Article Published: 01 Mar 2020

Federal Arts Support

We urge Congress to...

Continue bipartisan support with a budget of $170 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the FY 2021 Interior Appropriations bill to broaden access to the cultural, educational, and economic benefits of the arts and to advance creativity and innovation in communities across the United States.

The National Endowment for the Arts: America's Lead Supporter of the Arts

The NEA’s mission is to strengthen the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation. As stated in the Enabling Legislation for the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, “The Arts ... belong to all the people of the United States.”

The NEA supports artistically excellent projects that celebrate America’s creativity and cultural heritage, invite a dialogue that fosters a mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all persons and groups, and enrich our humanity by broadening our understanding of ourselves as individuals and as a society. The NEA is America’s chief public supporter of the arts and celebrates the arts as a national priority. The arts have the power to transport audiences, unite communities, promote empathy and understanding, and humanize difference.

The Endowment’s goals are fulfilled primarily through direct grants—reviewed and recommended by panels of experts—to arts organizations across the country. Between 2012 and 2016 on average, NEA grants:

  • Reached 42.8 million adults and 8.3 million children per year attending live arts events through NEA-supported programs. These 92,790 live events included performances, lectures, festivals, and exhibitions.
  • Engaged more than 61 million individuals with the arts through the internet and more than 27 million through mobile applications in NEA-funded projects.
  • Impacted more than 16,000 communities engaged in NEA-supported projects, many benefiting from touring and outreach initiatives.
  • Awarded 40% of its grantmaking budget directly to the states through their state and regional arts agencies, extending the NEA’s reach further to millions of people in thousands of communities.
The Value of a Federal Role for the Arts
Broadens Access to All
  • The NEA is the only arts funder in America, public or private, that supports the arts in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Every congressional district benefits from an NEA grant.
  • The Challenge America funding category specifically offers support for projects that extend the reach of the arts to populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, economics, or disability.
  • The NEA’s role is to make sure all Americans have access to the arts no matter where they live. Among the NEA’s accomplishments is the growth of arts activity in areas of the nation that have been underserved, especially in rural and inner-city communities. In many communities, NEA grants support free performances, as well as reduced ticket prices for those who cannot afford to buy a ticket. A significant percentage of grants benefit those who have fewer opportunities to participate in the arts. According to the NEA’s FAQ Facts & Figures:
    • 65% of NEA grants go to small and medium-sized budget organizations, which tend to support projects that benefit audiences that otherwise might not have access to arts programming.
    • 40% of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods.
    • 36% 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.
Provides a High Return on Investment
  • The ratio of private and other public funds matching every NEA grant dollar will approach 9:1, far surpassing the required non-federal match of at least 1:1. This generated more than $500 million in matching support and illustrates why federal support for the arts is uniquely valuable.
  • The nonprofit arts industry supports 4.13 million jobs in the arts and related industries. The Bureau of Economic Analysis and the NEA together calculated the arts and culture sector’s contributions to the gross domestic product at 4.2%, which amounts to an impressive $763 billion.
Supports Partnerships
  • The NEA funds school- and community-based programs that help children and youth acquire knowledge and skills in the arts. It also supports educational programs for adults, collaborations between state arts agencies and state education agencies, and partnerships between arts institutions and K-12 and college/university educators.
  • The NEA supports military families through its Creative Forces program, a collaboration with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to serve the unique and special needs of military patients and Veterans diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In both FY 2016 and 2017, Congress appropriated a nearly $2 million increase specifically to expand this military healing arts program.


Background on the NEA

The NEA’s FY 2020 budget is $162.25 million, just 0.004% of the federal budget and 49 cents per capita. While the Administration’s FY 2020 budget called for termination, the House approved a $12.5 million increase and the Senate approved a $2 million increase. Ultimately, Congress agreed upon a $7.25 million increase from last year’s allocation, which reflects steady and consistent bipartisan support over the last several years. Advocates hope to continue this trajectory, calling upon a funding level of $170 million for FY21 despite the Administration’s proposal, again, to terminate the agency.