The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest annual national funder of the arts , bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.
The NEA is the largest annual national funder of the arts in the United States. While the NEA's budget ($146 million for FY 2012) represents less than 1 percent of total arts philanthropy in the U.S., NEA grants have a powerful multiplying effect, with each grant dollar typically generating up to seven times more money in matching grants. No other federal agency or private organization facilitates nationwide access to exceptional art.
Since 1965, the NEA has awarded more than 128,000 grants totaling more than $4 billion. With the mission to bring the arts to all Americans, the NEA has supported arts activities in every Congressional district in the United States, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. Projects range from artist residencies in schools to museum exhibitions, Internet initiatives, literary fellowships, national tours, international exchanges, theater festivals, design competitions, folk arts, historic preservation, and much more. The NEA provides critical seed funds to develop art organizations across the country. Some organizations that received critical early support include Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina.
Through direct grants, partnerships, research, and initiatives, the NEA takes a leadership role in arts education for pre-K through grade 12 students, increasing opportunities outside of school settings for additional arts learning.
The NEA administers the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program on behalf of the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities (FCAH). Created by Congress in 1975 to help minimize the costs of insuring international exhibitions, the Indemnity Program has made it possible for museum attendees across the country to see important works of art from around the globe. In 2008, Congress added support for a domestic component to the program, which defrays insurance costs when American museums loan works to one another.
The NEA presents annual lifetime honors in three categories: NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists; NEA Jazz Master Fellowships to jazz musicians and advocates; and NEA Opera Honors to visionaries and luminaries who have made extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States.
The NEA manages the National Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, and awarded annually by the President. Award recipients are selected based on their contributions to the creation, growth, and support of the arts in the United States. Each year, the Arts Endowment seeks nominations from individuals and organizations across the country. The National Council on the Arts, the Arts Endowment's presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory body, reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the president, who selects the recipients.
NEA-sponsored research has helped shape the public dialogue on the arts. The 2004 report Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America sounded a warning bell on the decline of literary reading in America. In 2007, the NEA released a follow-up report, To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence, which gathers statistics from more than 40 studies on the reading habits and skills of children, teenagers, and adults. The compendium reveals recent declines in voluntary reading and test scores alike, exposing trends that have severe consequences for American society. Other studies on creativity and aging, cultural tourism, arts education, and artists in the workforce highlight the significant economic and social impact of the arts in America.
The NEA has created national initiatives that offer model programs of artistic merit and national reach:
For more information, visit the National Endowment for the Arts website at www.arts.gov.