as “a general consciousness-raising,” Berger pointed out that arts funding in this country traditionally has been aimed at institutions. He said that there are now nearly 35 states with some sort of assistance to artists--New York is one, California is not. He said that while no specific plans for added assistance came out of the conference, “we all came away agreeing to put such assistance at the top of all our agendas.”

Berger said that a meeting to plan future strategy is scheduled for next month, and that a second national conference is projected within the next 18 months, possibly on the West Coast.

Those participating from California included representatives of the San Francisco Foundation, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles and performance artist Jim Pomeroy.