NEA Arts Magazine

NEA Reaches Out to Underserved Areas


Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, U.S. Rep. James Langevin of Rhode Island, and Eileen B. Mason, Senior Deputy Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts

Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, U.S. Rep. James Langevin of Rhode Island, and Eileen B. Mason, Senior Deputy Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, at a workshop press conference in West Kingston, RI. Photo: Christy Crytzer

The NEA has sponsored various tours of art for decades. In June 2002, the NEA began a new kind of tour—grant workshops that guide local arts organizations in the grant application process.

The NEA is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, and as a result, its grant process is extremely competitive. By offering workshops to arts organizations, the NEA is showing that no matter their size or location, they may qualify to receive NEA grants.

“Often, smaller arts groups may feel that there’s no way they can compete on a national level for federal funding. They hear that we give grants to the Metropolitan Opera, so they think, ‘Well, we’re not the Met!’” said NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Eileen Mason, who leads the workshops. “The fact is, we have programs and opportunities that may be perfect for them, but the appropriate contacts don’t know those opportunities exist.”

At each workshop, a member of Congress serves as host, often along with the state’s art agencies. Twenty-three congressmen and senators have participated across the country—from New Haven, CT, to West Palm Beach, FL, and from Sacramento, CA, to Asheville, NC. With as many as 190 participants per site, the workshops have proven so successful that there are plans for more in the coming months.

“It’s more than just bringing information about the grants,” said Mason. “In some cases, we’re finding that the arts organizations are learning from each other because they’re finally meeting face-to-face. And the members of Congress are learning more about the NEA, the importance of federal funding for local arts organizations, and the positive effect these organizations have on communities in their districts.”

NEA grants make a big difference to organizations that haven’t received them before. In Bibb County, GA, the Macon Symphony received one of 25 $10,000 grants given to small and mid-sized symphony orchestras nationwide last September. The money enabled the symphony to perform its annual “Pumpkin Pops” concert last fall when a local funder pulled out.

“We couldn’t have offered it otherwise,” said Doris Wood, the orchestra’s general manager. “It helped morale tremendously because we had not had an NEA grant in a while.”

“Our charge is to bring art to all Americans, and if there are parts of the country we’re not reaching, then we’re not fulfilling that charge,” Chairman Gioia said. “We are, in effect, going door-to-door to find how we can reach as many American communities as possible. And this year, I have pledged to reach every community.”

Previous grant workshops include:

4.23.03 Rochester, NY
5.19.03 Asheville, NC
5.28.03 State College, PA
6.04.03 Edinburg, TX
6.23.03 Salisbury, NC
6.25.03 Santa Clarita, CA
6.27.03 Mobile, AL
8.05.03 Las Vegas, NV
8.06.03 Spokane,WA
8.07.03 Sacramento, CA
8.08.03 Orlando, FL

11.07.03 W. Palm Beach, FL
1.29.04 Chicago, IL
2.13.04 Atlanta, GA
2.23.04 W. Kingston, RI
3.08.04 Pensacola, FL
3.12.04 Nashville, TN
3.26.04 Downey, CA
4.13.04 Milford, DE
4.15.04 Louisville, KY
5.03.04 Sarasota, FL