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the NEA

National Guard troops in Watts after the declaration of martial law, Los Angeles, August 1965. Photo: Lawrence Schiller/Polaris Communications/Getty Images.

IN SEPTEMBER 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation that would establish the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest arts funder in the United States. In March of this year, President Trump proposed its elimination. While any immediate action has been forestalled, the threat to thousands of community organizations, museums, artists, and projects that benefit from NEA grants still looms. In light of this, Artforum asked five distinguished artists and critics to reflect on the NEA’s vital impact.

JOHNIE SCOTT

IN THE MONTHS immediately following the Watts riots in Los Angeles in August 1965, a few rays of light began to shine in the smoldering darkness. The brightest of these was the Westminster Neighborhood Association, an outreach program of the Presbyterian Church, and the largest private social-services agency in Watts, headed by a no-nonsense, forward black

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