About the NEA

Highlights in NEA History

1965

Close-up with two dancers on stage, in the background two rows of dancers.
On December 20, 1965, Vice President Hubert Humphrey presented a check for $100,000, representing the National Endowment for the Arts' first grant, to the American Ballet Theatre. Humphrey, as a...

1966

A man sits at one end of a narrow rectangular room and speaks to the assembled group that sits on chairs arranged against the walls.
In September 1965 screenwriter Budd Schulberg started the Watts Writers' Workshop in response to the devastation of the infamous riots, which had taken place in the primarily African American South...

1967

Balck and white still photograph of a young woman next to a potted plant.
In 1967, the U.S. film industry was more than 75 years old, and many groundbreaking films of early cinema were rapidly aging past the point of preservation. In response to...
Brids-eye view of the open area with Calder's monumental sculpture in the upper right hand and a large crowd filling the plaza.
Stamped on everything from the city's letterhead to its garbage trucks, Alexander Calder's La Grande Vitesse is much more than a landmark. It's the ubiquitous symbol of Grand Rapids, Michigan...
Photograph of an African-American man and a White woman facing each other in a heated exchange. A table is situated between them and a boxing punching bag can be seen in the background.
Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage celebrated its 50th anniversary season in 2000 with a revival of Howard Sackler's The Great White Hope . Nearly 33 years earlier, Arena Stage established its...

1968

Black and white photograph of a building about 12 stories high.
When Bell Laboratories put its building at West and Bethune Streets in New York's Greenwich Village up for sale in 1966, the building already had a storied past. It had...

1969

A young man dressed in white faces three older men in suits across a dinner table. The table is strewn with the remains of a meal-- half-empty wine glasses, an empty wine bottle, used dinner plates. In the forefront of the scene, the younger man grabs the
In 1964, a pair of Louisville, Kentucky, theater companies -- Actors, Inc. and Theatre Louisville -- merged to become the Actors Theatre of Louisville. From a small company performing in...

1970

This is a headshot of African American author Alice Walker. In the photo, Walker wears glasses and her hair is in long braids. She's looking down, perhaps at a sheet of paper, while holding a pen in her left hand.
"I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things you learn about the little...

1971

A woman steps up into a train.
It's a museum on wheels, chugging through America bringing art to isolated pockets of the country. Since 1971, it's visited more than 725 communities in 44 states and the District...

1972

Architectural detail showing a large window with inscriptions set on the glass which cast their shadows on an opposite wall.
"I believe that we all can find that the arts have a great deal more to contribute to what we in government are seeking to accomplish -- and that this...

1973

Painting of the artists face, front view. The image is distorted as if situated behind a textured glass. On close examination the image is made up of many small rectanglular sub paintings which contain concentric irregular shapes brightly painted.
Born in Washington in 1940, Charles Thomas Close -- he professionally became Chuck thanks to a misunderstanding with a reporter -- knew he wanted to be an artist from the...

1974

Vintage drawing of the Old Post Office Building
"I was looking out [Nancy Hanks's] window, and I saw two old buildings. One was the Pinkham building, which is now the American Museum of Architecture; the other was the...

1975

In a compsition full of motion, somewhat distorted figures play instruments and dance in the foreground, while the a train and a steam river boat provide a distant backdorp.
Artist Thomas Hart Benton was reviewing his completed work illustrating the origins of country music when he died of heart failure on January 19, 1975. The colorful six-by-ten foot mural...
Sculture of a reclining man, his head resting on one hand, while another arm extends form the elbow the hand facing upward in an elegant gesture. Only the arms, head and par of the torso are visible.
Priceless canvases painted by Picasso, fragile terra cotta warriors from ancient China, a gilded baroque silver tea service used by nobility in one of Russia’s most opulent palaces. These and...

1976

: A closeup of writer Garrison Keillor.
"It was May in Minnesota and the ice was slowly receding into the woods. It was still cold. Some tulips who jumped the gun had to be rescued and some...
This is a medium shot of Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. He is wearing a white-tie tuxedo. His arms are outstretched wide, and he holds a white handkerchief in his left hand.
On January 30, 1976, public television viewers nationwide had the best seats in the house at New York City's Lincoln Center as PBS broadcast the first episode of Live From...

1977

Billie Holiday in the studio holding a drink, looking down, world-weary
In 1977, Jazz bassist Milt Hinton received a music fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts; sixteen years later, the Arts Endowment again honored Hinton, this time as an...

1979

Two actors on stage. A man seen from the back, a woman facing him signals with her hands in sign language
Today, flight attendants routinely provide information to passengers using sign language. Many movie theaters offer assisted hearing devices. Most television shows are available with closed captioning. But it hasn't always...
Book cover for A Confederacy of Dunces. A cartoon like figure of a chubby man in a trenchcoat wearing a cap & scarf, holds a small curver sword in one hand and a hot dog in the other.
"Here at any rate is Ignatius Reilly, without progenitor in any literature I know of--slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into...

1980

A vivdly colored painting features a woman and three men seated around a table, while 7 men and one woman are arrayed in various attitudes--talking, eavesdropping, posing--behind them. All of the figures are portrayed in 1920s era clothing and the seated
In 1919, at the end of World War I, a group of New York City writers gathered at the Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan for a lunchtime "roast" to celebrate...

1981

A young woman dressed in black is reflected on the polished surface of the memorial
In November of 1980, the Council for the Arts approves a funding request from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to support a competition to select the design team for the...
People line up for tickets under the marquee of a theater which reads sundance Film Festival
Independent films - originally conceived as an alternative to Hollywood's big-budget blockbusters - are now so successful they've even been adopted by Tinseltown's major studios. In large part, moviegoers have...

1982

A mosaic of images
In February of 1978, the Folk Arts Program was established at the NEA, three years after Bess Lomax Hawes became the Arts Endowment’s specialist in the field. Under her leadership,...

1983

Cover for the book In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason. The cover illustration takes up the whole area. In the lower half it shows a child in a hunting outfit and carrying a gun. In the upper right hand corner the leg and shoe of a person, presumably walking a
The following is an excerpt of author Bobbie Ann Mason's account of the effects of her 1983 NEA Literature Fellowship in the 1993 NEA publication Generation of Fellows . "I...

1984

Photo of a girl with glasses working on a small clay human figure. The little figure and the girl's hands are in sharp focus in the foreground, while her face is a little blured in the background.
Bill Strickland founded the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in 1968, after being introduced to ceramics as a teenager. Initially an informal, neighborhood-based art program for inner-city children, the Guild has become...

1985

A man in a hat holds a micrhphone in one hand and places the other in his front pocket.
With his ten-gallon hat, seated on horseback with lasso in hand, the fictitious cowboy has captured the popular imagination as a strong, silent type. A group of Western folklorists set...

1986

A man in shorts stands barefoot within the perimeter of a water fountain. He holds a child in his arms. In the background a green area with trees is visible and the water line beyond.
In January 1985, Mayor Joseph Riley of Charleston, South Carolina wrote a letter to Jaquelin Robertson, the University of Virginia's Chair of Architecture, suggesting that an Institute be created, in...

1987

Dancers form a circle arround a central figure; their arms up over their heads and putting one foot in and another out.
"[ The Rite of Spring ] is an astonishing ballet, no less so today than in 1913. Nijinsky's genius as a choreographer bursts forth here in the originality of his...

1988

Head shot of Sue Mingus
"How did I become involved in Mingus projects? Simply, I was here at home and had access to the material. Charles and I did not discuss my carrying on his...

1989

A man in a striped shirt and white pants, laughs, while crouched on a stage surrounded by four children of various ages.
For more than two decades, the National Endowment for the Arts focused on bringing the arts to underserved communities - including minority and inner city communities - through its Expansion...

1990

"Ultimately, the motif of Hydrogen Jukebox , the underpinning, the secret message, secret activity, is to relieve human suffering by communicating some kind of enlightened awareness of various themes, topics,...

1991

<p>Riley "B.B." King performs more than 250 concerts each year. Photo credit: Michael P. Smith</em>
Although Riley "B.B." King wanted to be a preacher or a gospel singer, he grew up to be a legendary bluesman whose distinctive economical phrasing, precise bent notes, and unique...

1992

Photo montage showing the string quartet playing in front of a barn, with an inset of a posed group photo
String quartets were a rarity in the small town of Jesup, Iowa. In fact, many people had grown up in Jesup without ever hearing the sound of a cello or...

1993

In foreground, to the right is a sign with Project Row House: A Non-Profit Neighborhood Arts Project. In the Baclground a row of one-story houses and some people sitting on a porch, chatting with a man in overalls, standing.
Houston artist Rick Lowe had a dream. The transforming power of the arts would be used to rebuild an impoverished neighborhood and, in the process, help rebuild the lives of...

1994

A man with rasied arms and sporting a big smile dances in the middle of a circle of children.
In 1981, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts - a nonprofit organization that presents and produces performance and education programs for local, national, and international audiences - established...

1995

Three young men on the stage. The two on the left watch the third young man who is playing the trobone at the microphone.
In 1995, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz received a grant of $20,000 "to support costs related to the jazz and National Basketball Association project," a new program at the...

1996

Photo of the artist sitting among a number of his sulptures and paintings.
Hispanic artist Carlos Rael is a santero , a carver of religious icons known as santos . Santo carving is an art form that originated centuries ago in Europe and...
A man at a broadcasting studio speaks into a microphone, a cigarette in his hand.
The vitality of the American theater is strongly connected to the work of new and emerging theater artists, with a unique emphasis on the artistic voice of the playwright. Throughout...

1997

Cover of the American Canvas report
On this date, the NEA released the American Canvas report, an analysis and examination of the current state of the nonprofit arts in America. The report, the culmination of a...
Two older people, a man and a woman are seated at a table having supper. At the center there is a fireplace, at the left a small cupboard ans a window. The man is dressed in black and has a long white beard, the woman is has a long dress and wears a heads
Creased canvases, cracked paint, warped frames, and discolored mats were just some of the problems conservators faced as they delved into a treasure trove of art long hidden from public...

1998

Artist Norman Rockwell sits in a wooden chair, smoking a pipe, and working on a painting. In his left hand, he holds several brushes. On the walls surrounding the artists are painted drafts of various elements of the final painting in various stages of co
"I am proposing a public-private partnership to advance our arts and humanities, and to celebrate the millennium by saving America's treasures, great and small." -- President William Jefferson Clinton, 1998...

1999

A young woman is suspended in the air against a backdrop of an open sky filled with clouds. Below is the tense surface of a raw hide trampoline pulled by many hands.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center was founded by the Alaska Federation of Natives in response to the need for a community gathering place for the state's native peoples. Sited on...

2000

David City, Nebraska (pop. 2,500) is usually a rather quiet place. All that changed when it was chosen to become part of the Arts Endowment's Continental Harmony National Millennium Project,...

2001

Three quarter profile of a woman painted in medium sized strokes, in layered guaches.
In 2001, the NEA launched Challenge America, a new national program to expand the reach and impact of NEA activities. Through this program, nearly $7 million was earmarked for arts...
Nedw York City firemen on a front door stoop downtown near the twin towers
"It would be premature--even presumptuous--to claim that after a half a year, we can select works which show the effects of 9/11 on young people. Instead, they have offered to...

2002

A trunk full of puppets. The trunk has the a sign hand painted on it, saying: El Tinglado de los TÌteres
In 2002 the National Endowment for the Arts, Mexico's National Fund for Culture and the Arts, and the U.S. Mexico Fund for Culture collaboratively created the U.S-Mexico Bi-national Alliance of...

2003

two actors, a man and a woman with bloody hands strike dramatic poses
On the occasion of William Shakespeare's 439th birthday, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia announced a gift of immeasurable value to the American people: a nationwide, 100-community tour...

2004

People pose for a group photo on a sunny day infront of a building.
"The vitality of the arts depends more than most people think on lively and informed criticism, especially local reviews and coverage from their own communities," commented Chairman Dana Gioia in...

2005

The 2005 Medalist with President Bush in the Oval Office
President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush hosted the 2005 recipients of the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal along with other luminaries in the arts...

2006

In the late morning of January 13, 2006, a crowd of onlookers formed, necks craned, for a peek at a group gathered for a photo shoot in the lobby of...