The head of the National Endowment for the Arts has decided to reject grant requests for three gay and lesbian film festivals, an NEA source confirmed Thursday.

Anne-Imelda Radice, NEA acting chairwoman, was expected to inform the groups officially in a letter Friday that was likely to renew critics’ attacks that she is responding to political pressures.

‘We’re upset’

“We’re upset by it,” said Julian Low, national director of the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, an Oakland arts service agency that receives NEA money and distributes it to media arts projects.

“We think that the argument she will make is that her decision is based on artistic excellence, but we feel that’s a smokescreen … that it’s largely for political reasons,” he said.

Low said he was notified informally that a requested $ 17,500 for three gay and lesbian film festivals would not be approved. The money was to go to the Gay and Lesbian Media Coalition in Los Angeles, the New Festival in New York and the Pittsburgh Intl. Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Radice rejection

An NEA official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that Radice, after five months of review, had decided to reject them and that a letter relaying the decision was expected to go out Friday.

Josh Dare, a spokesman for the independent federal agency, declined to comment, saying, “We don’t discuss ongoing applications until a resolution has been made.”

Radice is likely to get a flurry of protests for rejecting these grants, just as she did last spring when she overruled two advisory groups and denied federal money for two exhibits that both had sexual content.

At the time, shortly after she took over as acting chairwoman, she said the projects “did not measure up” and were “unlikely to have the long-term artistic significance necessary to merit endowment funding.”

Events already held

All three of the film festivals involved in the latest grant rejection have already been held, Low said.

The NEA earlier this year agreed to give $ 250,000 to the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture to redistribute to various arts programs the alliance deemed worthy. Under the NEA’s procedures, the alliance in April recommended to the agency 53 organizations to share the money.

In September, the alliance got approval for 50 of them, but was informed this week that three would not be able to share in the money, Low said.

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