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Jane Alexander Nominated for U.S. Arts Panel


WASHINGTON — President Clinton on Saturday nominated actress Jane Alexander to head the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency whose funding decisions have been attacked by conservatives in recent years.

If confirmed by the Senate, Alexander, an award-winning performer in theater, movies and television, would assume a post that has been held by interim officials since John E. Frohnmayer was fired by President George Bush in February, 1992.

"The endowment's mission of fostering and preserving our nation's cultural heritage is too important to remain mired in the problems of the past," Clinton said. "Jane Alexander is superbly qualified to lead the endowment into a new era of excellence."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee that will evaluate the nomination, said he supports the President's choice. Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) and Rep. Sidney R. Yates (D-Ill.), both chairmen of the congressional subcommittees that oversee the NEA, also indicated their support.

Alexander, 53, has revealed little about her thoughts on national arts policy issues. However, she has long been active in public affairs, previously serving on the boards of organizations including the American Council for the Arts, Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Although its annual budget is minuscule by federal government standards--fiscal 1994 appropriations are expected to be about $170 million--the NEA has been the subject of heated controversy in recent years.

Conservative politicians and interest groups have objected to the NEA's funding of art projects that they deem distasteful and sometimes pornographic.

Three years ago, conservative lawmakers successfully amended the 1990 funding bill for the NEA by preventing the agency from funding art that depicts "sadomasochism, homoeroticism, the sexual exploitation of children or individuals engaged in sex acts."

Alexander has had a successful acting career, and recently received a Tony Award nomination for her role in this year's Broadway play, "The Sisters Rosensweig." She won a Tony for best supporting actress in 1969 for "The Great White Hope."

Her movie career has been highlighted by Academy Award nominations for her roles in "The Great White Hope," "All the President's Men," "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Testament." Her television work has garnered her an Emmy award for "Playing for Time" and several other nominations.

Times staff writers Don Shirley and Suzanne Muchnic in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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