Public Pressure Brought NEA Curb
American culture will be profoundly impacted by the recent Supreme Court decision restoring “standards of decency” to National Endowment for the Arts grants to artists like Karen Finley, who slathers herself with chocolate and then, in a truly Shakespearean stroke, invites audience members to lick it off (“The Karen Finley Act Reacts,” by Patrick Pacheco, June 27).
In the future, Finley will have to carry on without our tax money and buy her own Hershey bars when she performs her magnum opus, “The Return of the Chocolate-Smeared Woman.” God forbid she won’t be able to afford the kind with nuts.
It was the voices of millions of Americans outraged that their tax dollars were subsidizing explicitly offensive art who contacted their legislators and in no uncertain terms told them to correct the situation at the NEA. Time after time, Sens. Jesse Helms and Orrin Hatch are held responsible by the media for NEA cutbacks while millions of voices are discounted.
Meanwhile, Finley plays off this inaccurate interpretation by portraying herself as a “victim . . . abused by Jesse Helms.” In reality, she and her gang are blatantly to blame for the Senate action. They pushed the limits of decency unrelentingly and insensitively to gain fame and notoriety. Their supreme selfishness resulted in depriving all the arts of needed funding.
Most artists I know, myself included, either use their own hard-earned cash to create their art or pound the pavement to raise that money. Finley will have none of it, instead expecting the government to fund--for a lifetime, apparently--her desire to perform.
It becomes increasingly obvious that Finley isn’t interested in art. She is interested, rather, in something else entirely: Karen Finley.
Among the recipients of grants from the NEA last year was the Cleveland Orchestra, who used this generous sum to fund the preparations for the world premiere this October of a new piano concerto by one of America’s greatest composers of the early 20th century, Charles Edward Ives. (I hesitate to use the word “new” for a work composed mostly before World War I, but the score is “new” to the concert hall.)
This is how the majority of our tax dollars are spent by the NEA. Of course, some people still balk at the idea of Ives’ work being called “music,” but that’s hard to argue.
DAVID G. PORTER