With President Clinton taking his family to see Broadway shows, and perhaps, in its own way, with NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani taking the stage with Victor/Victoria's Julie Andrews, government's attitude toward the importance of art and culture in society may be changing. To capitalize on that spirit, ARTNOW is planning a demonstration near the Capitol, April 19.
ARTNOW, "an adhoc coalition of organizations, institutions, individuals and 300 volunteers," counts among its advisory board Beth Henley, Tony Kushner, Hal Prince, Tony Randall, Phylicia Rashad, Richard Schechner and Edward Albee (who will speak at the demonstration). Its sponsors include Theatre Communications Group, NYU's Tisch School Of The Arts and Actor's Equity Association.
On April 19, from 11 AM-4 PM, ARTNOW hopes "to gather thousands of artists and art lovers together to demonstrate the value of passionate, diverse, original and provocative art." The demonstration will occur opposite the Capitol Building, in the Washington DC mall. Speakers and performers will appear, complemented by performances and art exhibits across the Mall.
Says Schechner, who is currently directing Three Sisters Off-Off Broadway, "ARTNOW is the biggest opportunity in 30 years to identify, construct and deploy a broad coalition of the arts...for a more open, creative and responsive national community." The organization seeks a unified response to "increasing threats to arts funding, arts-in-education and freedom of expression."
A paragraph taken from the organization's website -- http://www.nyu.edu/pages/artnow -- explains the mission of ARTNOW: "The arts in this country are in trouble. Many local, state and federal governments have made significant cutbacks in arts funding. After school drama clubs and dance classes are disappearing one by one. Public funding for the arts is scarce and often attached to censoring regulations. Reauthorization of the National Endowment for the Arts will be considered by Congress this spring. Many members of Congress have vowed to eliminate the NEA completely. Others will try to further reduce the already beleaguered NEA budget. Many will continue to support the current legislation that denies NEA funding to individual artists. ARTNOW seeks an uncensored and fully funded NEA. Arts freedom is political freedom, and censorship in the arts is often the first step in curtailing other rights and freedoms." For information on the ARTNOW demonstration April 19, call (212) 998- 1630.
Cindy Brizzell, managing director of ARTNOW, said she hoped the afternoon's entertainment would be "a mixture of professional, amateur and emerging artists, including childrens and college student groups from around the country. The biggest name confirmed is Richard Adler (Damn Yankees) performing a medley of his tunes."
Asked how ARTNOW would fund the Washington demonstration, Brizell said the organization started "a grassroots campaign to raise money, with co sponsors donating up to $500, but no major sponsors. Tony Kushner has been our knight in shining armour..he's really kept us going."
--By David Lefkowitz