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Arts and Humanities


The two principal federal agencies charged with overseeing federal policy with respect the arts and humanities are the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). In FY 2000, the two agencies received $98 million and $115 million in funding, respectively.

The NEA has been a lightening rod for conservative activists concerned about arts projects that it has funded that many find offensive. In 1989, for example, the agency funded a project by photographer Andres Serrano featuring a photograph of a crucifix in a jar of urine. The agency also funded works by  photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, some of which depicted homosexual sex practices. Since then, conservatives have actively sought to eliminate the agency or at least sharply cut its budget.

Supporters of the agency argue that such controversial projects comprise a tiny percentage of the over 111,000 arts projects funded by the agency since its creation by Congress in 1965, and that reforms instituted by Congress in 1990 have substantially reduced the number of such controversial grants. Those reforms were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1998.

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