NEA Arts Magazine

Reaching Millions with Art

The NEA's Support for Film, Radio, and Television


Marian McPartland at her piano turned sideways and speaking into a radio microphone

NEA Jazz Master Ramsey Lewis being interviewed by Marian McPartland (herself an NEA JazzMaster) on her radio show, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. Photo by Melisa Goh

In the technological age of the 21st century, media has a larger influence than ever before. From film to radio to television to DVDs and the Internet, the media people use to connect with their world has been growing at a furious rate. Now one can reach millions of people easily with a program shown on television or broadcast on the Internet. That's why the media has become so important in the creation and presentation of art.

In 1967, the Arts Endowment awarded four public media grants totaling $788,300 "in support of a range of educational television programs in the arts." As the program grew, the Arts Endowment seeded many fledgling organizations that are now household names, such as Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, which continues to receive NEA support for its Feature Film Program, a series of workshops for film professionals. Media Arts grants support a range of activities, such as production work, preservation, festivals, residencies, and workshops. Chicago Public Radio, for example, received NEA support for its annual Third Coast International Audio Festival, which convenes documentarians, feature reporters, and audio artists from the U.S. and abroad to share their expertise and best work. Arts on Radio and Television grants support the development, production, and national distribution of radio and television programs that highlight the spectrum of arts disciplines. ETV Endowment of South Carolina, for example, has received Arts Endowment support for its radio series headlined by NEA Jazz Master Marian McPartland. Reaching more than 400,000 listeners each week, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz has featured nearly 600 jazz artists ranging from NEA Jazz Masters Sarah Vaughan and Benny Carter to emerging artists over the last two decades.

The NEA has also identified critical needs in the media arts field. For instance, when hundreds of early American motion pictures, such as Charlie Chaplin's 1921 film The Kid, were imperiled because they were printed on unstable nitrate film stock, the Arts Endowment partnered with the Ford Foundation and the Motion Picture Association of America to create and fund the American Film Institute to preserve these historic works. The NEA also partnered with the Ford Foundation to deal with another media problem: the proper lighting for recording live performances. The partnership provided research and design funding to adapt low-light cameras for theatrical use, making it possible to record live performances for rebroadcast without disruption.

The following pages profile just a few of the catalytic Media Arts projects supported by the NEA: a filmmaking residency for young people, a Midwestern film festival, a public television series about contemporary visual artists, a radio and television series that introduces young classical musicians to new audiences, a documentary film about international adoption, and a prominent museum's leadership role in film preservation.