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Exhibit to Open Without NEA Grant

By Hyun Soo Kim

Donations from the rock group Aerosmith and playwright Jon Robin Baitz have enabled the "Corporal Politics" exhibit at MIT's List Visual Arts Center to open as planned despite the National Endowment for the Arts' rejection of the exhibit's grant proposal.

Anne-Imelda Radice, acting chairman of the NEA, denied the List Center's request for a $10,000 grant, saying the exhibit lacked "artistic excellence." The theme of "Corporal Politics" is the human body. A similar exhibit at the Virginia Commonwealth University was also denied funding.

Helaine Posner, curator of the List Center, said, "Standards are artistic excellence, but content restrictions were placed on our show, and this is not in the NEA guidelines. Sexual explicitness in art is not a valid standard."

Radice's decision has sparked many protests in the arts community. Aerosmith's donation of $10,000 was a protest against the decision. Baitz donated half of his NEA grant of $15,000 to the exhibit at the List Center, and the other half to the exhibit at the Virginia Commonwealth University.

According to Posner, Baitz legally accepted money from the NEA and then gave the donations from his own account. "[Baitz] wrote us a letter basically saying that he did it to protest restricting the freedom of expression," Posner said.

The exhibit was originally composed of four artists: Kiki Smith, Rona Pondick, Robert Gober, and Annette Messager. It has now expanded to include body sculptures by Louise Bourgeois and a combination of words and images about AIDS by David Wojnarowicz. An interactive video installation on AIDS called "Self Portrait," by Lilla Locurto and William Outcault, is also part of the exhibit, which will be open from Dec. 11 to Feb. 7, 1993.

Posner feels that Radice's decision increased awareness of the problems within the grant process. At its regular quarterly meeting in August, the National Council of the Arts discussed a proposal to form a Grants Communication and Procedures Committee. The committee would judge the fairness of the procedures for deciding grant awards. Though the resolution to form the committee passed, NEA spokesperson Kathy Christy said no action has been taken yet.

The List Center will continue to apply for funding from the NEA, Posner said. "We've worked for ten years with the NEA and hope to work with them in the future."