The application of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for $295,000 of federal money for next fiscal year has been rejected as unsatisfactory "by virtually every criterion."
The thumbs-down on the D.C. application, and one from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, is unprecedented in the history of the Federal-State Partnership program of the National Endowment for the Arts, which annually distributes a basic grant to every state arts agency.
In past years the Federal-State grant has been the largest single source of funds for the D.C. commission, but this year's application was rejected because it was unacceptable by virtually every criterion... and we have 12 or 14 of them," according to Federal-State Partnership director Henry Putsch. The decision was made by a 16-member screening panel.
Among the problems with the D.C. application, according to Putsch:
"There was no clearly identified plan for how the money is going to be used. Goals were generalized and unclear."
"There wasn't a sense of who or what the application represented. We need to know if somebody wrote it in the kitchen, if there were hearings, consultants, whatever happened."
"There was no evidence of community involvement in the plan.78 In Virginia, said Putsch, "workshops and hearings on the needs of the artists are held all year long."
"The standards by which the grant awards were made were not articulated."
"There was inadequate evaluation of the programs of both the grantees and the commission itself."
"There was no description of how the D.C. Commission was careful to represent minorities -- Hispanics or Asians or anyone, even blacks."
"All of Washington was not represented in comprehensive terms -- The major white cultural institutions, the big guys as well as the little guys."
C.C. Commission executive director Larry Neal declined to comment on the reason for the rejection. 78It's 5:05 (p.m.) and I'm working on my poetry reading now," he said in a telephone interview from his home. Neal recited some of his poetry in a program at Martin Luther King Library last night.
Neal said he would hold a meeting Tuesday morning with representatives of the arts community "so they can rest assured that everything is cool" regarding the eventual receipt of the funds.
The panel recommended rejection of the D.C. application last Friday and D.C. Commission officials were informed Wednesday. In May the National Council on the Arts will vote on whether to endorse the panel recommendations, which will then be sent to the Arts Endowment chairman Livingston Biddle for final approval. Panel recommendations are seldom overruled.
Meanwhile, the D.C. Commission has "got to start all over again" with a new application if it is to be approved at the next panel meeting in June, said Putsch. An application approved at the June panel meeting would be brought before the National Council on the Arts at its August meeting.
So the money is likely to be delayed at least three months.
Putsch noted that the D.C. application had been submitted on Nov. 1, 1978 -- "before the new administration [of Mayor Marion Barry]. We are informed that Marion Barry is deliberating on how to strengthen that effort. We'll be interested." He said his staff had provided assistance to the D.C. commission in the preparation of its application and will continue to do so.
Stephen Sell, chairman of the committee that recommended rejection of the D.C. application, and general manager of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, also raised the possibility of change under the Barry administration.
"The D.C. commission has never achieved any kind of a mature status within the D.C. government," said Sell. The rejection of hthe application 78should be viewed as a constructive opportunity to make the commission work. It just needs to be turned into a professional government agency."