Amid platters of sushi and designer taco tidbits, National Endowment for the Arts chair Jane Alexander made her pitch to Hollywood last week: The federal agency is in trouble.

“Since 1979, the NEA has lost almost 50% of its purchasing power and is now threatened with elimination, with being ‘neutralized,’ ” Alexander said, addressing a reception of agents, stars and lawyers including Ted Danson, Annette Bening, Jamie Lee Curtis, Anita Hill and ICM topper Jeff Berg in a conference room at the International Creative Management offices. “Chances are if you began your career after 1965, the NEA has touched your life somewhere. There are young people like you who have the same dreams. Let us keep those dreams alive for the next generation.”

Alexander said the latest proposal being mulled by Congress is to reduce the NEA’s 1996 budget by 40%, reduce it again 40% the following year and cut all funding in 1998. “Luckily we have a lot of supporters in the Senate,” Alexander said.

Her plea to the Hollywood community was for the town’s stars and power brokers to champion the federal role in the nation’s culture and take their cause to Capitol Hill. “If we are zeroed out, the U.S. would be the only major nation to have no governmental voice about the arts,” she said.

“Secondly, we must acknowledge that the nonprofits are the percolators, the farm teams, for the commercial sector,” she said.

Alexander also said the NEA is offering $180,000 in grant money to film archives directly for film preservation work that has to be matched two-to-one. The money will help replace the $350,000 in funds cut this past year when the NEA went through one of several budget cuts.

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