National Endowment for the Arts

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National Endowment for the Arts
NEA logo.jpg
Agency overview
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Constitution Center, Washington, D.C.
Annual budget$152,800,000 USD (2018)
Agency executive
  • Mary Anne Carter, Acting Chairman

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is an independent agency of the United States federal government that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. [1] It was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. The NEA has its offices in Washington, D.C. It was awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre in 1995, as well as the Special Tony Award in 2016. [2]

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

The Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre is a non-competitive award created by the American Theatre Wing in 1990. They are presented to institutions, individuals and/or organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theatre, but are not eligible to compete in any of the established Tony Award categories. The Tony Honors "are announced in the autumn. They are bestowed at a separate ceremony that affords recipients a special moment in the spotlight." As explained in Playbill, "In 2003, a new tradition began for the Tony Honors, which were previously announced during the Tony Awards broadcast. Last year, however, the Honors were presented in the fall..."

The Special Tony Award category includes the Lifetime Achievement Award and Special Tony Award. These are non-competitive honorary awards, and the titles have changed over the years. The Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre is to "honor an individual for the body of his or her work." Another non-competitive Tony award is the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre, to "recognize the achievements of individuals and organizations that do not fit into any of the competitive categories."



The NEA is "dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education". [1]

Between 1965 and 2008, the agency has made in excess of 128,000 grants, totaling more than $5 billion. From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Congress granted the NEA an annual funding of between $160 and $180 million. In 1996, Congress cut the NEA funding to $99.5 million as a result of pressure from conservative groups, including the American Family Association, who criticized the agency for using tax dollars to fund highly controversial artists such as Barbara DeGenevieve, Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, and the performance artists known as the "NEA Four". Since 1996, the NEA has partially rebounded with a 2015 budget of $146.21 million. [3] For FY 2010, the budget reached the level it was at during the mid-1990s at $167.5 million [4] but fell again in FY 2011 with a budget of $154 million. [4]

American Family Association American nonprofit organization promoting fundamentalist Christian values

The American Family Association (AFA) is a fundamentalist Protestant 501(c)(3) organization based in the United States. It opposes LGBT rights and expression, pornography, and abortion. It also takes a position on a variety of other public policy goals. It was founded in 1977 by Donald Wildmon as the National Federation for Decency and is headquartered in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Barbara DeGenevieve American interdisciplinary artist

Barbara DeGenevieve (1947–2014) was an American interdisciplinary artist who worked in photography, video, and performance. She lectured widely on her work and on subjects including human sexuality, gender, transsexuality, censorship, ethics, and pornography. Her writing on these subjects have been published in art, photographic, and scholarly journals, and her work has been exhibited internationally.

Andres Serrano American photographer

Andres Serrano is an American photographer and artist who has become famous through his photos of corpses and his use of feces and bodily fluids in his work, notably his controversial work Piss Christ, a red-tinged photograph of a crucifix submerged in a glass container of what was purported to be the artist's own urine. He is also notable for creating the artwork for the heavy metal band Metallica's Load and Reload albums.


The NEA is governed by a Chairman appointed by the President to a four-year term and confirmed by Congress. [5] The NEA's advisory committee, the National Council on the Arts, advises the Chairman on policies and programs, as well as reviewing grant applications, fundraising guidelines, and leadership initiative. This body consists of 14 individuals appointed by the President for their expertise and knowledge in the arts, in addition to six ex officio members of Congress who serve in a non-voting capacity. [6] On June 12, 2014, Dr. Jane Chu was confirmed as the 11th Chair of the NEA by the Senate, after having been nominated by President Barack Obama in February of the same year. [7] [8]

An ex officio member is a member of a body who is part of it by virtue of holding another office. The term ex officio is Latin, meaning literally "from the office", and the sense intended is "by right of office"; its use dates back to the Roman Republic.

Barack Obama 44th president of the United States

Barack Hussein Obama II is an American attorney and politician who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the first African American to be elected to the presidency. He previously served as a U.S. senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008.


The NEA offers grants in the categories of: 1) Grants for Arts Projects, 2) National Initiatives, and 3) Partnership Agreements. Grants for Arts Projects support exemplary projects in the discipline categories of artist communities, arts education, dance, design, folk and traditional arts, literature, local arts agencies, media arts, museums, music, musical theater, opera, presenting (including multidisciplinary art forms), theater, and visual arts. The NEA also grants individual fellowships in literature to creative writers and translators of exceptional talent in the areas of prose and poetry.

Literature written work of art

Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.

The NEA has partnerships in the areas of state and regional, federal, international activities, and design. The state arts agencies and regional arts organizations are the NEA's primary partners in serving the American people through the arts. Forty percent of all NEA funding goes to the state arts agencies and regional arts organizations. Additionally, the NEA awards three Lifetime Honors: NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists, NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships to jazz musicians and advocates, and NEA Opera Honors to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States. The NEA also manages the National Medal of Arts, awarded annually by the President.

Relative scope of funding

Artist William Powhida has noted that "in one single auction, wealthy collectors bought almost a billion dollars in contemporary art at Christie's in New York." He further commented: "If you had a 2 percent tax just on the auctions in New York you could probably double the NEA budget in two nights." [9]

Lifetime Honors

The NEA is the federal agency responsible for recognizing outstanding achievement in the arts. It does this by awarding three lifetime achievement awards. The NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships are awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to the art of jazz. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships are awarded for artistic excellence and accomplishments for American's folk and traditional arts. The National Medal of Arts is awarded by the President of the United States and NEA for outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States.


1981 attempts to abolish

Upon entering office in 1981, the incoming Ronald Reagan administration intended to push Congress to abolish the NEA completely over a three-year period. Reagan's first director of the Office of Management and Budget, David A. Stockman, thought the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities were "good [departments] to simply bring to a halt because they went too far, and they would be easy to defeat." Another proposal would have halved the arts endowment budget. However, these plans were abandoned when the President's special task force on the arts and humanities, which included close Reagan allies such as conservatives Charlton Heston and Joseph Coors, discovered "the needs involved and benefits of past assistance," concluding that continued federal support was important. Frank Hodsoll became the chairman of the NEA in 1981, and while the department's budget decreased from $158.8 million in 1981 to $143.5 million, by 1989 it was $169.1 million, the highest it had ever been. [10] [11] [12]

1989 objections

In 1989, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association held a press conference attacking what he called "anti-Christian bigotry," in an exhibition by photographer Andres Serrano. The work at the center of the controversy was Piss Christ , a photo of a plastic crucifix submerged in a vial of an amber fluid described by the artist as his own urine. [13] Republican Senators Jesse Helms and Al D'Amato began to rally against the NEA, and expanded the attack to include other artists. Prominent conservative Christian figures including Pat Robertson of the 700 Club and Pat Buchanan joined the attacks. Republican representative Dick Armey, an opponent of federal arts funding, began to attack a planned exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe at the Corcoran Museum of Art that was to receive NEA support.

On June 12, 1989, The Corcoran cancelled the Mapplethorpe exhibition, saying that it did not want to "adversely affect the NEA's congressional appropriations." The Washington Project for the Arts later hosted the Mapplethorpe show. The cancellation was highly criticized and in September, 1989, the Director of the Corcoran gallery, Christina Orr-Cahill, issued a formal statement of apology saying, "The Corcoran Gallery of Art in attempting to defuse the NEA funding controversy by removing itself from the political spotlight, has instead found itself in the center of controversy. By withdrawing from the Mapplethorpe exhibition, we, the board of trustees and the director, have inadvertently offended many members of the arts community which we deeply regret. Our course in the future will be to support art, artists and freedom of expression." [14]

Though this controversy inspired congressional debate about appropriations to the NEA, including proposed restrictions on the content of NEA-supported work and their grantmaking guidelines, efforts to defund the NEA failed. [15]

1990 performance artists vetoed

Conservative media continued to attack individual artists whose NEA-supported work was deemed controversial. The "NEA Four", Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes, were performance artists whose proposed grants from the United States government's National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) were vetoed by John Frohnmayer in June 1990. Grants were overtly vetoed on the basis of subject matter after the artists had successfully passed through a peer review process. The artists won their case in court in 1993 and were awarded amounts equal to the grant money in question, though the case would make its way to the United States Supreme Court in National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley . [16] The case centered on subsection (d)(1) of 20 U.S.C.   § 954 which provides that the NEA Chairperson shall ensure that artistic excellence and artistic merit are the criteria by which applications are judged. The court ruled in 524 U.S. 569 (1998), that Section 954(d)(1) is facially valid, as it neither inherently interferes with First Amendment rights nor violates constitutional vagueness principles.

1995–1997 congressional attacks

The 1994 midterm elections cleared the way for House Speaker Newt Gingrich to lead a renewed attack on the NEA. Gingrich had called for the NEA to be eliminated completely along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While some in Congress attacked the funding of controversial artists, others argued the endowment was wasteful and elitist. [17] However, despite massive budget cutbacks and the end of grants to individual artists, Gingrich ultimately failed in his push to eliminate the endowment.

2009 conference call

In mid-2009, the NEA came under controversy again when it was revealed on a website run by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart that then-Communications Director Yosi Sergant had participated in an August 10, 2009 conference call that allegedly directed artists to create works of art promoting President Barack Obama's domestic agenda. [18] [19] "I would encourage you to pick something, whether it's health care, education, the environment, you know, there's four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service," Sergant said on the call, making reference to the four areas of focus earlier outlined by Nell Abernathy, Director of Outreach for United We Serve. Suggested areas of focus mentioned in the call included preventative care, child nutrition, community cleanups, trail maintenance, reading tutoring, and homelessness. At another point he said, "This is just the beginning. This is the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government. What that looks like legally. We're still trying to figure out the laws of putting government websites of Facebook and the use of Twitter. This is all being sorted out. We are participating in history as it's being made, so bear with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely. And we can really work together to move the needle to get stuff done." [20]

The NEA countered the allegations by asserting that Sergant had acted unilaterally and without the approval of then-Acting Chairman Patrice Walker Powell, and that the call was not a means to promote any legislative agenda but rather to inform members of the arts community of an opportunity to become involved in volunteerism through the United We Serve program. They also noted that the call had nothing to do with grantmaking. [21]

Proposed defunding

The budget outline submitted by President Trump on March 16, 2017, to Congress would eliminate all funding for the program. [22] [23] Congress approved a budget that retained NEA funding. The White House budget proposed for fiscal year 2018 again called for elimination of funding, but Congress retained the funding for another year. [24]


See also

Related Research Articles

The "NEA Four", Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes, were performance artists whose proposed grants from the United States government's National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) were vetoed by John Frohnmayer in June 1990. Grants were overtly vetoed on the basis of subject matter after the artists had successfully passed through a peer review process. John Fleck was vetoed for a performance comedy with a toilet prop. The artists won their case in court in 1993 and were awarded amounts equal to the grant money in question, though the case would make its way to the United States Supreme Court in National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley. In response, the NEA, under pressure from Congress, stopped funding individual artists.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency of the U.S. government, established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. The NEH is housed at 400 7th St SW, Washington, D.C. From 1979 to 2014, NEH was at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. in the Nancy Hanks Center at the Old Post Office.

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) was an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. It worked directly with the Administration and the three primary cultural agencies: the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as other federal partners and the private sector, to address policy questions in the arts and humanities, to initiate and support public/private partnerships in those disciplines, and to recognize excellence in the field. Its core areas of focus were arts and humanities education, cultural exchange, and the creative economy.

The California Arts Council is a state agency based in Sacramento, United States. Its eleven council members are appointed by the Governor and the state Legislature. The agency's mission is to advance California through the arts and creativity.

Frank Hodsoll American art sdministrator

Francis Samuel Monaise "Frank" Hodsoll was an American historian. He was the fourth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and served from 1981 to 1989.

Nancy Hanks (art historian) American art historian

Nancy Hanks (1927–1983) was the second chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She was appointed by President Richard M. Nixon and served from 1969 to 1977, continuing her service under President Gerald R. Ford. During this period, Hanks was active in the fight to save the historic Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C. from demolition. In 1983, it was officially renamed the Nancy Hanks Center, in her honor.

Rocco Landesman American theatre producer

Rocco Landesman has been a long-time Broadway theatre producer. He served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts ("NEA") from August 2009 to December 2012. The NEA is a public agency of the Federal Government with an annual budget that is directed into grants to support excellence in the arts, bring arts to all Americans and provide leadership in arts education. He is part owner of Jujamcyn Theaters, but he was a passive owner while serving in Washington.

The Maine Arts Commission is a state agency that assists artists and arts organizations in bringing music, dance, poetry, painting and other arts activities into the lives of people in Maine.

Arts Midwest, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is one of six not-for-profit regional arts organizations created to “encourage development of the arts and to support arts programs on a regional basis.” Arts Midwest's mission is to "promote creativity, nurture cultural leadership, and engage people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives.” Arts Midwest is primarily funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and is charged with supporting artists and arts organizations, and providing assistance to its nine member states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Bill O'Brien is a television series actor, and the Senior Advisor for Program Innovation for the National Endowment of the Arts.

Yosi Sergant American publicist

Yosi Sergant is an American publicist and activist He is known for his commissioning and management of the "Hope" poster created during the 2008 presidential election by Shepard Fairey and for creating the art and activist events Manifest Hope, Manifest Equality and Manifest Justice.

National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, 524 U.S. 569 (1998), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act, as amended in 1990,, which required the Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to ensure that "artistic excellence and artistic merit are the criteria by which [grant] applications are judged, taking into consideration general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public" was facially valid, as it neither inherently interfered with First Amendment rights nor violated constitutional vagueness principles. Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Wisconsin Arts Board (WAB) is a state agency based in Madison, Wisconsin. It is one of fifty-six state art agencies of the United States and works as a partner regionally with Arts Midwest and nationally with the National Endowment of the Arts. WAB's mission statement declares that it “is the state agency which nurtures creativity, cultivates expression, promotes the arts, supports the arts in education, stimulates community and economic development and serves as a resource for people of every cultural heritage.”

DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities

The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) is an agency of the District of Columbia government, under the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. The DCCAH was created as an outgrowth of the U.S. Congress act that created the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities. In 1965 the foundation provided for two operating federal agencies: the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. As of 2016, the Chair is Kay Kendall and the Executive Director is Arthur Espinoza, Jr. The DCCAH has its office is located in the Navy Yard neighborhood of southeast Washington, D.C.

Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities

The Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is the executive leader of the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency created in 1965. The Chair directs the NEH and is the sole position in the agency with the legal authority to make grants and awards. The NEH Chair is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The appointment and term of the Chair are statutorily defined in 20 U.S.C. § 956(b), and the Chair's authority is defined throughout 20 U.S.C. § 956. The National Council on the Humanities, a board of 26 private citizens who are also appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, advises the Chair.

The Perfect Moment was the most comprehensive retrospective of works by New York photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The show spanned twenty-five years of his career, featuring celebrity portraits, self-portraits, interracial figure studies, floral still lifes, homoerotic images, and collages. The exhibition, organized by Janet Kardon of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Philadelphia, opened in the winter of 1988 just months before Mapplethorpe's death from AIDS complications on March 9, 1989. On tour, in the summer of 1989, the exhibition became the centerpiece of a controversy concerning federal funding of the arts and censorship.

The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) is a non-profit membership organization that provides national representation for state and jurisdictional arts agencies in the USA.

Joan Shigekawa is an American film and television producer, cultural grantmaker, and arts administrator. After a distinguished career as a senior executive at the Rockefeller Foundation, she joined the Obama Administration in 2009 as senior deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and served as the agency’s acting chairman from 2012-2014.



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Further reading