Art Lessons: Learning from the Rise and Fall of Public Arts Funding

By Alice Goldfarb Marquis | Go to book overview

6
A NIGHT AT THE
OPERA

NO SOONER HAD RONALD REAGAN charged into Washington, spewing sound and fury against Big Government, than the new president's budget people targeted the tiny NEA and NEH for massive cuts. They vowed that euthanasia would follow. From the proposed Carter budget, which called for the NEA to receive a 10 percent raise to $175 million, the Reaganites expected to slash more than half, offering $85 million. An internal budget document charged that "for too long, the Endowments have spread Federal financing into an ever-widening range of artistic and literary endeavor," driving out private and corporate support. The unkindest cut was the new administration's determination to rescind more than $30 million appropriated for the NEA during the previous year but as yet unspent. The rescission would wipe out those grantees who received most of their funding near the end of the fiscal year, including those in the media arts, the visual arts, and the dance touring. As the coup de grâce, the new president proposed a task force charged with justifying the butchery to come. 1

Livingston Biddle, whose term as NEA chair still had one year to run, navigated adroitly through this fusillade. He reactivated his Republican contacts to gauge the intensity of the opposition's will, rallied his troops through congressional hearings, extended friendly feelers to the wielders of budget blades, and galvanized the stunned arts constituency into renewed activism. He reached straight to the White House, managing to entice the new occupant into attending a Kennedy Center performance by one of the endowment's regular beneficiaries, the Dance Theater of Harlem. To the man who would be known as the Teflon President, Biddle demon

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Art Lessons: Learning from the Rise and Fall of Public Arts Funding
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Art Lessons - Learning from the Rise and Fall of Public Arts Funding *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • 1 - Seventy-Six Trombones *
  • 2 - West Side Story *
  • 3 - A Man for All Seasons *
  • 4 - The Nutcracker *
  • 5 - The Sorcerer's Apprentice *
  • 6 - A Night at the Opera *
  • 7 - Flowers of Evil *
  • 8 - The Beggar's Opera *
  • Notes *
  • Index *
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