Restoring the Quality of Life

NEA Assists Hurricane-Ravaged Arts Organizations


photo of a mural underneath the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge

Gulfport, Mississippi, photographer Linda Nix attended a workshop on documenting the aftermath of the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes with support from the Hattiesburg Arts Council, which used funds from its NEA hurricane-relief grant. Nix photographed this mural underneath the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge. Photo by Linda Nix.

In four of the states devastated by the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi -- arts, entertainment, and recreational enterprises contributed $14.735 billion to the state economies.More important, the arts and culture of the region represented the spirit of the people -- from New Orleans's Mardi Gras to Alabama's handcrafted quilts to Mississippi's blues tradition. In February 2006, the NEA announced more than $700,000 in grants to support the region's hurricane-affected arts organizations. "The region can't recover without the arts," notes NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "These grants will help spur both community and economic recovery for the Gulf Coast region."

In addition to direct grants, the NEA discussed with federal officials the need to include performing arts and community arts centers in the definition of organizations eligible to apply for relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Sponsored by Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chaffee, the legislation was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush, ensuring that performing arts and community arts facilities affected by future disasters will have improved access to federal relief funding.

Close-up of a section of the crumpled bridge

The Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge, seen here from the Biloxi side, was, in the words of the photographer, "crumpled like a pile of dominoes." Photo by Linda Nix.

NEA emergency grants were disbursed under the Chairman's delegated authority to four state arts agencies, 14 local arts agencies, and 16 arts organizations in the Gulf Coast region. The following pages spotlight five of these grantees and how, in the words of one grantee, "a caring phone call from the NEA gave hope that rebuilding could and would occur through grant assistance."