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Government Role Should Be to 'Nurture' the Arts

April 19, 1990

A thought about the role of government in funding the arts (in reference to Joseph Bell's March 22 column on the demise of KFAC): I had just put off the evening's third phone request for a cultural donation last week, when my student days in Vienna came to mind. The availability of four-schilling (16 cents) standing-room tickets at the State Opera House--government subsidized, of course--had led to a lifelong love of opera.

To the Viennese, Austrian cultural output was a focus of historic pride. My hausfrau could attend the opera only when I purchased the tickets. There were no discussions of government deficit, no hints that those who attended should bear the full brunt of financing, no headline that the occasional slipshod or too-far-out performance (there were some) should end government's funding responsibility. To the Viennese, fine music--along with the Riesenrad (the giant Ferris wheel), new wine and the Viennese Ball--were simply what Vienna was all about.

All of this seems relevant to the ruckus over government support of the arts. The arts must be nurtured if they are to survive and do their part in helping us define ourselves. In our family, the deluge of requests for private funding lures thoughts of "unlisting" the phone number so we can have a quiet evening.

We are rightly proud here in Orange County that we built a magnificent Performing Arts Center without government support of the arts, a necessity in most parts of the country. And within the funding legislation must be the allowance for the occasional excess, the occasional performance that bombs or is in bad taste. Selected works of Mapplethorpe, Serrano or Annie Sprinkle might serve as examples of excess, should we by inattention allow Sen. Jesse Helms and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher to become our cultural arbiters. KAREN EVARTS, Newport Beach

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