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Free Expression in Arts Funding: A Public Policy Report

By Christino Cho, Kim Commerato, Marjorie Heins © 2003.

The result of almost two years of research, FEPP's report surveys free expression policies among state and local arts agencies, including procedures for anticipating and handling controversy. Its purpose is to provide the arts community, as well as others interested in censorship or cultural policy, with solid research that will enable grant-making agencies to take a principled stand on artistic freedom without alienating their audiences or losing their funding.

The report includes candid interviews with agency officials regarding funding disputes, political accountability, and most important, ways of reaching out to communities and opening up dialogue about challenging or provocative art. The report also contains extensive background on the "funding wars" of the 1990s, illustrations, and two appendices summarizing free expression statements and policies among all state arts agencies and a random sample of local agencies.

As the Executive Summary points out, despite America's recent history of attacks on controversial art,

artistic freedom in the context of public funding remains a critical issue. The ability to make challenging art that can explore all facets of the human condition, including unpleasant ones, is essential to a vibrant culture and a healthy democracy. Neither private philanthropy nor the mass media conglomerates that dominate commercial entertainment can be counted upon to support the give-and-take of diverse viewpoints, reflected through literature, theater, music, film, and other visual art, or to provide visibility for the multi-layered, varied, and inventive cultures of America.

For the complete report, click here.
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The Free Expression Policy Project began in 2000 as a project of the National Coalition Against Censorship, to provide empirical research and policy development on tough censorship issues and seek free speech-friendly solutions to the concerns that drive censorship campaigns. In 2004-2007, it was part of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Past funders have included the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Open Society Institute, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

All material on this site is covered by a Creative Commons "Attribution - No Derivs - NonCommercial" license. (See You may copy it in its entirely as long as you credit the Free Expression Policy Project and provide a link to the Project's Web site. You may not edit or revise it, or copy portions, without permission (except, of course, for fair use). Please let us know if you reprint!