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Wan Column Misrepresents NEA

Wan Column Misrepresents NEA

I am writing in response to the column by Elaine Y. Wan '01 on funding for the NEA ["National Endowment For Smut," April 3]. Not only does Wan's column lack in originality, but the majority consists of outright lies and misrepresentations. I found it surprising that an MIT student could make such a poor argument, but at least Wan reminds every reader that stale intellectual bread is always hard to digest.

Fortunately, I can give the readers some of the actual facts so they can make an informed decision on the subject. Wan's figure of two billion dollars a year of government funding for the NEA is just plain wrong. In fact, funding has never exceeded even $300 million dollars a year. If Wan had done her homework, she would have realized figure is actually just above $100 million a year, but maybe she flushed her economic sense down her over-priced military toilet. In any case, this means that every American is contributing around 30 cents a year to the NEA, which does have a review board of representatives from various fields of the arts to determine which artists are deserving of this funding. That is not much to ask for all of the great art programs which results from this meager individual contribution.

Secondly, Wan's knowledge of funding for art institutions can be described as aberrant or totally lacking. I do not find either description to be unwarranted in her case. To categorize the Philadelphia Orchestra as money-rich is outrageous. I spent three summers working with arts institutions in Philadelphia and the economic state of this group, like most arts groups in this country, is dire, mainly because of the gross exaggerations made by people like Wan.

Finally, Wan has a wonderful way of making vague suggestions as to the solutions for funding the arts. In fact, they almost match Wan's ability to generalize in the rest of her column. She employs terms like "diversity" but never concern herself with explaining them. Furthermore, on the financial front, she encourages more private funding of the arts, but never acknowledges that America has the highest private rate of individual and corporate philanthropy in the world.

I hope the points that I have highlighted will encourage readers to seek a more informed opinion. I also hope that Wan will be more careful in the future when she chooses to wear someone else's tired old argument. Remember, as in this case, the concepts may not fit and they also may reek of the day old juice of the last person who gorged himself on the intoxicating elixir of misinformation.

Thomas G Beischer G