In a July 31 article in the Style section {"NEA Chief Offers Funding Standard"}, NEA Chairman John Frohnmayer is quoted as saying that part of the original purpose of the National Endowment for the Arts is to "make art accessible to the public" and "to encourage public understanding and appreciation of the arts." Yet Mr. Frohnmayer would seem to exclude art that in his words "is so offensive that it simply leads to confrontation and solidification of positions."

How are we to determine what is offensive and to whom it is offensive? As an example, take the Mapplethorpe exhibit that started this latest controversy (confrontation). It certainly offended many people, but many people found it to be beautiful.

Mr. Frohnmayer says that the NEA must be concerned with how the art "is going to play in an audience that we are charged with serving, which is the people." Are the "people," then, one vast, homogenous lump? No. The "people" are individuals, and what offends one will not necessarily offend another. There is really no such thing as one "public," but there are many publics. No organization can possibly hope to please "all of the people, all of the time."

Art cannot avoid being offensive and confrontational, especially when it breaks new ground or presents new ideas of what art is. The work of the abstract expressionists was considered offensive by many. Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" was considered by some to be offensive and confrontational. Art is often at its very best when it confronts us and makes us see in new ways and think in new ways.

I don't want Mr. Frohnmayer's and the NEA's protection against such art. I would hope that the NEA would see as part of its mission the funding of such art.