Leaving Town Alive: Confessions of an Arts Warrior

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 1993 - Art - 360 pages
Brimming with optimism, John Frohnmayer journeyed to Washington, D.C., in 1989 to serve a cause he believed in deeply: the arts in America. Appointed by President Bush to be chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, he was abruptly fired two and a half years later in a storm of front-page controversy.
Leaving Town Alive is Frohnmayer's lively and startlingly candid account of his trial by fire in the brutal world of power politics. Taking over the NEA amid the uproar about Robert Mapplethorpe's sexually explicit photographs, Frohnmayer stood at the center of the emotional debate over public funding for the arts. On the left were staunch defenders of free speech and the artists whose confrontational works came under attack. On the right were Jesse Helms and the fundamentalist proponents of traditional values.
At first Frohnmayer assumed that he could negotiate anything and that everyone had the best interests of the country at heart. He was wrong: the White House, for instance, just wanted the problem of "offensive art" to go away, while right-wing fund-raisers wanted to keep the issue alive as long as possible. In the end, Frohnmayer's harrowing education changed him. He entered the fray a First Amendment moderate; he emerged a free-speech radical.
John Frohnmayer had an insider's view of Washington during the Bush years, and he writes with remarkable frankness about the bitter battles over the government's involvement in the arts. Passionate, witty, and wonderfully readable, Leaving Town Alive is, finally, an eloquent plea for the liberation of American culture from the narrow concerns of partisan politics.

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LEAVING TOWN ALIVE: Confessions of an Arts Warrior

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The controversial former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts emerges here as a true public servant—albeit one who, admittedly, lost his moral bearings at times in a world dominated by ... Read full review

Leaving town alive: confessions of an arts warrior

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

With candor and wit, Frohmayer recalls the events of his stormy two and a half years as the fifth chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). A former head of the Oregon Arts Commission ... Read full review


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About the author (1993)

John Frohnmayer is a noted speaker, writer, ethicist, and legal scholar. His book Leaving Town Alive (1993) describes his turbulent chairmanship of the National Endowment for the Arts during the first Bush administration. He is a frequent visitor to schools and colleges, where he teaches a short course based on this book.

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