Funding a National Culture
Written by Kellie Hanna
The National Endowment for the Arts is grounded in the belief that "All great nations support the arts." With the recognition that the not-for-profit arts are vital to a society's well being, the agency has made a tremendous impact with Federal funding for the arts, and created a network of agencies in each state in the United States.
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 "to support the arts [by fostering] the excellence, diversity and vitality of the arts in the United States [and] to broaden education and public access to the arts for all Americans."
For over 30 years the NEA has followed through on its mission through advocacy, partnerships with other Federal agencies, state and regional organizations, research, arts education, and public access programs.
In those 30 years over 110,000 grants to arts organizations and artists in all 50 states have been awarded by the NEA, in addition to the establishment of seven regional and thousands of state arts agencies and organizations. Funding and support by the NEA extends to rural communities and small towns as well as to large cities.
In light of the development of the arts and a growth in the arts audience, and faced with a reduced budget, the agency has found the need for change from within. The structure and planning of the NEA have entered a new phase, emphasizing that "arts organizations large and small and their communities work more closely together and share information and resources creatively."
To that end, the National Endowment for the Arts supports exemplary projects in a broad variety of artistic genres, including (but not limited to) folk art, dance, painting, crafts, photography, literature, design, radio, television, film, theater, and multidisciplinary works. Awards and grants are given to such ventures based on artistic excellence and merit, the potential impact of the project, and the applicant's ability to follow it through.
Organizations may also apply for funding, provided they are non profit, tax-exempt, and "of demonstrated artistic excellence." Applicants in this category may include arts institutions, local arts agencies, tribal communities, and official units of city government.
Each state and regional art agency and organization is the backbone of the NEA in that they give citizens closer public access to a greater variety of arts experiences. State agencies are supported by the NEA with flexible funds that meet the particular needs of the state's priorities; support for arts education that make the arts essential to the education of children and young adults, increased public awareness of the value of art education, and support for state plans that foster the arts in underserved communities.
Through its grants and specified fellowships, awards, programs, publications, and research in arts education, the National Endowment for the Arts is a resource for both the artist and the national community. For over 30 years the NEA has held to the belief that "the arts should be made available to all Americans," and continues to work towards its goal of fostering culture in the United States.