CGAOTD (Creative Grant Application Of The Day)
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 4 Mar 98 11:26:57 -0800
Subject: CGAOTD (Creative Grant Application Of The Day)
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NEA Grant Proposal Looks Like a Bomb(er)
Group Seeks $98 Million: The Agency's Entire Budget
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 26, 1998; Page A13
The chronically embattled National Endowment for the Arts, which barely
survived a congressional death threat last year, is scheduled on Friday to
complete its selection of this year's grantees.
Will the agency support inflammatory projects like Robert Mapplethorpe's
collection of homoerotic photographs that stirred such ire several years
ago? Or will it approve a menu of mainstream creations that could leave the
agency open to charges that it has capitulated to conservative Republicans?
The NEA Army, a ragtag band of Seattle arts activists, offers a novel
solution to the NEA's dilemma: The group has applied for a grant of $98
million -- the arts agency's entire annual budget.
The group proposes using the money to model a $98 million piece of a B-2
Stealth bomber -- perhaps a piece of wing and a chunk of landing gear for
the $2 billion aircraft, using actual hardware or paper mache and solid gold
-- and then to carry it across the country with a sign that says, simply,
NEA officials said they could not remember anyone ever having asked for the
agency's entire budget -- unless one counts Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.),
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and others in
Congress who, in the wake of several controversial exhibitions funded by
the NEA, have sought to transfer the agency's funds to programs that, in
their opinion, are more deserving of government support, such as national
As a self-declared nexus of art and armament, the NEA Army hopes to bridge
that gulf and show the world that opposing sides in this funding battle are
not so far apart.
"People who are against public funding for controversial art should realize
that art doesn't have to be as scary as an interesting photo of Christ or
a nude. It can be as tame as an instrument of mass destruction," deadpanned
David Feit, the NEA Army's artistic director.
Feit, a University of Washington graduate student in political and cultural
geography and part-time singer of folk songs and opera, is one-fourth of
the group's command. Other members are performance artist Dylan Clark; U.W.
zoology graduate student and "ant pornographer" Jason Hodin, whose explicit
but unsalacious photos of insect ovaries can be seen via a link from the
group's Web site:
http://weber.u.washington.edu/~hodin/NEAArmy/orgbgrd.htm; and Tim Osumi,
a musician with the band Stata-matic.
"We're definitely serious about the grant," said Hodin, answering the
question most frequently asked of the group. The plan is to drag the modicum
of materiel from town to town across the country and then display it on the
Washington Mall as a monument to late 20th century American ideals.
"Art education is partly about opening people's minds about what art is and
what it can mean to them, and one of the NEA's mandates is to make art more
accessible to the public," Feit said. "This project would not only open
access to a piece of construction that many have not had the opportunity to
see, but would also allow people to see it as art."
As with all art, Feit said, its meaning would be open to interpretation.
"Some people may go to the Mall and see it as a symbol of big government,
while others might have contemplative moments about the ideals of American
democracy," he said. "Some will see this as everything that's wrong with
America today, others will see it as what makes America so great. Either
way, it's America."
NEA spokeswoman Cherie Simon said the grant proposal would be evaluated
along with hundreds of others in the category of Creation and Presentation.
Whatever its fate, Simon said, the application itself can be appreciated as
a work of art.
"Washington state is known for being a model for arts advocacy," Simon said,
"but I must say this is a new and creative approach."
Michele Davis, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Armey, said the
Seattle proposal was unlikely to gain her boss's support.
"His opposition to NEA funding has always been based on the general
principle that the government shouldn't be deciding what is art and what
isn't art," she said. "Whether it's glorifying nudity or glorifying military
hardware doesn't really matter."
Undaunted, the NEA Army has already begun to see just how much of a B-2 it
might get for $98 million. Officials at Boeing and Northrop Grumman, the
aircraft's primary contractors, have been friendly but ultimately unhelpful,
Feit said. After discussions with an engineering professor, however, the
group has come up with a few options. A segment of wing with landing gear
might be perfect.
"Just like anyone in their right mind buying a car wants to kick the tire
to see if it's worth buying, the public could collectively kick the B-2
bomber's landing gear," Feit said. Besides, he added, for an exhibit that
will literally be dragged across the country, "having something round and
rollable would be a real asset."
Feit said the group may apply again next year if it fails this time around,
and would adjust its sights downward if Congress reduces the agency's
"The beauty of this monument is it derives its power from being a physical
manifestation of the NEA budget," he said. "A reduced budget would only mean
a more concise piece and a more pointed message."
And what if conservatives get their way and kill the NEA altogether?
"If that happened," Feit said, "we'd have the world's most stealthy monument
Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
© 1998 Peter Langston