This week artists have thundered and teased, cajoled and pleaded in the halls of Congress on behalf of federal arts funding. Yesterday, soprano Leontyne Price sang.
To the tune -- and general idea -- of "God Bless America," a cappella: Save the performing arts Arts that I love Stand beside us and guide us through the night with those funds from above From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam Please save the performing arts Don't let us fall.
Price got thunderous applause and a standing ovation in the Dirksen Senate Office Building where the Senate appropriations subcommittee on the interior was hearing testimony yesterday on the proposed 50-percent cuts in federal funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities and the proposed elimination of the Institute for Museum Services.
"It's always been my way of making a point," Price said later in the hallway outside the hearing room where she received hugs and autographs requests. She grinned. "Why not use what you've got?" Asked about the lyrics, she added, "I assure you I am not trying to start a career as a lyricist."
On the humanities side, 84-year-old architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller testified on the meaning of human life and tried to relate briefly the history of man's unfolding of the mysteries of the universe, touching on Copernicus, Kepler, Newton and Edwin Hubble, also an astronomer. "The human mind has the ability to discover the relationships in the universe beyond seeing, hearing, smelling," Fuller said. "We've been here 2 billion years. We may not be here another week. Everything we do has to do with the universe information-gathering." Fuller also submitted a thick sheaf of written remarks to the subcommittee. "Sixty pages is not very long," Fuller said. "You can read it in about two hours."
Ten people testified on behalf of the arts, including Frank Saunders, vice president of Philip Morris Inc., who reiterated the arguments made by businessmen at House hearings Wednesday: that business will not be as supportive of the arts in the event of a severe endowment cutback. "Without NEA partnership, we would not have underwritten so many art programs," he said. "Coporations are not willing to stake big dollars on exhibits that seem far-out. It does reassure board members and businessmen if NEA is involved. Then, a show seems all right. If we lose the NEA, it's going to be indifinitely more difficult to get new corporations on board in this game."