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How Obscene is This! The Decency Clause Turns 20

how obscene is thisHow Obscene is This! The Decency Clause Turns 20: Panel I

Wednesday, September 15, 2010
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Tishman Auditorium
66 West 12th Street


On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Congressional decision to require the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to consider “general standards of decency and respect” in awarding grants, the National Coalition Against Censorship and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School collaborate on two panel discussions and a video interview project evaluating censorship and arts funding today.

Prominent artists, non-profit arts organization directors, art dealers, and founders of alternative spaces examine issues related to how the introduction of the decency clause in particular, and the culture wars in general, have affected funding, free speech and self-censorship, and how attitudes towards notions of decency and respect for the values and beliefs of the American public have changed over the past twenty years.

Panel Discussion I

Survival vs. Autonomy: Public Funding of the Arts, Free Speech and Self Censorship

Have arts organizations modified their programming in the aftermath of the culture wars? What alternative funding sources and strategies have they had to employ? How does the commercial market relate to the issue of decency and community standards? What is the future of government funding for arts institutions and individual artists?

The panel examines how the introduction of the decency clause and culture wars over arts funding in general have contributed to a growing distinction between conservative and avant-garde institutions. A number of alternative organizations have sprung up that simply forfeit – or are prepared to forfeit – government funding. Panelists include founders of new alternative spaces that seek autonomy from government funding, leaders of art projects that have been supported by the NEA, and key figures in public art funding.

Moderated by Laura Flanders, GRITtv.


Beka Economopoulos, Founder of Not an Alternative and No-Space Gallery
Bill Ivey, Former Chair of the NEA (1998-2001)
Magdalena Sawon, Owner and Director of Postmasters Gallery
Nato Thompson, Chief Curator at Creative Time
Martha Wilson, Founding Director of Franklin Furnace

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