WASHINGTON — DIRECTORS of two arts centers are protesting the potential loss of $250,000 in annual federal grants if a Senate-passed measure banning government aid for works judged obscene becomes law. The Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia said it could lose about $175,000 for each of the next five years because it organized a controversial exhibit by Robert Mapplethorpe.
Spokeswoman Nancy Burd said a $500,000 federal grant to aid in the institute's move to a new building next year at the University of Pennsylvania may also be threatened.
Last week's Senate action also places in jeopardy a $75,000 annual National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant that helps support an artist fellowship program at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The center was targeted by the measure's sponsor, Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina, because it used federal funds to sponsor a photo exhibition by Andres Serrano that included a picture of a crucifix submerged in a container of the artist's urine.
Both centers are seeking to muster support against the proposed federal funding ban, which would last five years.
The funding ban amendment was tacked on to a $171 million NEA appropriation approved by the Senate last Wednesday. It would bar NEA support for ``obscene and indecent materials, including but not limited to depictions of sadomasochism, homoeroticism, the exploitation of children or individuals engaged in sex acts.... '' It will be up to a House-Senate conference committee to determine whether the amendment should remain in the final bill passed by Congress.