National Endowment for the Arts

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]

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


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]


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]


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.

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 is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to the art of jazz. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships is 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


  1. ^ a b National Endowment for the Arts. "About Us". Archived from the original on September 1, 2006. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "The 2016 Tony Awards: Winners". Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b National Endowment for the Arts Appropriations History, NEA
  5. ^ Patricia Cohen (August 7, 2013) Vacancies Hamper Agencies for Arts New York Times.
  6. ^ National Council on the Arts Archived 2010-12-16 at the Wayback Machine., Archived 2008-11-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "President Obama Announces his Intent to Nominate Jane Chu as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts". Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Jane Chu confirmed as NEA Chairman after position had been vacant for a year". The Washington Post. July 12, 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  9. ^ Neda Ulaby (Director) (2014-05-15). "In Pricey Cities, Being A Bohemian Starving Artist Gets Old Fast". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  10. ^ William H. Honan (May 15, 1988). "Book Discloses That Reagan Planned To Kill National Endowment for Arts". New York Times.
  11. ^ Gioia, Dana. "For the umpteenth time, the National Endowment for the Arts deserves its funding". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  12. ^ "Frank Hodsoll, NEA chairman who championed arts under Reagan, dies at 78". Washington Post. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  13. ^ Paul Monaco (2000). Understanding Society, Culture, and Television. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 100. ISBN 978-0-275-97095-6.
  14. ^ Quigley, Margaret. "The Mapplethorpe Censorship Controversy". Research Associates. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
  15. ^ C. Carr, Timeline of NEA 4 events,
  16. ^ National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, 524 U.S. 569, (1998).
  17. ^ Hughes, Robert (August 7, 1995). "Pulling the Fuse on Culture". TIME. Retrieved October 3, 2009.
  18. ^ "NEA Reassigns Communications Director Following Uproar Over Obama Initiative". FOX News. 11 September 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-09-14. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
  19. ^ "Audiotape Reveals Artists Being Asked to Support Obama's Agenda". FOX News. September 21, 2009. Archived from the original on September 24, 2009. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
  20. ^ "After 'Inappropriate' NEA Conference Call, White House Pushes New Guidelines". ABC News. September 22, 2009. Archived from the original on July 11, 2015.
  21. ^ STATEMENT FROM NEA CHAIRMAN ROCCO LANDESMAN Archived 2009-09-26 at the Wayback Machine., September 22, 2009.
  22. ^ 3:02 PM ET (March 16, 2017). "Trump Budget Cuts Funding For Arts, Humanities Endowments And Corporation For Public Broadcasting". NPR. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  23. ^ McPhee, Ryan (March 16, 2017). "Trump Administration's Budget Proposal Eliminates National Endowment for the Arts". Playbill. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  24. ^ National Endowment for the Arts Update: Trump FY2018 Budget Proposal Calls for Elimination of NEA Funding
  25. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Acting Chairman" Archived 2009-04-04 at the Wayback Machine., NEA press release dated February 2, 2009 at NEA website.
  26. ^ Robin Pogrebin, "Saving Federal Arts Funds: Selling Culture as an Economic Force," New York Times, February 16, 2009.
  27. ^ Robin Pogrebin, "Producer Is Chosen to Lead Arts Endowment", New York Times, May 13, 2009.
  28. ^ Davi Napoleon, "Mr. Landesman Goes to Washington" Archived 2009-07-13 at the Wayback Machine., The Faster Times, June 13, 2009.
  29. ^ Robin Pogrebin, "Rocco Landesman Confirmed as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts", New York Times, August 7, 2009.
  30. ^ "Statement from National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman". The National Endowment for the Arts. November 20, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Jane Chu Confirmed as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts". Retrieved June 12, 2014.

Statement from Jane Chu on the Conclusion of Her Term as NEA Chair on June 4, 2018

Further reading

  • Alexander, Jane. Command Performance: an Actress in the Theater of Politics. Public Affairs, a member of the Perseus Book Group; New York, NY, 2000. ISBN 0-306-81044-1
  • Binkiewicz, Donna M. Federalizing the Muse: United States Arts Policy and the National Endowment for the Arts, 1965–1980, University of North Carolina Press, 312pp., 2004. ISBN 0-8078-2878-5.
  • Napoleon, Davi. Chelsea on the Edge: The Adventures of an American Theater This history of a theater in Brooklyn that won critical acclaim but could not always get funding to finish planned seasons is in part a case study of the arts funding crisis in America. Iowa State University Press.

External links

Cultural subsidy

A cultural subsidy is a payment from the government to specific cultural industries to ensure that some public policy purpose in culture (e.g. multiculturalism, bilingualism, minority and languages, and preservation of traditional dance, music, food, art or other practices) are preserved and maintained in society. Cultural subsidies work similarly to other forms of subsidies such as industrial and consumer subsidies and have similar goals of expansionary economic results and increased utility for their targeted recipients.

Implementation: Cultural subsidies are distributed in the form of grants and payment from the government to various institutions, groups or citizens who are seen to meaningfully contribute to their society's culture. Some of the most familiar efforts are: free museum entrances for children and seniors, public art instalments, government funding for afterschool art-based programs and government grants to culturally focused non-profits.

A common emphasis for cultural subsidies is the provision of resources for underserved communities or groups, whose cultural background and heritage may be at risk without additional financial support, or who traditionally lack access to mainstream cultural events and participation. For example, the National Endowment for the Arts states that 40% of their activities support high-poverty neighbourhoods, 36% of their grants are awarded to organisations that serve those with disabilities, in institutions and veterans, while 33% of their grants are awarded to serve low-income audiences.Cultural Subsidy Implementation in the US

The National Council for the Arts was established by US President Lyndon B. Johnson through the National Arts and Cultural Development Act of 1964 and is the US federal program which provides cultural subsidies. Its purpose is to review and recommend applications for grants, funding guidelines and leadership initiatives in the US. to the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. There are eighteen Presidentially appointed members of the council, with six additional members of Congress serving two-year, non-voting terms. Members are selected for their extensive knowledge, expertise and interest in the arts as well as outstanding backgrounds in service or recognition within the arts.The annual budget for the National Council for the Arts is set by Congress and currently receives .004% of the total, or 149.8 million USD. 40% of their grant budget is directly received by states via regional arts agencies who distribute the funds, with stipulations that every state and regional partnership allocates a portion of funding for underserved communities. Direct awards to organisations and individuals who apply through the National Endowment for the Arts make up the remaining 60% of their annual budget.Intended Economic Effects

Like other subsidies, cultural subsidies are utilized with the intent to expand economic growth and utility within a specific area. The functionality of cultural subsidies can be seen through typical supply and demand graphs like those pictured below.

As prices for arts and culture related items, events and classes increase, the demand for them decreases. On the other hand, as prices increase, the supply also increases as more artists and cultural entities seek gains. Where the two forces of supply and demand meet is the equilibrium point (e1).

When cultural subsidies are applied from the demand-side that means they focus on growing the demand from consumers for art and culture related products. This most often is reflected in free or discounted ticket sales for art and culture events and purchases for pieces of art that consumers would otherwise not be able to buy due to budget constraints. The ultimate goal in utilising demand-side cultural subsidies is to increase the demand for art at every price level it is offered. Below, we can see the result is an outward shift of the demand curve to the right, and an increase in both the equilibrium supply and demand (e1 to e2). The difference from P1 to P2 is the amount which is compensated by the subsidy, and the total area of from P2, e2 and Q2 is the cultural sector's revenue. Demand-side subsidies are typically viewed as an effective way to increase both the output of the cultural sector and increase incomes for the providers within it.

Governments can also approach cultural subsidies from the supply-side in an effort to increase the economic power of those who supply cultural products. This allows cultural providers the opportunity to produce and supply more than they would be able to without subsidised assistance. Instead of raising both the price and quantity of cultural products, as the demand-side subsidies do, supply-side subsidies lower price while increasing quantity, as show in the model below. Supply shifts downward, to the right and the new equilibrium moves from e1 to e2. Total revenue shifts from the blue rectangle to the red rectangle, which demonstrates an expansion of cultural sector output (Q1 to Q2), but not necessarily an increase in economic growth.

Issues facing cultural subsidies

As with other sectors reliant on subsidies, the cultural sector is constantly subject to the budget decisions made by the government. In the US, government subsidies for arts and culture have steadily been declining as spending emphasis shifts elsewhere. Cultural providers are forced to turn to state and private philanthropic groups and individuals for greater and greater percentages of their funding.Under the current US administration of President Donald Trump, there have been proposals to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the US grant-making organisation responsible for cultural subsidy provision. The main argument behind this comes from the private taxation of citizens to fund the program. Policymakers in favour of reduced taxes often view cultural subsidies as a non-necessary expense, and one which should be privately, versus publicly funded.Opinions on the importance of cultural subsidies vary widely by each nation, as well as the levels of investment in cultural products by consumers and cultural professions by suppliers. In Australia, there is a current over-supply in the cultural sector which has been supported through supply-side subsidies from the government. This issue, paired with a drastic increase in the number of cultural professionals in the early 2000s, has been blamed for steadily declining salaries for cultural suppliers. Advocates for reform are stressing the importance of demand-side policies in the country as an alternative way to increase artist salary and most importantly, increase demand for the large supply of cultural products available.

David St. John

David St. John (born July 24, 1949) is an American poet.

Eric Bogosian

Eric Bogosian (born April 24, 1953) is an American actor, playwright, monologuist, novelist, and historian.

Garth Fagan

Gawain Garth Fagan, CD (born 3 May 1940) is a Jamaican modern dance choreographer. He is the founder and artistic director of Garth Fagan Dance, a modern dance company based in Rochester, New York.

Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts

The Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts was established by the Hawaii State Legislature in 1965 to "promote, perpetuate, preserve, and encourage culture and the arts, history and the humanities as central to the quality of life of the people of Hawaii". The establishment of this agency allowed Hawaii to receive federal grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.In 1967, the Hawaii State Legislature enacted the Art in State Buildings Law, to be administered by the foundation. It mandated that one percent of the construction cost of new state buildings be set aside to purchase art. Hawaii thus became the first state in the United States with a Percent for Art law.In 1970, the foundation and the state Department of Education jointly established the Artists in the Schools Program, making Hawaii the first state to establish a statewide partnership between schools and professional artists.In 1989, the Art for State Buildings Law, was expanded to establish the Works of Art Special Fund, a permanent fund for the purchase of art, also managed by the foundation.

In the fall of 2002, the Hawaii State Art Museum opened in the No. 1 Capitol District Building, at 250 South Hotel Street in Honolulu, where the offices of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts are also located.

Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander (born October 28, 1939) is an American author, actress, and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a Tony Award winner and two-time Emmy Award winner.

Alexander made her Broadway debut in 1968 in The Great White Hope and won the 1969 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Other Broadway credits include, 6 Rms Riv Vu (1972), The Night of the Iguana (1988), The Sisters Rosensweig (1993) and Honour (1998). She has received a total of seven Tony Award nominations and was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1994.She went on to star in the film version of The Great White Hope in 1970 and received the first of four Academy Award nominations for her performance. Her subsequent Oscar nominations were for All the President's Men (1976), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), and Testament (1983). An eight-time Emmy nominee, she received her first nomination for playing Eleanor Roosevelt in Eleanor and Franklin (1976), a role that required her to age from 18 to 60. She has won two Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Playing for Time (1980) and Warm Springs (2005).

Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan (born September 7, 1962) is an American novelist and short story writer who lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn with her husband and two sons. Egan's novel A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. As of February 28, 2018, she is the President of the PEN America Center.

John Frohnmayer

John Edward Frohnmayer (born June 1, 1942) is a retired attorney from the U.S. state of Oregon. He was the fifth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, a program of the United States government. He was appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1989, and served until 1992.

List of recipients of the National Medal of Arts

The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. A prestigious American honor, it is the highest honor given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government. Nominations are submitted to the National Council on the Arts, the advisory committee of the National Endowment for the Arts, who then submits its recommendations to the White House for the President of the United States to award. The medal was designed for the NEA by sculptor Robert Graham.

Mary Ellen Mark

Mary Ellen Mark (March 20, 1940 – May 25, 2015) was an American photographer known for her photojournalism, documentary photography, portraiture, and advertising photography. She photographed people who were "away from mainstream society and toward its more interesting, often troubled fringes".Mark had 18 collections of her work published, most notably Streetwise and Ward 81. Her work was exhibited at galleries and museums worldwide and widely published in Life, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, New York Times, and Vanity Fair. She was a member of Magnum Photos between 1977 and 1981. She received numerous accolades, including three Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the 2014 Lifetime Achievement in Photography Award from the George Eastman House and the Outstanding Contribution Photography Award from the World Photography Organisation.

NEA Jazz Masters

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), every year honors up to seven jazz musicians with Jazz Master Awards. The National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowships are the self-proclaimed highest honors that the United States bestows upon jazz musicians. The award is usually given late in a performer's career after they have long established themselves.

Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey (born April 26, 1966) is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and again in 2014. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is a former Poet Laureate of Mississippi.She is the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.

National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley

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, (20 U.S.C. § 954 (d)(1)), 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.

National Heritage Fellowship

The National Heritage Fellowship is a lifetime honor presented to master folk and traditional artists by the National Endowment for the Arts. Similar to Japan's Living National Treasure award, the Fellowship is the United States' highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. It is a one-time only award and fellows must be living citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Each year, fellowships are presented to between nine and fifteen artists or groups at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The Fellows are nominated by individual citizens, with an average of over 200 nominations per year. From that pool of candidates, recommendations are made by a rotating panel of specialists, including one layperson, as well as folklorists and others with a variety of forms of cultural expertise. The recommendations are then reviewed by the National Council on the Arts, with the final decisions made by the chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts. As of 2017, 422 artists in a wide variety of fields have received Fellowships.

Roger L. Stevens

Roger Lacey Stevens (March 12, 1910 – February 2, 1998) was an American theatrical producer, arts administrator, and real estate executive. He was the founding Chairman of both the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (1961) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1965).

Russell Edson

Russell Edson (1935 – April 29, 2014) was an American poet, novelist, writer, and illustrator. He was the son of the cartoonist-screenwriter Gus Edson.

He studied art early in life and attended the Art Students League as a teenager. He began publishing poetry in the 1960s. His honors as a poet include a Guggenheim fellowship, a Whiting Award, and several fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Songs of the Century

The "Songs of the Century" list is part of an education project by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the National Endowment for the Arts, and Scholastic Inc. that aims to "promote a better understanding of America's musical and cultural heritage" in American schools. Hundreds of voters, who included elected officials, people from the music industry and from the media, teachers, and students, were asked in 2001 by the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) to choose the top 365 songs (not necessarily by Americans) of the 20th century with historical significance in mind. RIAA selected the voters, and about 15% (200) of the 1,300 selected voters responded.

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes (born November 18, 1971) is an American poet and educator who has published seven poetry collections. His 2010 collection, Lighthead, won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2010. In September 2014, he was one of 21 recipients of the prestigious MacArthur fellowships awarded to individuals who show outstanding creativity in their work.

Worthington Hall

Worthington Hall, now known as the Shawnee Playhouse, was a historic theatre located in Smithfield Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania. It was built in 1904.It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It was delisted in 1986 after being demolished following a fire—caused by arson—on June 24, 1985. With help from the people of Shawnee on Delaware, the Seabees, the Hughes Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The National Trust, a Community Development Block Grant, and generous donations from many individuals and friends, the playhouse was rebuilt.

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