Joel Wachs, President of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, today condemned a recent DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities (CAH) grant requirement as a flagrant attack on free speech. The proposed requirement gives CAH the right to terminate funding to grantees who produce work that is “lewd, lascivious, vulgar, overtly political, excessively violent, constitutes sexual harassment, or is, in any other way, illegal.” The requirement goes on to state that the interpretation of these terms is “at the sole discretion of CAH.” CAH emailed the requirement in a proposed amendment to grantees who had already been notified of their awards.
The Warhol Foundation has given significant grants to artist-centered organizations in the region that also receive CAH funding, including Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) and Transformer. WPA and Transformer have indicated that they will not be signing the amendment. The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), a long-time grantee of the Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of DC also intend to ask CAH to rescind the amendment.
“We fiercely condemn the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities’ recent amendment to its grantees’ contracts; we stand with NCAC, the ACLU, and the DC-area arts community in their efforts to reject funder restrictions on artistic content. The amendment is a blatant attack on free speech and a direct threat to all artists and nonprofit organizations that produce challenging work, provide diverse perspectives, and confront social and/or political issues that are of vital importance to their communities. As a government agency, CAH has a responsibility to uphold First Amendment rights; it should immediately retract the amendment, which has stifling implications for freedom of artistic expression,” said Joel Wachs, President, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
UPDATE 11/18/18, 3:50 PM: According to the Washington City Paper, the amendment will be rescinded.