NEA eliminates grants for museums

January 09, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

THE NATIONAL Endowment of the Arts has eliminated five established arts endowment grant programs, including one that specifically provides money for museums to purchase the work of living American artists.

Museum directors across the country and working artists say that the museum-purchase program had, in fits and starts over the last 20 years, become one of the most important mechanisms by which predominantly emerging artists reached the crucial plateau of making their first sales to legitimate museum collections.

The NEA, in a letter sent to dozens of museum grant applicants Dec. 20, said that elimination of the programs was the result of the complicated political accommodation that renewed the NEA's legislative mandate last fall and appropriated money for the agency for 1991.

Andrew Oliver Jr., director of the NEA's museum program, who signed the letter, said in a telephone interview yesterday, "We realize that this will be painful."

Not only is the money gone for 1991, he said, but the NEA has already decided not to offer the category in 1992, when additional transfers to state arts councils will be required. And, hTC said Oliver, the art-purchase program -- founded in 1971 but suspended from 1981 to 1987 under NEA budget cuts in the Reagan administration -- may never be resumed.

"It would be wrong for me to arouse any sort of optimism at this point," he said.

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