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From National Endowment for the Arts booklet of the same name
January 2003. 

Guide to the NEA: An Overview


The National Endowment for the Arts was created by Congress and established in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. Since then, we have awarded more than 120,000 grants to arts organizations and artists in all 50 states and the six U.S. jurisdictions.* This public investment in the nation's cultural life has resulted in both new and classic works of art reaching every corner of America.

The National Endowment for the Arts is the largest single funder of the nonprofit arts sector in the United States. Among its many accomplishments, the Endowment has:
  • funded the PBS series Great Performances, winner of 51 Emmys and 121 Emmy nominations, for most of its 26 years on television.
  • made possible the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the most visited tourist attraction in the nation's capital.
  • fostered the careers of 39 of the 58 recipients of the National Book Awards, National Book Critics Circle Awards, and Pulitzer Prizes in fiction and poetry since 1990.
  • provided for the original production of the musical A Chorus Line, first developed in regional theater.
  • supported such jazz legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Dr. Billy Taylor, Miles Davis and Sarah Vaughan.

About the NEA

The National Endowment for the Arts provides national recognition and support to significant projects of artistic excellence, thus preserving and enhancing our nation's diverse cultural heritage. The Endowment was created by Congress and established in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. Since then, it has awarded more than 120,000 grants to arts organizations and artists in all fifty states and the six U.S. jurisdictions. This public investment in the nation's cultural life has resulted in both new and classic works of art reaching every corner of America.
Arts Endowment Leadership

The Endowment's Chairman is appointed for a four-year term by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

The National Council on the Arts advises the Chairman on agency policy and programs, and makes final recommendations to the Chairman on grant applications.

Of the Council's 20 members, 14 are private citizens appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The remaining six are members of Congress who serve in a non-voting capacity.
Grant Applications

The Endowment awards grants for exemplary projects in the arts, including dance, design, folk and traditional arts, literature, media arts (film, television, video, radio, audio art), music, musical theater, opera, theater, visual arts and multidisciplinary works. The agency considers applications from eligible organizations in the following broad categories: Grants for Arts Projects, Partnership Agreements and Leadership Initiatives. Qualified individual writers may apply for Literature Fellowships. Lifetime achievement fellowships in the areas of jazz and the folk and traditional arts are awarded by nomination.

Nonprofit, tax-exempt U.S. organizations may apply. Applicants may be arts organizations, arts service organizations, federally recognized tribal communities and tribes, official units of state or local government, and other organizations that help advance the mission of the Arts Endowment. Where eligible to apply, individuals must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Grant application guidelines and forms are available from:

Office of Public Information
National Endowment for the Arts
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20506-0001
Telephone: 202-682-5400

Application Review

Applications are evaluated on the basis of artistic excellence and artistic merit.

Standard Review Grants receive three independent levels of review. First, the applications are referred to advisory panels according to the arts discipline or field most relevant to the project. Panel recommendations are forwarded to the National Council on the Arts. Applications that the Council recommends for funding are then forwarded to the Chairman for final decision.

Fast-Track Review Grants undergo an expedited review. Following panel and staff review, recommendations are forwarded to the Endowment Chairman.

Advisory Panels

The Arts Endowment convenes 40-50 advisory panels each year to review applications for funding. Panels typically are composed of artists; arts administrators; educators; representatives of state, regional, or local arts agencies; and other arts professionals. At least one member of each panel is a lay person -- someone who is knowledgeable about the arts but not engaged in them as a profession. In selecting panelists, the agency makes every effort to ensure that its review system reflects the variety of aesthetic, geographic, ethnic and cultural viewpoints of the nation.

The Endowment is always interested in adding to its list of potential panelists. For information about serving as a panelist, contact the Endowment's Office of Panel Operations at 202-682-5421. Those wishing to be considered as possible panelists will be asked to complete a form for our Panelist Data Bank and to submit a resume.

* American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands .

This document is not necessarily endorsed by the Almanac of Policy Issues. It is being preserved  in the Policy Archive for historic reasons.[an error occurred while processing this directive]

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