House Critiques NASA Artist

As the House continued debating the appropriations bill which contains NASA's budget (HR 2862), the legislators did manage to artfully dispatch a matter of major national and cultural concern: They approved Rep. Chris Chocola's (R-IN) amendment to "prohibit the use of funds for NASA to employ any individual under the title 'artist in residence.'"

NASA had in fact bestowed the honor in question on now 58-year old performance artist Laurie Anderson, along with a sweet $20,000 commission, a fact which did not escape the
attention of the Republican Study Committee.

No one proposed eliminating the entire
NASA Art Program. (Yet?) ("Established in 1962 by NASA Administrator James Webb, the NASA Art Program has documented America's major accomplishments in aeronautics and space. More than 200 artists have generously contributed their time and talent to record their impressions of the U.S. aerospace program in paintings, drawings and other media.") The Washington Post reported last year the program represented $50,000 of NASA's $15 billion budget.

But is Rep. Chocola just anti-art? Not necessarily. In fact, just last month the Congressman himself proudly announced
his district's winner of the 2005 Congressional High School Art Competition -- a student from John Glenn High School, who will receive a $500 U.S. savings bond and the honor of having her piece displayed in the corridor leading to the U.S. Capitol building for one year. (And as the Congressman explains on his Web site, the annual, nationwide art competition is sponsored by the Congressional Arts Caucus.)

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