The House voted Thursday to cut the proposed $ 174.9 million budget for the National Endowment for the Arts by 5%, or about $ 9 million.The proposal passed by a vote of 244-184. After the vote, NEA officials said they were disappointed by the lack of support from the House. It “is particularly disappointing considering the adverse impact it will have on many of the thousands of communities whose lives are made better — both culturally and economically — by Endowment funding,” an official NEA statement said. During Thursday’s debate on the House floor, critics of the agency cited a show currently running at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. The show, titled “Abject Art: Repulsion and Desire in American Art,” features a three-foot mound of excrement, films by Annie Sprinkle and Suzie Silver and works by Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe. The latter two came in for intense criticism when NEA funding was being considered a couple of years ago. NEA officials on Thursday reiterated that the federal agency did not fund the “Abject Art” exhibit. The Whitney did receive $ 20,000 in NEA funds last year for an independent study program. The matter will now go before the Senate at a later date. The agency’s two-year reauthorization bill, meanwhile, has not yet been debated by the House, although it easily passed through a House subcommittee last month. President Clinton has yet to nominate someone to chair the agency, which has been without a chair since the presidential election. At that time, Anne Radice had been the interim chair, stepping in after John Frohnmayer was fired by the Bush Administration in February 1992.
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