Censorship and the National Endowment for the Arts: An Analytical Look at the Enola Gay and Robert Mapplethorpe Controversies

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Peterson, Tamara L.
thesis / dissertation description
This thesis is about government involvement in the arts community - how the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is affected, as well as the artists themselves. Censorship is the main focus. Selected for examination are two specific cases: an exhibition of the works of controversial photography, Robert Mapplethorpe, and the display of the Enola Gay fuselage at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The Enola Gay incident was more recent, with the exhibit opening in 1995 on the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II, while the Mapplethorpe controversy began around 1988. Both of these exhibits raised many questions by elected officials of the United States government about what should and what should be be shown using government funds channeled to the NEA. With Mapplethorpe, the question was one of morality, while the Enola Gay was about the nation's history, and how it should properly be interpreted. Both cases deal with official censorship within American society, but each for different reasons. Explored are both sides of the issues surrounding each case. This paper discusses the role government played in both case and possible future outcomes.