NEA Arts Magazine

Learning in the Arts

NEA Grants Support Outstanding Arts Education Programs

The support of arts education programs is a core mission of the National Endowment for the Arts. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 alone, the NEA awarded more than $5 million in Learning in the Arts grants to support outstanding arts education programs across a range of disciplines. These projects take many forms, from in-school residencies by performing arts companies to summer camps offering immersion in the visual arts or creative writing to weekly after-school music lessons in classical or blues music. As NEA Chairman Dana Gioia expressed in his introduction to Imagine! Introducing Your Child to the Arts, an NEA resource to help parents and teachers share the arts with children, "What we have learned about arts education can be stated simply: the arts matter profoundly and should be introduced into the lives of children at the earliest possible age." (You can obtain a copy of Imagine! at

In a separate funding category, for the last four years the NEA has supported arts learning through Summer Schools in the Arts grants. These projects offered rigorous, challenging arts education activities, lasting from just a week to the full 12 weeks of the average school's summer vacation. In FY 2007, the NEA supported 25 such projects, with a distribution of nearly $700,000 in federal grants. Through these programs, young artists were able to learn everything from how to produce and perform a play or musical to how to capture their own life experiences on film.

While many of the arts education programs supported by the NEA focus primarily on children and youth, the NEA also supports professional development projects for educators. These projects include the Children's Dance Theatre University of Utah, in which kindergarten to 6th-grade teachers learn and practice dance skills side by side with their students, and the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County's ACT 3 project, which works with teams of teachers, artists, and school administrators to build school capacity for implementing standards-based arts instruction into their curricula.

It is important to note that the students and educators who participate in NEA-supported arts education programs are able to learn from and collaborate with professional artists, an opportunity that most likely would not be viable without the NEA's support. In the following pages, NEA Arts profiles just a few of the arts learning opportunities that NEA funding has made possible: ASCAP's partnership with the Manhattan School of Music for a summer classical music camp; Missoula Writing Collaborative's in-school creative writing residencies; Ryman Arts's Saturday studios; Alabama Blues Project's after-school blues camp; and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's whole school dance program.