A summit of arts groups called together to chart a course for the National Endowment for the Arts ended more than 50 hours of intense discussion yesterday and called on Congress to reauthorize the endowment for five more years with no restrictions on the content of federally funded art.

The groups also rejected a proposal supported by some House Republicans to increase the percentage of NEA grant money distributed by state arts councils.

The unanimous statement was generated by representatives of 16 arts groups, two members of the public and two artists invited to meet in Washington this week by Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.), chairman of the subcommittee handling the NEA's reauthorization in the House. But it was instantly and emphatically rejected by members of Congress who have called for more radical surgery at the NEA.

"The arts community missed an opportunity here," said Rep. Tom Coleman (R-Mo.), who is developing his own legislation to restructure the agency.

But Williams said he was "more than pleased" with the agreement among the arts groups. He said their proposals "put to rest the notion that the arts community ... was internally divided" and provided "substantial changes ... with regard to the structure of the endowment. I believe that Congress will embrace these suggestions."

The mood among the arts groups was optimistic. "We feel very strongly that we are making a unified statement, and unified, we are very strong," said Anne Murphy of the American Arts Alliance at a press conference to announce the statement.

NEA Chairman John Frohnmayer declined to comment yesterday.

Bleary-eyed representatives of the groups, which included the National Association of Artists Organizations, the Coalition of Writers Organizations and the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees, worked past 3 a.m. Friday to complete their proposal -- and noted that their plan includes several important legislative changes.

For example, the arts groups' resolution said the NEA's authorizing legislation should state explicitly that "only the courts can and should determine constitutional issues of obscenity." Legislation attached to the endowment's current appropriation prohibits the NEA from funding art it deems obscene.

The statement also asked Congress to create an advisory committee of national organizations unrelated to the arts to advise the NEA chairman on policy, to encode in law the endowment's peer panel method for selecting grant recipients, and to provide more money for arts education.

The arts groups also affirmed the current arrangement giving 20 percent of NEA grant money to state arts councils. Coleman and Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.) have proposed increasing the amount to 60 percent. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, which initially had supported the increase, backed away yesterday from that idea to make the arts groups' resolution unanimous.

Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), who helped draft the NEA's current obscenity restrictions, rejected the groups' position that only the courts should consider obscenity questions and predicted that most members of Congress would follow suit. "How are you going to have the courts pass on {thousands of} grants?" he asked. "Are you going to force people in every community whose sensibilities are violated ... to go to the Supreme Court?" He said content restrictions are appropriate because "the taxpayer is paying for this."

Coleman said the arts groups' proposal "continues to represent an extreme which is not going to be sufficient to get a majority in the House." He added: "They still don't understand the risk at which the endowment finds itself and really haven't offered any change significant enough."

He said he would proceed with his plan to increase funds distributed by states -- and impose content restrictions on the endowment. "It's really an attempt to salvage the NEA. ... It provides a moderate consensus for most members of the House, who are looking for someplace to go," he said, adding that he and Gunderson would draft a bill within two weeks.

The arts groups' plan also was condemned, predictably, by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a leading opponent of the endowment. "It seems like more of the same," he said. "It's just, 'Give me your money and keep your mouth shut.' "