The New People-Friendly NEA

Only a decade ago, the letters ‘NEA’ would bring a scowl to the face of conservative US politicians, and images of urine-soaked crosses to the minds of the general public. The arts endowment’s budget was gutted during those years, and many assumed that the country’s tradition of federal support for the arts had finally been killed off. But this year, the decidedly conservative Bush administration called on Congress to sharply increase the NEA’s budget, and the taint of controversy seems to have vanished in the hands of the endowment’s soothing new director, Dana Gioia. “The NEA’s turnaround has been achieved, in part, through high-profile tours of unassailable works and by reaching out to traditionally underserved areas, including Southern states.”