Censorship Of The Arts. Essay

942 words - 4 pages

George Bernard Shaw once said, "All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships." It is believed that some of the key functions of art are to inspire, to provoke, and to challenge existing assumptions. (This comes from the book Censorship in America) I agree with defenders of government arts funding, that if the government wishes to fund a constitutionally protected activity such as artistic expression, it must do so as indiscriminately as possibly. Otherwise, it illegally relegates certain viewpoints to second-class status. This violates the First Amendment whose primary purpose is to protect unpopular or minority views from being silenced. (This comes from The Facts on File News Services, "Update: Arts Funding") Marjorie Heins, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney said, "When the government is supporting free expression ( whether through arts or humanities grants, libraries, or public universities)it cannot discriminate in its funding decisions against unconventional or controversial ideas". Therefore I believe that funding only inoffensive art unfairly restricts artist's rights to free expression.The first national program designed to benefit the arts was the Federal Arts Project. It was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 but as World War II began Congress eliminated the program. Currently the federal government sponsors an agency called the National Endowment for the Arts, or the NEA. The NEA was established in September of 1965 in combination with the National Endowment for the Humanities. The NEA distributed about 20% of its funds directly to the states, all of which established their own arts funding agencies by 1974. (This comes from The Facts on File News Services, "Update: Arts Funding") NEA grants are awarded on a selective basis to artists or organizations whose projects are deemed to have artistic merit. The decisions about artistic merit is made by a series of expert panels whose staff is appointed by the president.In the late 1980's there were two main controversies surrounding the NEA. The first was a traveling exhibit of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. This exhibit included several photographs of homosexual activity between men. The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, which organized this exhibit, had for many years received funding from the NEA. Many critics were outraged that public tax dollars had sponsored something that they considered to be so immoral.The second controversial project which was also an exhibition of photographs occurred in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art or SCCA. The exhibit was a collection of work by Andres Serrano and contained a photograph entitled "Piss...

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