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Arts Endowment Defends Grants Urged For Elimination

March 28, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Endowment for the Arts stood firm Wednesday in its support for $30,000 in artists’ fellowships which Fortune magazine listed as prime candidates for elimination to help reduce federal budget deficits.

Katherine Christie, an endowment spokeswoman, said each of the four endowment fellowships cited by the magazine were approved by review panels of outside experts for individual artists in the past year. Such fellowships usually are granted for one year.

″The endowment is not the arbiter of art,″ she said. ″Through its peer review panels, and with the advice of the National Council on the Arts, it endeavors to assist a broad range of artistic activity judged worthy of its support.″

Ms. Christie said the individual project fellowships represent less than 5 percent of the endowment’s nearly $150 million in annual spending to underwrite artists and arts organizations. Most grants by the independent federal agency are made in the form of matching grants requiring non- government contributions.

The projects that Fortune suggested for elimination were:

-A $10,000 grant ″to research, design, and test a new bathtub for the elderly and disabled.″

The endowment said the award went to Robert F. Graeff, associate professor for industrial design at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for a design aimed at reducing the 275,000 annual injuries suffered by the elderly and disabled in bathtub or shower accidents.

-A $5,000 grant to explore ″the use of worked sheet metal and cast metal as integrated elements of clothing and fabric.″

Ms. Christie said that fellowship was awarded to Joan Konkel of Washington, D.C., a fashion designer who proposed ″using design as a problem-solving tool.″

-A $10,000 music composition grant for a work combining the ″ambiance of large underground caverns″ with the ″sounds of high tension wires and the earth vibrations of pylons.″

The endowment spokeswoman said the award went to composer Alvin Curran of Providence, R.I., one of 40 winners selected from among 600 applicants. She said his ″atmospheric music″ is an established art form exemplified by composer John Cage’s composition entitled ″Roaratorio.″

-A $5,000 grant to explore the relationship between women writers and their gardens.

Ms. Christie said the fellowship was awarded to Patrice Todisco of Melrose, Mass., for a study of American women writers who also designed fashionable gardens in the 100 years ended in 1930.

Fortune’s suggested budget savings in arts endowment fellowships was contained in the last article of a four-part series which also proposed cutbacks ranging from the MX missile and farm subsidies to college student aid and the Export-Import Bank.

The magazine said its deficit-reduction plan would balance the federal budget in about six years by holding the overall increase in government spending to the annual rate of inflation without raising taxes.

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