Chairman's Corner: May 14, 2020

Jo Reed:  I'm Josephine Reed from the National Endowment from 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. This week we talk about the core mission of the Arts Endowment; that is grant making. Mary Anne, walk us through the process used by the Arts Endowment to award grants.

Mary Anne Carter:  Jo, the agency's grant making process is one of the reasons why we are such a unique government organization. In distributing funds in our usual budget cycle and now for funds provided to us by Congress via the Cares Act, the agency starts the process by issuing guidelines or rules of the road, if you will. These guidelines specify the criteria required of each applicant to be eligible for funding. Once established a window of time opens up which allows applications to flow through. Applications are checked by our professional staff to make sure eligibility requirements were followed and then they're evaluated by really a small army of readers.

Jo Reed:  And who are the readers and what are they looking for? What do they do?

Mary Anne Carter:  Readers include everyday Americans from a wide range of artistic backgrounds and lay people from communities all across America. Readers are typically arranged into different disciplinary panels and in groups of six. So each grant will have six readers. Now for purposes of the Cares Act funding, we will have a minimum of three readers but possibly not six per application due to time constraints. And then these readers, they'll score and rank each application as to whether it's complied with the guidelines of artistic merit. And those with the highest rankings are recommended for receiving an award and then those recommendations are forwarded to the National Council on the Arts. And the National Council on the Arts then votes on approving those recommendations in a public meeting and we hold three such public meetings a year.

Jo Reed:  Okay, let me just back up for a second. About how many readers are involved in this, Mary Anne?

Mary Anne Carter:  For consideration of the Cares Act funding applications, we're going to have just about 200 readers involved in the process. And again, for Cares Act, the total number of organizations that completed the first part of the application process was over 3400; and of that, an extremely high percentage, more than 92 percent, went on to continue the second part of the application. And, you know, there is usually a significant attrition rate but not here. And this just shows how important the Cares Act funding is to so many arts organizations across the nation.

Jo Reed:  And what about grants that aren't under the Cares Act? Is the agency still continuing to award these? In other words, is it operating as normal with other grants?

Mary Anne Carter:  Yes. We are still full steam ahead despite the pandemic. For grants that were approved by our Arts Council in March prior to all of this happening using funds already allocated by Congress last year, those offer letters to the recipients went out a few days ago. For the Cares Act funding, of the $75 million allocated to the arts agency by Congress, 40 percent of that or about $30 million has already been distributed to the state and regional arts organizations across America. With the remaining 60 percent of the Cares Act funds, about $45 million dollars, the National Endowment for the Arts is anticipating a vote by the Council towards the end of June. We just closed the application portal last week. Our staff is reviewing now the eligibility of all the applicants and then soon they will go to the readers just like the process I mentioned. And so with recommendations going to the Council towards the end of June, we expect that money will begin handing [ph?] to these organizations by July 1st.

Jo Reed:  Each grant is for $50,000 dollars?

Mary Anne Carter:  Yes. Each grant at $50,000. So we're anticipating helping out approximately 850 organizations or so. But, you know, you can see from the number I mentioned earlier, over 3,000 applications, the demand for help is so much greater than the supply of funding that we have.

Jo Reed:  Oh. There are going to be some really tough decisions ahead.

Mary Anne Carter:  That's right. There aren't any easy answers here because across the board, across the nation, big or small, rural or urban, everyone needs help.

Jo Reed:  Indeed, everyone does. Well, Mary Anne, I know we'll be talking about this as the summer approaches, so thank you and I'll talk to you next week.

Mary Anne Carter:  Thank you, Jo.

Jo Reed:  For more information about the National Endowment for the Arts go to I'm Josephine Reed. Stay safe and thanks for listening.

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

The chairman explains the National Endowment for the Arts’ process for awarding grants.