The National Endowment for the Arts agreed Friday to pay $ 252,000 to four artists whose grant application were rejected in 1990 amid conservative complaints that the government was supporting obscene art.

The artists — Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes and Tim Miller — agreed to accept the money in exchange for dropping some of the claims contained in a lawsuit they filed in September 1990, NEA spokeswoman Ginny Terzano said.

The four had accused John Frohnmayer, who was chairman of the NEA at the time , of rejecting their applications on political rather than artistic grounds.

Depositions Frohnmayer gave during the long legal dispute showed that he did not follow proper procedures, Terzano said.

“The evidence that we used in weighing the settlement is based on his recent testimony he made under oath in preparation for a trial,” she said. “This settlement therefore prevents a costly and a useless trial at the expense of the American people.”

During Frohnmayer’s controversial tenure at NEA, conservative lawmakers and religious groups cited earlier grants as evidence of the NEA’s willingness to use taxpayer’s money to subsidize obscene or anti-religious works.

Earlier performances by Finley sometimes featured her smearing her body with chocolate and filling her bra with gelatin.

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