NEA Guide to Federal Funding Resources for Research on the Arts & Human Development

Funding opportunities for arts-related research exist throughout federal agencies concerned with human development (e.g., health and educational issues spanning early childhood through youth and adolescence to older adulthood). Finding these opportunities can be difficult, as they rarely include the word “arts” in their titles or descriptions. 

In response to this challenge, we have created the following list of resources that can support your search for federal funding for research about the arts’ role in human development. This list describes relevant grant-making activities of federal agencies, offices, or departments with membership in the NEA’s Interagency Task Force on the Arts & Human Development.  We start with general tips for beginning your search.

All federal funding opportunities are listed online at http://www.grants.gov

Jump to listing:

Institute of Museum and Library Services

National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Humanities

National Institutes of Health

  • National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • National Institute on Aging

National Science Foundation

US Department of Education

US Department of Health and Human Services

US Department of Veterans Affairs

A few tips for beginning your search:

Think broadly:  Because many of these opportunities rarely include the word “arts” or arts-related terms in their titles or descriptions, you may need to be creative in conducting your search. 

For example, if you are conducting an evaluation of an after-school dance program for underserved youth in rural communities, it may prove difficult to find a grant opportunity that contains the exact words, “after-school dance with rural, underserved youth,” in the text. However, if you think broadly about your program’s goals, you may find terms that help you generate better grant-search results. Your dance program may have goals such as:

  • Increasing physical activity and emotional health and, therefore, increasing positive health outcomes among rural, underserved youth; and
  • Decreasing the disparities in health among youth from vulnerable populations, such as those who are at higher risk for chronic diseases or other adverse outcomes.

In this scenario, searching for programs related to evaluating positive health outcomes and overcoming health disparities may yield useful results.

This is just one example, but it illustrates that careful consideration  of all the ways your program makes a difference in other people’s lives will produce search terms for finding grant support.

• Look at previously funded projects: Another approach is to search for past grant awards that have incorporated arts-related elements. When you find a funded project similar to yours, look for more information about the program through which it was funded. We have developed a sample list of arts search terms which, depending on your project, may aid your search. Furthermore, reading articles in scholarly journals will help you generate additional search terms relevant to your work.

• Ask for guidance:  Each funding opportunity lists a point of contact. Depending on the agency, these contacts may have titles such as Discipline Specialist, Program Officer, or Research Contact. If you have a project that you think a good fit for a particular program, call or email the point of contact to learn more.

Institute of Museum and Library Services

The mission of the Institute of Museum and Library Services is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. As the primary source of federal funding for museums and libraries, the Institute of Museum and Library Services engages with the Task Force to exchange information about grant-funded work and research in arts and human development that can better support museums and libraries in helping their communities. Some of the agency’s current focus areas are: providing services for veterans and military families; understanding the role of museums and libraries as community catalysts; creating tools and services that increase access to digital content and resources; and working to preserve and manage content and collections for public use.

Grant programs that may be of interest to arts-related researchers include:

National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.

Office of Research & Analysis

Research into the value and impact of the arts is a core function of the National Endowment for the Arts. Through accurate, relevant, and timely analyses and reports, the NEA’s Office of Research & Analysis (ORA) elucidates the factors, conditions, and characteristics of the U.S. arts ecosystem and the impact of the arts on other domains of American life.

The following ORA funding programs may be of interest to arts-related researchers:

  • Launched in 2012, the Research: Art Works grants program supports research that investigates the value and/or impact of the arts. Visit our website to learn more about the current Research: Art Works guidelines, view final papers from completed Research: Art Works projects, or search past awards using the NEA’s Grant Search tool.
  • NEA Research Labs are transdisciplinary research teams that function as centers of excellence for research on key topics associated with the value and impact of the arts.  To be launched in 2017, the first round of awards are in three topic areas: (1) the Arts, Health, and Social/Emotional Well-being; (2) the Arts, Creativity, Cognition, and Learning; and (3) the Arts, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation.
  • Our Town is the NEA's primary creative placemaking grants program, and invests in projects that contribute to the livability of communities and place the arts at their core.

National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency created in 1965.  It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.  The founding charter for the NEH defines the humanities as the study and interpretation of such subjects as: “language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts,” as well as “those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods.” 

Among the projects the NEH supports, many address the role of the arts and human development in history and in our present-day lives.  NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars.  Examples of such grants include educational projects in medical humanities, public discussion programs on literature and medicine or on the humanities and the experience of war, or fellowships to pursue research on the arts and trauma.

Researchers can search NEH grant opportunities online.  Grant programs that may be of interest to arts-related researchers include the following:

  • Collaborative Research Grants support interpretive humanities research undertaken by two or more collaborating scholars, for full-time or part-time activities for periods of one to three years. The grants can support research leading to publication and/or conferences on “topics of major importance that will benefit scholarly research.”
  • Fellowships support individuals pursuing advanced research that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences, or both. Recipients usually produce articles, monographs, books, digital materials, archaeological site reports, translations, editions, or other scholarly resources in the humanities.
  • Dialogues on the Experience of War grants support the study and discussion of humanities sources about war, with the aim of encouraging US military veterans and others to explore together the issues raised by war and military service through these sources.
  • Public Humanities Grants support projects that bring the ideas and insights of the humanities to life for general audiences. Projects must engage humanities scholarship to illuminate significant themes in disciplines such as history, literature, ethics, and art, or to address challenging issues in contemporary life.
  • Humanities Access grants establish or build up endowments that provide funding for existing programs at institutions such as public libraries, local and regional museums, historical societies, community colleges, HBCUs and tribal colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions, archival repositories, and other cultural organizations. Programs supported under Humanities Access Grants might include “internships for Native American students at a tribal museum or a Clemente course at a homeless shelter organized by a community college.”
  • Humanities Connections grants seek to expand the role of the humanities in the undergraduate curriculum at two- and four-year institutions. Grant projects focus on connecting the resources and perspectives of the humanities to students’ broader educational and professional goals, regardless of their path of study. Through this new NEH program, grants would support the development and implementation of an integrated set of courses and student engagement activities focusing on significant humanities content. A common topic, theme, or compelling issue or question must link the courses and activities. The Humanities Connections program gives special encouragement to projects that foster collaboration between humanities faculty and their counterparts the arts; the social and natural sciences; pre-service or professional programs in business, engineering, health sciences, law, or computer science; and other non-humanities fields.
  • Protecting our Cultural Heritage: As a result of armed conflict, war, looting, natural disasters, economic development, poor management, and tourism, humanity’s cultural legacy is under increasing duress. In recognition of this multifaceted problem, NEH encourages projects in various divisions that conduct research and develop resources for the study, documentation, and presentation of imperiled cultural heritage materials.

National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives.  The NIH is made up of 27 different components called Institutes and Centers.  The NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts is the official publication for NIH grant policies, guidelines and funding opportunities. The Guide publishes daily and issues a table of contents weekly. 

Although many announcements don’t call specifically or solely for arts-based interventions, research on arts interventions may be proposed to NIH.  For example, PAR-16-365 calls for “Examples of interventions for evaluation include but are not limited to: pharmacological interventions that target eradication or progression of deposition of disease neuropathology; repurposed drugs that have promise for AD treatment such as chemotherapeutic agents or drugs for insulin dysregulation/diabetes; novel cognitive training or cognitive engagement approaches; aerobic exercise and/or other movement therapies, such as Tai Chi; sleep enhancement; mindfulness-based stress reduction; nutritional supplementation or adoption of specific dietary programs; and/or combinations of interventions including the mixture of pharmacological with non-pharmacological therapeutics.”  Since this includes non-pharmacological interventions, an intervention like dance therapy could conceivably be proposed.

To learn whether your proposed study aligns with a particular grant opportunity, contact the appropriate Scientific/Research Contact as listed in the funding opportunity announcement.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

NCCIH is interested in building evidenced-based research on the potential impact of creative arts therapies on symptom management with a focus on high priority topics including pain management , anxiety, depression and PTSD, physical and psychological healing.

All NCCIH funding opportunities are listed in the NIH Guide.  Opportunities that may be of particular interest to arts and human development researchers include:

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure. Fundamental to our mission is the proposition that mental illnesses are brain disorders expressed as complex cognitive, emotional, and social behavioral syndromes. Progress depends on advances in fundamental neuroscience, clinical science and innovative treatment research.  Learn more about NIMH research priorities as part of the NIMH Strategic Plan.

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is invested in a wide range of research that’s applicable to the interests of the National Endowment for the Arts.  NIA’s approach to aging is holistic, and the Institute is interested in the many factors that may shape a person’s approach to aging and their experiences with aging-related diseases and health conditions.  The arts can contribute both as a potential environmental factor that may longitudinally influence a person’s cognitive status, overall health and well-being – and research is accruing to examine this – and arts-related activities and experiences may also be utilized as an intervention to proactively change the course of illness or disease.

All of NIA’s active funding solicitations can be viewed on the NIA website.  Opportunities that may be of particular to arts and human development researchers include:

National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense..." NSF supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

NSF’s education investments target all educational levels and settings (both formal and informal, including museums) in order to support the development of a diverse and well-prepared workforce of scientists, technicians, engineers, mathematicians (STEM) and educators and a well-informed citizenry.

Education and Human Resources Directorate

Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL) invests in projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM learning for people of all ages. Its mission includes promoting innovative research, development, and evaluation of learning and teaching across all STEM disciplines by advancing cutting-edge knowledge and practices in both formal and informal learning settings. DRL also promotes the broadening and deepening of capacity and impact in the educational sciences by encouraging the participation of scientists, engineers, and educators from the range of disciplines represented at NSF. Therefore, DRL's role in the larger context of Federal support for education research and evaluation is to be a catalyst for change—advancing theory, method, measurement, development, and application in STEM education. The Division seeks to advance both early, promising innovations as well as larger-scale adoptions of proven educational innovations. In doing so, it challenges the field to create the ideas, resources, and human capacity to bring about the needed transformation of STEM education for the 21st century.

DRL Programs Description
Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) Builds on educational research and practice, and seeks to increase interest in, engagement with, and understanding of STEM by individuals of all ages and backgrounds through self-directed STEM learning experiences.
Discovery Research PreK– 12 (DRK-12) Seeks to enable significant advances in K–12 student and teacher learning of the STEM disciplines, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and technologies for use by students, teachers, administrators, and policymakers
Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST Seeks to engage students and teachers in the creative use of information technologies within the context of STEM learning experiences in school and other learning settings.
EHR Core Research(ECR Supports fundamental / basic research on: human learning in STEM; learning in STEM learning environments, STEM workforce development, and research on broadening participation in STEM.

The mission of NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education is to promote excellence in undergraduate STEM education for all students. Through a number of programs NSF can support efforts by undergraduate STEM faculty to integrate the study of science and the arts to help motivate student interest in and engagement with STEM concepts. This approach can be particularly beneficial to students who are not majoring in STEM fields, but seeking to gain greater understanding of STEM concepts and experience with STEM habits of mind and practice. 

DUE Programs Description
Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Education and Human Resources (IUSE: EHR) Focuses on discipline-specific and interdisciplinary challenges and opportunities facing STEM faculty and institutions, as they strive to incorporate results from educational research into classroom practice and work with education research colleagues and social science learning scholars to advance understanding of effective teaching and learning. 
NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program (S-STEM) Makes grants to institutions of higher education to support scholarships for academically talented students demonstrating financial need, enabling them to enter the STEM workforce or STEM graduate school following completion of an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate-level degree in STEM disciplines. The S-STEM program encourages collaborations among different types of partners: Partnerships among different types of institutions; collaborations of STEM faculty and institutional, educational, and social science researchers; and partnerships among institutions of higher education and local business and industry, if appropriate.

The Foundation also supports multidisciplinary research linking neuroscience to the arts through its Integrative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems solicitation. For example, proposals seeking to understand how the brain processes sensory input such as visual arts and music would be welcome.

US Department of Education

Information regarding current opportunities and past awards is available through the Forecast of Funding Opportunities under the Department of Education Discretionary Grant Programs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.

Here are two discretionary grant programs supporting arts education research:

  1. Professional Development for Arts Educators

This program supports the implementation of high-quality model professional development programs in elementary and secondary education for music, dance, drama, media arts, or visual arts, including folk arts, for educators and other arts instructional staff of kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) students in high-poverty schools.

  1. Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination

The program supports the enhancement, expansion, documentation, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative, cohesive models that demonstrate effectiveness in:

  • Integrating into and strengthening arts in the core elementary and middle school curricula;
  • Strengthening arts instruction in those grades; and
  • Improving students' academic performance, including their skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts.

US Department of Health and Human Services

Administration on Children and Families (ACF)

The Office of Early Childhood Development promotes a joint federal approach to improve early childhood education and development. The arts are a critical component of young children's development and learning. They stimulate creative thinking and problem solving, foster curiosity, and can promote learning and development across other domains - like early literacy and math, as well as social-emotional development. The Administration for Children and Families funds research in areas such as child care, Head Start and Early Head Start, child welfare, home visiting, welfare and employment, strengthening families and healthy marriage, and family and youth services.

Learn about current grant opportunities at ACF’s Funding Opportunity Announcement page and through ACF’s Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation.

US Department of Veterans Affairs

Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation (PCC&CT)

The mission of the VA’s Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation is to catalyze and sustain cultural transformation in healthcare for and with our Veterans.  Our vision is to transform from a problem-based disease care system to a whole health care system.  Whole Health is a patient-centered care that affirms the importance of the relationship and partnership between a patient and their community of providers.  The focus is on empowering the self-healing mechanisms within the whole person while co-creating a personalized, proactive, patient-driven experience.  This approach is informed by evidence and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches (including the arts and humanities), healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and well-being.

PCC&CT does not award extramural grants at this time.

Link the search terms PDF here.