A seismic shift in U.S. federal arts policy: A tale of organizational challenge and controversy in the 1990s

Gordon Shockley, Connie L. McNeely

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

The eruption of the "culture wars" in 1989 pushed U.S. arts policy to the forefront of the public agenda, leading to extreme political scrutiny of and controversy over the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and its funding activities. As the premier national-level public agency charged with supporting the arts in the United States, the NEA stood at the heart of debates on related arts policy. With an empirical focus on the NEA in the 1990s, we delineate and examine the broader effects and implications of the surrounding debates and related policy outcomes. In general, in keeping with the conservative political agenda of the 1990s in the United States, the result was the development of policies ostensibly aimed at promoting access to the arts that demoted concerns over artistic excellence, along with direct attacks on the NEA's overall administrative philosophy and decision-making practices. Employing insights from critical theory and reflexive sociology, we analyze the dramatic organizational shifts and programmatic restructuring initiated by the NEA in response to this situation and its ultimate effect on the relationships between art, artist, and audience in U.S. arts policy and society today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-23
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Arts Management Law and Society
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009

Keywords

  • Critical theory
  • National endowment for the arts
  • Pierre Bourdieu
  • Theodore Adorno
  • U.S. Cultural policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Strategy and Management
  • Law

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