Lesbian-feminist activist and performance artist Holly Hughes performed in Avery Hall.  Hughes was one of the NEA Four, four performance artists whose peer-reviewed grants from the National Endowment for the Arts were vetoed in 1990 by the endowment’s chairman on the basis of “obscene” content.  The artists sued, and despite reinstated grants to two of the Four—Ms. Hughes and Tim Miller—the following year, the suit continued.  In 1994, the endowment settled the suit for $252,000, of which Ms. Hughes received $9,375.

In June 1998 the Supreme Court, in an eight to one decision, upheld a Congressional “decency test” initiated by the case of Hughes and her colleagues that obliged the endowment to consider “decency” and “respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public” in considering grants. 

In Leaving Town Alive (1993), a reflection on his two-and-a-half years as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Oregon attorney John Frohnmayer wrote, “I couldn’t have handled it worse with a rehearsed script….  Congress was in a depression of courage, and I didn’t want to be the one to take the endowment down in flames.”