O.C. Museum Gets $150,000 From NEA : Grants: Laguna Art Museum will accept funds and 'abide by the rules,' director says.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded the Laguna Art Museum a $150,000 grant, the largest ever to an Orange County arts organization, agency officials said Wednesday.

The museum will accept the grant, museum director Charles Desmarais said.

Several arts organizations nationwide have rejected NEA funds to protest a requirement that 1990 grantees certify that they will not produce or present work that the NEA might consider obscene.

In Orange County, the Art Institute of Southern California has rejected a $15,000 grant; the Newport Harbor Art Museum, which has $100,000 pending in NEA grants, has sued the arts agency over the anti-obscenity certification.

But to turn down the money "is to play into the hands of conservatives who would deny us funds that enable us to do programs," Desmarais said.

Some members of Congress and religious leaders have criticized the NEA for funding a small number of projects they consider obscene or sacrilegious. The criticisms resulted in the controversial anti-obscenity pledge.

Museum officials, however, said they will submit a letter with the NEA grant acceptance form expressing objection to the certification, "but saying that we will abide by the rules," Desmarais said.

A similar letter has been sent upon the museum's acceptance of previous 1990 grants, he said.

The grant will support an integrated series of programs made up of exhibitions, publications, research, education, public programming and collecting, concentrating on the history of 20th-Century art in California, NEA spokesman Josh Dare said.

Desmarais, who told museum members about the pending grant at an annual membership meeting Tuesday, also said the museum has added five works to its collection of California art: A large-scale, untitled 1968 painting by Lorser Feitelson and four 1930s landscapes by Ejnar Hansen.

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