The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

"I Believe that Art is Magical": Musings on Art and the Role of the NEA

Representative Jack Kingston

Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, and as I sit here and listen to this bill, now going close to 24 hours, I am reminded of a Dr. Seuss character that I think was called a Push Me-Pull You. I do not really remember what it was all about, but it seemed to me that the character was unwilling to be pushed, unwilling to be pulled.

I think that must be the description of the Interior bill; that it is a very delicately balanced bill, and we can push it one way, but it is not going to pass; or we can pull it another way, and it is not going to pass.

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I support the arts, and I think everybody in Congress supports the arts. That is why it is very important to not confuse the NEA with the arts. We in Congress provide a $10 billion tax credit that is authorized for people who donate to art galleries and to art-related theaters and so forth. That is $10 billion. The Democrats are fond of saying how much is this costing? Well, $10 billion.

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I believe that art is magical. I heard a songwriter say a good song takes you someplace else. And that is true, because, doggone it, I cannot drive my car without the radio going, because, Mr. Chairman, I do not always want to go to work. I like to hear the song about, I miss the planes out in Africa or the land down under in Australia. I think that is why we listen to music, because it does take us to a different place.

When we look at this picture of Lafayette over here, and think about the inspiration of a great Frenchman who comes over here and fights for America during the Revolutionary War. We get inspired when we look at the portrait of George Washington with the sword carefully painted out to show that this is not an institution that uses violence but that we use the weapons of words to clash our ideas together.

It is inspirational, as we look at the dynamics of both of these people, and to look up to the ceiling in the rotunda, and to think about a good drama that we all get invited to every now and then at JFK. It is truly inspirational. We need to all be protective of art.

And I want to say that I think the NEA has gone a long way in kind of cleaning up their act. The NEA, I think, has come a long way … I have to say that, actually, it was cleaned up probably more by the Supreme Court than by Congress.

I will yield to my friend in a minute, but as the gentleman remembers, it was the famous case of a woman who was dipped in chocolate, and the question was is that a proper use of the taxpayer dollars or should it be artistic freedom. I believe in artistic freedom, but let her leap in a whole vat of chocolate. I am all for it. A new definition of Hershey's Kisses. But when I am paying for it, or I am asking a guy who is driving a truck for $6 an hour back in Georgia, maybe we should not do that. Maybe we should just stick with the picture of the cow standing by the mill stream.

[Taken from the Congressional Record, 17 July 02, pages 4806-4807.]