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National Campaign for Freedom of Expression
THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
Assisting artists and organizations facing attacks on their artistic freedom is at the core of NCFE’s mission. NCFE was founded in 1990 in response to attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The organization originated as a weekly conference call among arts activists who were concerned that arts organizations were trading basic principles of artistic freedom for their own financial survival. In these calls, founding members of NCFE discovered that attacks against artistic freedom were occurring at local, as well as national, levels.
Inspired by the politically charged frenzy around the public funding of institutions that presented works by visual artists Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, self-appointed guardians of the public morals in cities and towns across America organized to defund and shut down exhibitions and performances they considered—for whatever reason—obscene, seditious, immoral, or offensive. Few of these attacks received national press coverage, and artists were often left to fend for themselves, their rights largely ignored.
NCFE established a hotline for artists and organizations under attack and began publishing the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression Quarterly, a compilation of censorship incidents and ongoing discussions of freedom of expression issues. By providing resources, information, and technical assistance, NCFE has empowered artists and arts organizations to help themselves, enabling them to mobilize their own communities in defense of artistic freedom. Since 1990, NCFE has helped over 200 artists and organizations fight back against attacks on artistic freedom.