Bill Ivey, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) chairman, presided over his advisory body's meeting last Friday for the last time.
The National Council on the Arts, along with its bidding adieu to Ivey, heard presentations from three of the mainstays who supported the NEA through its turbulent times in the mid-1990s, when a more conservative Congress attempted to kill the agency. Those ardent supporters are the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Americans for the Arts, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, chairman of the conference's committee on arts, culture, and recreation, spoke, along with Robert Lynch, Americans for the Arts' president and CEO, and Jonathan Katz, NASAA's executive director and CEO.
Ivey submitted a letter of resignation to President Bush on Apr. 24. His resignation will take effect at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, eight months before his term was to end. Bush has yet to appoint a replacement.
Meanwhile, a more agreeable Congress apparently is in the process of increasing the NEA's budget from $105 million to $115 million. The Senate has already approved the Interior Appropriations Bill, which included the NEA monies. Sen. Robert Byrd, who chaired both the Interior subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the full committee, apparently ushered the NEA funding through the Senate floor. The bill now goes to a conference committee of Senate and House leaders to iron out differences in the two houses' versions of the legislation.
Last year, the NEA received its first budget increase in eight years, a $7 million increase over the previous five years, when the budget remained just under $100 million. The agency's funding peaked in 1992, with $176 million.
The path for this current increase was cleared on June 21 when the House voted 221-193 to pass the amendment--sponsored by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Steve Horn (R-CA), Norm Dicks (D-WA), and Nancy Johnson (R-CT)--that increased the funding level for the NEA, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Office of Museum Services.
--Roger Armbrust (BPI)