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THE NEW YORK TIMES, "Private Donors Unite to Support Act by the Government"

May 3, 1999



By Judith H. Dobrzynski

 Nearly two dozen foundations and philanthropists, reacting to cuts in Federal arts spending, have joined forces to support artists who challenge convention. The new group will attempt to make up for some of the individual grants the Government ended in 1994 after years of controversy over works dealing with nudity, sexuality and other provocative themes. The new nonprofit organization, called Creative Capital Foundation, will be announced officially next week. But it has already made it clear that it will not shy away from the kind of innovative art that incited protests by religious and political conservatives. "This is a boisterous, diverse country, and we have always had art that upsets people," said Archibald L. Gillies, President of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and one of the new group’s organizers. "Controversy," he added, "won’t bother us at all." Going a step further, the organization will actively proselytize for freedom of expression. The grants it plans to give each year to 50 or 60 artists will require the winners to work with experts to develop audiences for their art and to market it. At its peak in the late 1980’s the National Endowment for the Arts awarded as much as $10.5 million a year to more than 750 individual artists in grants of $1,100 to $45,000. But since then the endowment has almost been eliminated several times by members of congress upset by those grants and by what they said was the agency’s distance from American values. It has survived, but with a budget cut nearly in half from its peak to $98 million in the current fiscal year and no appetite to make awards that would restart the cultural wars of the last decade. Creative Capital is stepping into that breach. "The Supreme Court has ruled about pornography, but everything beyond that is fair game," Mr. Gillies said. "In this organizations absolute principles, one comes first and that is funding experimental, challenging art on its merits. Then after selecting it, we see what the market potential is. The nature of the content is not a factor."

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