- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

The National Endowment for the Arts, a sometimes beleaguered federal arts agency nearly zeroed out by Congress several years ago, still is looking for a leader.
Michael P. Hammond, dean of Rice University School of Music in Houston, was nominated for the job last fall but died unexpectedly just after he moved to Washington in January to start his job.
Edward Moy, an associate director in the White House personnel office, is conducting the search to replace Mr. Hammond. Judging from similar appointments those of Mr. Hammond and Bruce Cole, director of the National Endowment for the Humanities the Bush administration is seeking someone in his 60s, well-connected on the conservative or Republican circuit and with impressive academic credentials.
"What we want is somebody who really has broad experience in the arts," says Bob Lynch of Americans for the Arts, a lobbying group for 4,000 local arts councils nationwide.
"Ideally, he or she would have multi-arts experience and understand the overall system of support for arts in Americas, which is a complex ecosystem of public and private arts support," he says. "Public support is 10 percent of the puzzle, but the effect of public money in leveraging other support has been huge."
The appointee also would need good relations with House Republicans, who in July 1997 voted to defund the NEA because of arts grants deemed pornographic, religiously insensitive or just plain offensive. Today, the NEA has a $115.2 million annual budget and appears to have shifted up from the basement of congressional opinion.
That move was the work of Bill Ivey, the NEA chairman who took over from Jane Alexander in May 1998. He persuaded Republican skeptics that publicly funded art was in the country's best interest and recruited several members of Congress to sit on the NEA Council, which determines who receives arts grants. Fifty-five percent of all applications to the NEA receive funding, compared with 17 percent of all applications to its sister agency, the NEH.
The American Arts Alliance, which represents 2,600 nonprofit arts groups, suggested in a Jan. 31 letter to Mr. Moy that the new NEA chairman possess some expertise in the performing arts, be sensitive to the needs of artists and nonprofit arts groups, be an articulate and persuasive political strategist and have a vision as to how the arts can advance American interests around the world.
Steve Balch of the National Association of Scholars in Princeton says the director should be either an artist or someone who has the administrative knowledge to manage a federal agency, and must be able to defend the NEA budget at congressional hearings.
Names mentioned for the job include Dean Anderson, a former Smithsonian administrator and recently retired deputy director for planning and management at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Stephanie French, formerly vice president of corporate contributions and cultural programs at Philip Morris Co. in New York, also has been mentioned. She has a master's degree in business administration from Harvard and has served on numerous boards for museums, arts and ballet groups.
"She's a very, very competent person," Mr. Lynch says, "with lots of experience in grant giving and a huge knowledge of arts funding."
Mrs. French said it was "premature" to discuss her chances. A friend, she said, persuaded Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, to submit her name.
"I would love to serve the arts and the administration in this way," she said.
Lynne Munson, the new deputy director for the NEH, is another contender because of her wide knowledge of modern American art. Her 2000 book, "Exhibitionism: Art in an Age of Intolerance," skewered the NEA for political correctness. Hers was among concerns that led to the federal government's addition of "Challenge America," $17 million worth of funding for community arts, to the NEA's budget to ensure that small cities and rural attention received arts dollars as well.
Another contender, perhaps the only black Republican considering the job, is Bill Strickland, sworn in yesterday as a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He is a former member of the NEA Council, which determines arts grants. He oversees the Manchester Craftman's Guild, a community development center for the arts in northern Pittsburgh.
Today, the NEA released names of the recipients of 851 grants worth $60.7 million. The vast majority went to state arts agencies, and to the usual lineup of ballet and opera companies, theaters, artists' residencies, symphonies, museums and arts festivals.
Some of the usually contentious recipients of the NEA's largesse were omitted this year. Others, such as the Manhattan Theatre Club, which in 1998 sponsored the play "Corpus Christi" about a homosexual Messiah, received $40,000, but for a long-distance learning program with 12 to 15 high schools across the country. The Franklin Furnace and the Kitchen, avant-garde New York theaters that have featured sexually explicit acts, received $15,000 and $28,000 respectively for their archive projects.
The District's 34 grants totaling $2 million included $15,000 to American University for literary programs for "The Diane Rehm Show," $15,000 for Gallaudet University's Young Scholars summer arts program, two grants of $150,000 for jazz and classical music programming and on National Public Radio, $25,000 for two patriotic concerts played at the U.S. Capitol to be broadcast to 10 million to 12 million viewers over the Public Broadcasting Service and $20,000 to Gala Inc. Grupo de Artistas Latinoamericanos for a production of "Cervantes: Master Between Acts."
The Dance Institute of Washington received $10,000 for introductory ballet classes for first- through third-graders; KanKouran West African Dance Co. got $25,000 for five days of West African dancing and drumming workshops over Labor Day weekend; and the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center got $5,000 for its annual Jewish Film Festival.
Virginia's 13 grants totaling $782,000 included $20,000 for the restoration and conservation of Monumental Church, a national historic landmark in Richmond; $25,000 for a fourth-grade dance education program associated with the Richmond Ballet; and $25,000 for a radio series and chamber music performances at the Barns of Wolf Trap in Reston.
Maryland's 19 grants totaling $2.1 million included $15,000 for the Writer's Center in Bethesda; $70,000 for a joint effort involving Baltimore Public Schools and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; and $20,000 for the Cambodian Network Council Inc. in Rockville.

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