Chairman's Corner: July 2, 2020

Jo Reed: I'm Josephine Reed from the National Endowment for the Arts with The Chairman's Corner, a weekly podcast with Mary Anne Carter, Chairman of the Arts Endowment. This is where we'll discuss issues of importance to the arts community and a whole lot more. Last week the National Council on the Arts met. The Council is the Arts Endowments' advisory board. And it really is key to the work we do. But it occurred to us that some listeners might not be familiar with the Council. So, before we get to the business of last week's Council meeting, Mary Anne is going to give us its backstory.

Mary Anne Carter: The National Council on the Arts is the Arts Endowment advisory body, as you said. And that means it counsels the chairman on agency policies and programs. They meet three times a year. One thing that is really important is their function of reviewing the panel recommendations on applications for funding and then making their recommendations to the chairman. It's a very important responsibility and it's central to the Endowment. And what's so interesting is the council has been around since 1964, one year before the National Endowment for the Arts was authorized as a federal agency.

Jo Reed: Ah-ha, so, they're the spine in some ways. Who are the council members, Mary Anne, and how are they chosen? How long do they serve?

Mary Anne Carter: Council members are nominated by the President of the United States. And they're confirmed by the United States Senate. So, it's a pretty illustrious group. They're appointed for six years for staggered terms. Some are artists, some are patrons, some are leaders of institutions. And they represent a geographical area across the country.

Jo Reed: Well, walk us through last week's council meeting. What transpired?

Mary Anne Carter: It's perhaps serendipitous, but the 200th meeting of the National Council on the Arts was held in 2020, specifically on last Thursday. This was the second meeting of 2020 and the second meeting to be convened virtually. A great deal of information is pulled together for the members, for each of these council meetings, the three held annually. Like, all of the work at the National Endowment for the Arts undertaken while we've been working remotely, we are on it. We have not slowed down, we haven't missed a beat. We continue to pursue and to achieve organizational and operational excellence. And the major task for this 200th meeting was review and approval of direct awards through the CARES Act.

Jo Reed: I know we've talked about the CARES Act in previous podcasts, but could you just remind listeners about the basic facts of the Act?

Mary Anne Carter: Sure. So, we'll just take a quick swing back to some of our previous podcasts. As listeners may recall, the President signed the CARES Act legislation, which included 75M for the Arts Endowment on March 27th. Twelve days later, on April 8th, the agency posted guidelines so that organizations could begin to prepare to apply for those funds. One week after that, on April 15th, we announced nearly 30M awarded to state and regional art agencies, who then are distributing that funding through their channels. And each of those agencies has its own funding process and timeline, but we anticipate that between the states and the regionals combined, they will make between 4,200 and 5,600 awards to organizations throughout their jurisdictions.

Jo Reed: As you mentioned, the CARES Act grants that the Arts Endowment awards directly to arts institutions. They were approved last week by the Council, correct?

Mary Anne Carter: That's correct. So, for the direct grants or the 60 percent of the 75 million, we had more than 3,100 eligible applications. We ended up with more than 200 application readers, assembled into 67 reader panels, who reviewed all of the applications. And that's part of our process. All applications that come in must be reviewed by a panel. Then the council and I agreed to award 837 grants of 50,000, plus nine grants of 250,000, and those nine grants are for local art agencies who will award funding to different programs and organizations, again, throughout their jurisdiction. So, that was more than 44 million, all of which was announced yesterday. These grants are non-matching and will be used for personnel and operating expenses. And, Jo, let me just note an important caveat: We are well aware that 846 direct grants does not come close to meeting the demand for funding that's out there. Arts organizations across the country are really hurting. And they're struggling. And they're trying to survive. And we wish we could fund every single one of them. But I believe we've done the best we can with what we had, within the parameters of the CARES Act, and that we delivered it as fast as we could. And I'll just add I am so proud of the over-and-above efforts of the staff at the National Endowment for the Arts. They processed what would normally be almost 50 percent of a year's worth of funding into the space of roughly two months. That's a lot of additional work for them on top of our regular grant cycle and everything else we do. And I'm just really proud of the team here at the agency.

Jo Reed: Thank you, Mary Anne. Talk to you next week.

Mary Anne Carter: Thank you, Jo

Jo Reed:  That was Mary Anne Carter Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about the CARES Act grants, go to   I’m Josephine Reed. Stay safe and thanks for listening.

Music Credit: “Renewal” composed and performed by Doug Smith from the cd The Collection.

The chairman discusses last week’s 200th meeting of the National Council on the Arts which focused on the awarding of direct CARES Act funding to arts organizations across the nation.