6 Things You Didn’t Know About the NEA


What do Hamilton, Sundance Film Festival, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial have in common?

These world-renowned and celebrated artistic endeavors would not exist if not for the initial support from the National Endowment for the Arts!

The NEA is an independent federal agency that works to give people across America the opportunity to participate in and experience the arts.The NEA funds artistic events, concerts, performances, exhibitions and readings, and also awards grants for research on the impact and value of the arts in the United States. While these amazing and disparate groups have all received funding through the NEA, the future of the agency is uncertain; the arts are under attack.

In March 2017, it was proposed that funding be completely eliminated for the National Endowment for the Arts. Since then, arts advocates, artists, lawmakers, and the public have banded together to fight for the arts, spreading a powerful message that the arts play a critical role in the lives of Americans. From bolstering the economy to encouraging creativity and innovation, arts funding is key to a happy, healthy, and prosperous community. On July 18th, the House made strides in helping to protect the arts by voting to continue funding the National Endowment for the Arts and other critical arts organizations. However, the battle is far from over. With the federal administration showing increasing resistance to arts funding, it’s now more important than ever to show your support and to fight for the arts!

Interested in learning more about the National Endowment for the Arts? Here are 6 interesting facts and figures.

1. The NEA recently celebrated its 50th birthday

Happy Birthday NEA! The National Endowment for the Arts was founded in 1965 under the Johnson administration through a bipartisan effort to inspire American creativity, nurture and preserve artistic traditions, and to elevate the nation’s culture. Since then it has funded over 145,000 grants totalling more than $5 billion. The organization has helped to kickstart some amazing contributions to American culture!

2. Its budget is relatively tiny, but its impact is huge

The NEA’s total funding constitutes .004% of the federal budget, or 4 one-thousandths of one percent. Per person, that’s about $0.45 a year to support arts funding. While this amount is insignificant to the average person, combined it helps provide life-changing experiences for organizations across America. The majority of NEA grants go to small and medium sized organizations, providing support to projects that reach audiences who might not otherwise have access to arts programming.

NEA grants show a significant “return on investment of federal dollars with $1 of NEA direct funding leveraging up to $9 in private and other public funds, resulting in $500 million in matching support in 2016.” 

3. It helps to fund a $742 billion-dollar industry and economy

When the NEA funds a project, its reach is far beyond the direct recipients. Funds distributed into arts programs generate ticket sales, encourage community development, bolster tourism and help to export American culture. Consumer spending on performing arts in particular grew 10 percent from 1998 to 2013. The Arts adds millions of jobs to the workforce, including 2 million artists and 5 million arts-related positions. Dollar for dollar, the arts are a driving force in growing the American economy.

4. It partners with other federal agencies

The NEA has launched several successful partnerships with other federal agencies to serve the unique and special needs of the communities they serve. Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network is one such partnership. With the Department of Defense, the Military Arts Healing Network funding creative art therapies at clinical sites for military members, veterans and their families. In 2016 Congress noted the success of this program, and increased the NEA budget specifically to expand this healing program. The Department of Defense also partners with the NEA on Blue Star Museums, a collaboration to provide free admission to museums for active duty military personnel and their families.

The Arts and Human Development Taskforce convened by the NEA conducts research on the impact of the Arts across multiple units of the federal government including the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education.

5. It helps to make Arts accessible everywhere

Some have argued that the NEA is not relevant, because museums, cultural institutions and cultural projects can be funded privately. However, charitable individual giving is disproportionate to wealthy urban communities (rural areas only receive 5.5% of private philanthropic dollars). That’s where the NEA comes in. Their funding makes sure there is an equal distribution of funds, especially for underserved communities. Challenge America is a specific, dedicated grant pool for small & mid sized organizations serving underserved populations. This results in that:

  • 65 percent of NEA grants go to small and medium-sized organizations, which tend to support projects that benefit audiences that otherwise might not have access to arts programming.
  • 40 percent of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods.
  • 36 percent of NEA grants go to organizations that reach underserved populations such as people with disabilities, people in institutions, and veterans.
  • More than half of NEA-funded art events take place in locations where the median household income is less than $50,000

6. It needs your help!

As a federal department, the NEA cannot lobby for its own funding; it also cannot accept private donations. Only lawmakers have the power to directly fund or defund it. Since its inception it has had to fight for the right to exist. Past presidents and politicians have sought to defund it, but time and again official inquiries, reports and studies have solidified the necessity of federal arts funding for the American people. Despite its importance, the NEA is constantly faced with the threat of budget cuts or elimination. Now again the arts are under attack. Thousands have already spoken up in support of the NEA, and you can too!

Ink For The Arts!

We believe that the NEA plays a crucial role in supporting the arts, and it is our job to protect it. To show our support for the the NEA, we are launchingInk for the ArtsTo take a stance, snap a photo of yourself featuring your #InkForTheArts tattoo and share it on social media. Find out more about Ink for the Arts and how to get your own temporary tattoos at Ink For The Arts.

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