NEA Arts Magazine

Partnership with the States

Bringing the Arts to All Americans


John E. Ostrout

State and Regional Partnerships Director John E. Ostrout. Photo by Kevin Allen.

Since the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was established in 1965, it has worked in partnership with the 56 state, territorial, and jurisdictional arts agencies (SAAs) and six multi-state regional arts organizations (RAOs) to meet the Arts Endowment's goal of bringing the arts to all Americans. This dynamic relationship has resulted in an exemplary record of growth for the arts, stimulating an extraordinary economic impact in communities throughout the country. With the NEA’s assistance and funding, SAAs and RAOs are recognized today as leaders in the arts.

SAAs and RAOs support local arts activities in several ways. One is by promoting arts education, often through support for artist residencies at schools, professional development for teachers, and curriculum development. Another is to develop the arts in underserved communities by strengthening the work of artists and arts organizations and by expanding opportunities for residents to experience the arts. A third way that SAAs and RAOs support arts activities is through creative economy initiatives, which focus on using local arts and cultural development to generate economic growth.

These are just a few of the ways SAAs and RAOs bring the arts to Americans. These organizations also partner with the NEA to implement its National Initiatives program, which was created by the Arts Endowment in 2003 to reach more Americans who may not have ready access to the arts. The celebrated initiative Poetry Out Loud is a fine example of the SAAs working directly with the NEA to create a national education program highlighting the oral tradition of poetry.

The NEA's collaborations with the SAAs and RAOs also extend to work with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), which is the national service organization for the states. The NEA works with NASAA on accessibility and national leadership services, among other issues. The model projects presented on the following pages demonstrate the vitality of the NEA’s partnership with the states on local arts activities.

John E. Ostrout
Director, State and Regional Partnerships