The National Council on the Arts yesterday rallied to the support of the National Arts Endowment, of which it is the advisory body.
The action came at the council's first meeting since the release of a House Appropriations Committee report attacking the Endowment for depending on a "closed circle" of advisers, operating with "poor management procedures" and "abrogating its leadership role."
Council member Theodore Bikel was uncontradicted when he declared, "I see little value in going over a report that is incorrect, badly organized, badly presented and out of focus.
"There are germs of truth in the study, but you have to look very hard to find them," Bickel said.
Endowment chairman Livingston Biddle acknowledged one such point yesterday-that the council was being briefed insufficiently on the actions of the grant-giving panels.
"We should be presenting you with more specifics about why and how the panels reach their conclusions," said Biddle. "You should have a sense of having been present at the panels."
Later the council took up the recently released five-year plan for the Endowment, which proposes significant changes of emphasis in several Endowment programs, such as increased support of individual artists, which was much discussed yesterday.
Council member Van Cliburn expressed particular concern that fellowships should not be designed to favor artists who produce tangible objects ("things that you can see, like paintings") at the expense of actors or musicians, whose work is "abstract," and less in the public eye.
The council members seemed to feel the proposals are not yet solidified enough to become official, and voted acceptance of the document as "the beginning of the essential process of planning for the future."