NEA Four

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Karen Finley in front of the US Supreme Court.

The "NEA Four", Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes, were performance artists whose proposed grants from the United States government's National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) were vetoed by John Frohnmayer in June 1990. Grants were overtly vetoed on the basis of subject matter after the artists had successfully passed through a peer review process. John Fleck was vetoed for a performance comedy with a toilet prop.[1] The artists won their case in court in 1993 and were awarded amounts equal to the grant money in question, though the case would make its way to the United States Supreme Court in National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley.[2] In response, the NEA, under pressure from Congress, stopped funding individual artists.[3]

Lead up to the controversy[edit]

In 1989 two art pieces drew controversy to the NEA, Andres Serrano’s "Piss Christ" and Robert Mapplethorpe's The Perfect Moment (which was cancelled at The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC due to political pressure.) The controversy around these two art pieces led to increased interest in how the NEA was spending its money from conservative lawmakers like Jesse Helms.[4]


  1. ^ "Vagina Dentata Monologue". Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  2. ^ National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, 524 U.S. 569, (1998).
  3. ^ Creative, Commons. "Policymaking, Power, and Accountability in the Bureaucracy". 
  4. ^ Shockley, Gordon E. (2011). "Political Environment And Policy Change: The National Endowment For The Arts In The 1990s". Journal Of Arts Management, Law & Society 4 (41): 267-84. 

External links[edit]

NEA Timeline