NEA Arts Magazine

President Bush Requests NEA Budget Increase

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Mrs. Bush announcing the proposed NEA budget increase

Mrs. Bush announcing the proposed NEA budget increase. Photo: Jim Saah

For almost 40 years, the NEA has supported the arts by providing access to the country’s diverse artistic heritage. In recognition of that support, President Bush has proposed a funding increase for the Endowment that would raise its budget by $18 million from $121 million in FY 2004 to $139.4 million, the largest increase since 1984.

Fifteen million dollars of the increase would fund the American Masterpieces initiative, with the remainder going toward other grantmaking and administrative costs. The President's proposed budget also includes more than $53 million in support for state arts organizations and underserved local communities. New projects will be implemented, contingent upon funding, in partnerships with a variety of public and private organizations nationwide.

Mrs. Laura Bush announced the $18 million budget increase request on January 29th, 2004. At the press conference, Mrs. Bush said, “I am very pleased to announce the president’s strong support for this initiative, and for the arts in this country. I’m especially pleased at the program’s focus on arts education, as it is crucial that the knowledge and appreciation of our cultural legacy begins in our schools.”

Dana Gioia, the NEA Chairman, said of the initiative, “It will encompass multiple art forms and will reach hundreds of cities, large and small, across all fifty states, as well as thousands of schools and dozens of military bases. We will bring the masterpieces of American culture from painting to modern dance, theater to jazz, classical music to literature.”

This ambitious three-year program will consist of three components: touring, local presentations, and arts education. Programs presenting acknowledged masterpieces selected from a wide variety of art forms will tour to large and small communities in all fifty states. The first year will highlight dance, visual arts, and music. With the proposed funding, local presentations will be supported so that institutions throughout the country can create programs consistent with the overall theme. Arts education will make up a substantial portion of the initiative, as it will bring an unprecedented number of students to the exhibitions, presentations, and performances. The NEA also will provide educational materials for use in classrooms.

The American Masterpieces project builds on the success of two national initiatives launched in the last year: Shakespeare in American Communities and the NEA Jazz Masters program. Shakespeare in American Communities is bringing professional productions of Shakespeare and educational activities to more than 100 communities in all fifty states, including U.S. military bases. Meanwhile, the NEA Jazz Masters program is expanding: increasing the number of honorees to six, raising the amount of the award to $25,000, adding a touring component, and producing a commemorative CD.