While doing some research at the Library of Congress, I came upon the following document from the House of Representatives, 62nd Congress, dated Jan. 13, 1913. It is relevant to issues the current Congress faces regarding the allocation of funds by the National Endowment of the Arts. In 1913, the Committee on the Library was planning, designing and selecting a site for the Lincoln Memorial. A Mr. Evans issued report No. 1294:
"The Fine Arts Commission was created by the Sixty-first Congress for the purpose of furnishing advice to Members of the Congress upon subjects within the domain of the fine arts. So many mistakes had been made in the monuments and other works of art paid for out of the Public Treasury that Congress wisely concluded that the great number of men engaged in the serious work of legislation could not naturally be expected to have the training or experience which would make them sufficient judges of good works of art, and accordingly the Fine Arts Commission was formed.
"That commission has unanimously recommended the plan, design, and location for the Lincoln memorial for which the appropriation has heretofore been made, and in the opinion of the committee we have none of us individually such training or experience in the fine arts as qualifies us to sit in judgment on the recommendations of the Fine Arts Commission, and we report that becoming modesty compels us to accept the recommendations of the commission."
Art, in all its forms, from Monet to Mapplethorpe, serves its purpose when it stimulates the senses. That it can provoke intellectual discourse is a wonderful benefit, for it has allowed us to increase our knowledge of ourselves and our friends. The Corcoran and Cincinnati exhibits of today have achieved art's purpose as well as the salons of Paris did in the last century. The NEA funding supports the artists and exposes the citizens of the republic to that which they may otherwise not see. Each of us should decide for ourselves how art affects us. But, as Mr. Evans said in 1913, Congress is not the appropriate body to choose that which we may view.
RANDALL S. SCHIFF Dublin, Ohio