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

By Alice Goldfarb Marquis | Go to book overview

7
FLOWERS OF EVIL

THE EXTERIOR OF THE NANCY HANKS CENTER, where the NEA has its offices, is a brooding ten-story neo-Romanesque pile on Pennsylvania Avenue, about halfway between the White House and the Capitol. Built in 1899 as the headquarters for the U.S. Postal Service, as well as Washington's main post office, the gray rusticated stone structure, with its turrets, gabled dormers, and 315-foot tower, was soon nicknamed the Old Tooth. After the Postal Service moved to more modern quarters in 1934, the building fell into decay. Almost from the day it opened, urban planners had deplored the structure's unfortunate clash with the Federal Triangle's prevailing neoclassical style. However, when the building was scheduled for demolition in 1971, it caught Nancy Hanks's fancy and she began a dogged campaign to secure it as permanent home for both endowments.

Too small for a building of its own, the NEA had camped in various Washington spaces, at times so briefly that some moving boxes were never unpacked. In one such temporary refuge, a condominium near the Watergate complex, employees were frequently driven from the building by bomb threats directed at their downstairs neighbor, the U.S. Office of Equal Employment Opportunity. Determined to find a secure permanent home for her agency, Hanks dragged her deputy Michael Straight and the Fine Arts Commission chairman J. Carter Brown to tramp through the dilapidated old post office building. The dingy, echoing interior housed the FBI's wiretapping operations, and the tower was accessible only by a rickety ladder. "It had been a favorite roosting place for the city's pigeons,"

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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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