Jane Alexander, the famed stage actress and former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, will be a guest speaker at a planned Oct. 1 rally protesting New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's threat to withdraw city monies from, and possibly evict, the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
The rally, which will take place outside the museum from 5 PM to 7 PM, and feature dozens of speakers form the art world, is being organized by the American Civil Liberties Union. A spokesperson for the ACLU said Alexander had been contacted but had not yet committed to the event.
As chair of the NEA from 1993 to 1997, Jane Alexander fought more than her share of battle over government funding of the arts, albeit on a federal level.
The controversy, which has brought the usually staid BMA an unprecedented amount of attention, began last week, when Giuliani expressed his displeasure with "Sensation," a show of contemporary British art due to open at the BMA on Oct. 2. He labeled the exhibit "sick stuff" and objected in particular to an artwork in which an artistic rendering of the Virgin Mary was adorned with a clump of elephant dung.
The mayor has threatened to withdraw city funding to the BMA -- fully one third of the institution's multi-million dollar budget -- unless the art show was closed. He further stated that, by requiring that children under 17 be accompanied by an adult, the exhibit violated the museum's charter with the city and he would therefore remove the BMA from its Neo classical home, a city-owned building. Since negotiations earlier this week went sour, the museum has stood firm, pledging to go ahead with "Sensation." Furthermore, on Sept. 28, the BMA announced that it would sue the city, and seek a court order saying the mayor "may not inflict any punishment, retaliation or sanction of any kind" against the institution for presenting the show.
The rally will feature other figures from the theatre world, including performance artist Reno and set designer Ming Cho Lee.
--By Robert Simonson