NEA Arts Magazine

Preserving and Presenting

Furthering the Public's Access to the Arts


Portrait photo of Ted Libbey

Media Arts Director Ted Libbey. Photo by Kevin Allen.

Film, radio, and television -- the media arts -- have been a high priority at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) almost from the start of the agency. In fact, one of the most significant early initiatives taken by the Arts Endowment was the creation, in 1967, of the American Film Institute to conserve America's precious cinematic heritage. For several years the AFI was funded entirely by the NEA, serving in effect as the Arts Endowment's film program.

During the chairmanship of Nancy Hanks, the NEA began to look toward expanding its media programs beyond film preservation. In 1970 it established the Public Media program, forerunner of today's Media Arts program, and in 1972 it created the funding category Programming in the Arts, which since 1999 has been known as the Arts on Radio and Television. In supporting the work of media arts organizations, independent filmmakers, local exhibitors, and national broadcasters through its Media Arts program, the NEA has affirmed the value that film, radio, and television have as art forms in and of themselves, and has recognized the enormously important role the media play in furthering the public's access to, and appreciation of, all the arts.

The range of media arts activity supported by the Arts Endowment has been very broad. From the mid-1970s until the late 1990s the NEA played a leading role in funding new work by independent filmmakers. It continues to fund the creation of works on film, mainly documentaries, through grants to nonprofit organizations. It funds the exhibition of film and video art at dozens of festivals around the country and assists organizations across the media spectrum in providing services such as workshops for youth, professional training, and access to equipment and facilities. It continues to support film, video, and audio preservation efforts, and plays a major part in sustaining the nation's leading radio and television broadcast series devoted to the arts, which include such well known programs as Great Performances, Performance Today, and From the Top.

The articles which follow highlight not only the scope of the NEA's involvement in the media arts, but the extraordinary benefits its media grants deliver to the American people.

Ted Libbey
Director, Media Arts