After viewing a three-minute video-tape snippet of artist Lee Krasner -- waving her arms emphatically as she described her tutelage years ago under a well-known German artist whom she could barely understand -- the National Council on the Arts decided that they wanted to preserve similar portraits-of-the-artist-on-videotape for posterity.
The council, convened in Washington through Sunday, opened its latest quarterly round of meetings by approving a pilot program to select well-known artists for videotape interviews.
"It's an investment in our cultural memory," said Brian O'Doherty, director of the Media Arts program of the National Endowment for the Arts, whose division will handle the pilot project."Not only do you get the voice on tape, you get the habits, the gestures, a sense of contact that you can't get in any other way."
The Council is the advisory body which must approve Endowment projects.
"We want to develop a prospective archive of tapes," O'Doherty said. "The material on artists is just not there. There are so many artists this could have been done on -- Calder, Nadia Boulander, Louise Bogan the poet, Diane Arbus, even John Wayne."
The tapes would be available for people making documentaries, writing books, teaching classes are symposia, among other things. A location for the archives has not been chosen.
Initially O'Doherty will collect "priority" names of artists who might be considered for these videotapes. Names will be collected from all the panelists who review Endowment grant applications.
The Endowment plans to hire an outside group to make three or four tapes at a total cost no higher than about $20,000, estimates O'Doherty. Money will come from a $70,000 bequest to the Endowment from the late wife of producer Robert Wise, a former, member of the National Council on the Arts.
"We'll make some tapes, look at them, evaluate them, see how you go about pairing the right interviewers with the right subject," O'Doherty said. "And we'll look at what other people in this area are doing."
The Council also discussed and approved new guidelines for the NEA's Expansion Arts program. The nine-year-old program provides funds for community arts programs -- including the Dance Theater of Harlem, which got its first funds for training from the Endowment.
The new guidelines will categorize applicants by art instead of by project.