The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a critical part of funding for the non-profit arts sector. Despite the miniscule amount of Federal money allocated to the NEA (0.004% of the 2016 fiscal budget), NEA grants spur giving from private sources, foundations, corporations, and individual contributors. On average, each NEA dollar generates another nine dollars from state, local, and private sources, amplifying the impact of each NEA grant.
In 1965, during the Johnson administration, Congress passed the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act (NFAHA): “The Congress finds and declares [that] the encouragement and support of national progress and scholarship in the humanities and in the arts, while primarily a matter for private and local initiatives, is also an appropriate matter of concern to the Federal Government.” In the early 1960’s, when ICSOM itself was barely formed, it was already very much aware of the need for government support for the arts. Leaders within ICSOM at that time spearheaded a letter-writing campaign that was instrumental in getting support from Congress on the passage of the NFAHA.
The mission statement of the NEA is, “To strengthen the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.” Programs and arts events supported by the NEA last year (not including radio and television) reached more than 33 million people. Approximately two-thirds of our ICSOM orchestras receive direct grants from the NEA. Competitive grants through programs such as Art Works and Challenge America help support diverse projects that increase community access in underserved areas, fund arts education through our symphony concerts and their affiliated youth programs, and support music festivals highlighting both contemporary compositions and international artists.
Dallas Symphony, Louisville, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras all premiered new compositions through the Art Works grant program last season. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra premiered two works by celebrated American composers, Jeremy Gill and Christopher Rouse. The Rouse composition was a co-commission shared by the Aspen Music Festival and Nashville Symphony. The Louisville Orchestra used its Art Works grant for a three-week Festival of American Music culminating in the world premier of a piano concerto by Chase Morrin. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s three-week performance project featured contemporary works by an international array of artists and composers. The season finale was highlighted by the world premiere of Mauricio Sotelo’s Red Inner Light Sculpture, for solo violin, strings, and flamenco dancer.
The St. Louis Symphony was awarded an Imagine Your Parks grant for the joint celebration of the NEA’s 50th anniversary and the centennial of the National Park Service. SLSO paired Des canyons aux etoiles… by Olivier Messiaen with the work of photographer Deborah O’Grady. [See the March 2016 issue of Senza Sordino] The event incorporated images of the National Parks—which had originally inspired Messiaen’s composition—with a live performance by the orchestra.
In Los Angeles, the NEA helps support YOLA at HOLA, a partnership between the LA Phil and Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles at Heart of Los Angeles, which provides free instruments, music instruction, and performance opportunities to underserved and at-risk youth in central Los Angeles. In association with the Longy School of Music of Bard College, a Master of Arts in Teaching is offered, inspired by the Venezuelan El Sistema program.
In addition to helping promote the highest standards of artistic excellence and public understanding of the arts’ contribution to our national discourse, in 2013 the NEA and the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) developed an “Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account” to calculate the arts and culture sector’s contributions to the gross domestic product (GDP). Their findings for that year determined that the nonprofit arts industry contributed 4.23% of the GDP, totaling $704.2 billion, and supported 4.13 million jobs in the arts and related industries.
With the advent of the new administration there have been published reports of renewed attempts to diminish or demolish the NEA, which is a vital part of our industry and a testament to the character of our nation. Please contact your congressional representatives. Tell them who you are and what you do and ask them to support the National Endowment for the Arts.
Direct links can be found at:
Americans for the Arts: https://secure.artsactionfund.org/page/s/trump-arts-petition