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Cincinnati v. Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center

The Nea And Sexually Explicit Art

Congress established the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 1965 as an institution to distribute grant monies to artists and arts organizations. Beginning in 1989, with a controversy over an NEA-funded exhibit of photographs by the late Robert Mapplethorpe, the NEA has been at the center of a controversy over publicly funded art.

On one side are those who profess themselves proponents of free speech and/or the arts, who hold that attempts to withhold funding for artwork such as Mapplethorpe's constitutes a type of censorship. On the other side are those who position themselves as defenders of public morality, who claim that the government has no business funding Mapplethorpe's photographs. To some, public funding of the arts constitutes yet another form of government intrusion into the lives of its people; to others, the refusal to fund sexually explicit art is itself a form of intrusion.

In medieval times and during the Renaissance, artists had patrons--initially kings and cardinals, and later wealthy individuals--who funded their creations. The twentieth century has seen a return to the patronage system, in the form of government funding. Many consider the government's ability to make such determinations just a product of the modern-day patronage system.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Cincinnati v. Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center - Significance, Obscenity Or Art?, The Nea And Sexually Explicit Art, Further Readings