NEA Spends $500,000 on Martian Town Design

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNS) - The National Endowment for the Arts is spending $500,000 of taxpayer funds for students to design a Martian town.

The Mars Millennium Project, part of First Lady Hillary Clinton's Millennium celebration, will pay for students "to design a comprehensive community for Mars," according to the NEA. This project is part of the agency's overall effort to generate national interest in the arts.

The half-million dollar Mars project was one hundreds of projects funded by the NEA in the second half of 1999, bringing total grants for the year so far to about $80 million.

The money is given to nonprofit national, regional, state and local organizations. Money is also given to individuals who propose to use tax dollars for their own artistic endeavors.

The arts funding arm of the federal government breaks-down its multi-million dollar expenditures on poetry, dance, book readings and other art programs to roughly 36 cents per American per year, basing the calculation on the NEA's budget and the nation's population, according to agency spokeswoman Cherie Simon.

Examples of individual art projects paid for with tax dollars include the work of poet Marianne Boruch, whose poem entitled "Lament" relates the life of an octopus in the seafood case at a Safeway grocery store.

Explaining how she intends to use her $20,000 government grant, Boruch stated, "I hope to be quiet enough that poems will find me," according to the NEA's Internet web site.

Boruch's statement noted that she intends to "think hard about the spirit of certain musical shapes - the fugue, the sonata, the chant, perhaps even larger symphonic forms."

Another expenditure of $40,000 in tax money will help a pair of local radio stations in Massachusetts integrate art into their 'sonic identity.'

The money went to Cape and Islands Community Public Radio, Inc. of Woods Hole so the radio station can air aspects of life surrounding people in the listening area by "infus(ing) their broadcasts with soundscapes, radio poetry and essay."

Other NEA grants to organizations and individual artists include:

* $104,000 to Atlanta's Center for Puppetry Arts, Inc.

* $75,000 for an "experimental" film on the "meaning and mystery of people's names."

* $29,000 for exploring "safety, crowding, ethnicity, and cultural customs" through art, music and dance.

* $50,000 to document the "the private and public spaces" of Madison Square Garden.

* $80,000 for a two-day mariachi music celebration.

Final congressional action on NEA funds for next year won't be taken until Congress returns from its August recess. Simon told the Senate is set to consider a $99 million FY 2000 budget request, which could increase by another $10 million.

The House has already passed a $98 million FY 2000 authorization, the same funding level as the current year. President Bill Clinton is asking for $150 million for the NEA.

The NEA was created by Congress in 1965 and signed into existence by President Lyndon B. Johnson with an original budget of slightly less that $3 million.