Curtains for Art Funding?

Yesterday's Monitor included an article about ArtCenter-South Florida and some of the artists it has helped with studio space and funding. This kind of positive local program is typical of what the National Endowment for the Arts underwrites. But the agency's critics in Congress are not swayed by such benefits.

They berate the NEA endlessly for past grants to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and others whose erotic or profane themes offended public sensitivity. Those grants were a mistake the NEA is unlikely to repeat.

For Republican conservatives in the House, however, that's not good enough. Bringing down the curtain on the NEA has become a point of fierce political pride for them. Last week they zeroed out the agency's relatively tiny $99.5 million nationwide budget.

Now it's up to the Senate and the administration to make sure that was not the final act for a modest national effort to nurture the arts.

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