Discipline Descriptions


The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to providing assistance to artist communities for projects that encourage and nurture the development of individual artists and foster and inspire their creative processes. For the Arts Endowment's purposes, an artist community is defined as an organization, whether focused on a single discipline or multidisciplinary, whose primary mission is to provide artist residencies.

Support is available for artist communities that:

  • Provide space, time, and resources to artists for incubation, thought, or creativity in a retreat setting in an urban or rural location.
  • Foster and support the creative process of art making by providing studio facilities and assistance with living accommodations to enable artists to live and work concurrently.
  • Utilize a competitive application process to recruit and select participants, and rotate a wide range of artists in order to encourage the highest standards of creativity.


Every student should have the opportunity to participate in the arts, both in and out of school. We know that students who participate in the arts are more engaged in life and are empowered to be fulfilled, responsible citizens who can make a profound positive impact on this world. In addition, NEA-supported research has shown that students from low socioeconomic backgrounds who have arts-rich experiences are more likely to achieve key positive outcomes—academically, socially, and civically—compared with their peers who lack access to arts experiences.

Our arts education funding is focused on students. Projects are for pre-K-12 students, the educators and civic leaders who support them, and the schools and communities that serve them. All students are served when each level of the system is supported. Applicants should consider what role their proposed project plays within this system, and how their project impacts students. Funded projects will utilize and test innovative strategies, or scale up proven methodologies, for increasing access to arts education for more students.

We support three types of projects:

  • Direct Learning Grants to increase student knowledge and skills in the arts. Projects must provide extended participatory learning that engages students with accomplished artists and arts educators, align with either national or state arts education standards, and rigorously assess student learning.
  • Professional Development Grants to deepen knowledge and strengthen the practice of educators and/or civic leaders who engage students in arts learning. Projects must provide meaningful opportunities for participants to experience the arts, provide in-depth learning over a sustained period of time, and measure the impact of the professional development experience.
  • Collective Impact Grants toensure that all students across entire schools, school districts, and/or states – in communities of all sizes – participate in the arts over time. Projects must be either for emerging new work or for sustaining and growing established networks that are proven to increase arts education for all students. Projects will also have significant potential to be shared and customized in communities across the country. Longer project periods are encouraged, and larger grant amounts may be awarded for these projects.

Competition is rigorous. You should consider carefully whether your project will be competitive at the national level.

NOTE: Arts Education projects may be in any artistic discipline. Projects for short-term arts exposure, arts appreciation, or intergenerational activity should not be submitted under Arts Education; rather, they should be submitted under the appropriate artistic discipline. If you have questions about whether you should apply under Arts Education or some other discipline, read "Choosing the Right Discipline for Youth Projects."


American dance is encyclopedic in scope and international in its aesthetic traditions. The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to advancing the nation's full range of dance artistry.

The Arts Endowment assists all forms of professional dance by funding dance companies and presenters, and projects of all sizes. Dance projects funded by the Arts Endowment represent a multiplicity of forms, styles, techniques, and histories that come from every continent in the world and the many different styles -- ballet, modern dance, jazz, folkloric, tap, hip-hop, and other contemporary forms -- that are found in the United States.


From the typeface on this page to the neighborhood in which you live, every object and place is the result of design. Design surrounds us and has a direct impact on the quality of our lives. Furthermore, designers fuel innovation by employing creative thinking to solve problems, drive economic development, and address social issues. The design field encompasses many disciplines including, but not limited to, architecture, communications and graphic design, fashion design, historic preservation, industrial and product design, interior design, landscape architecture, planning, universal design, rural design, and urban design. The National Endowment for the Arts recognizes design's ever-present impact on society by funding activities that encourage, preserve, and disseminate the best in American and global design.

The Arts Endowment often receives questions from potential applicants about the appropriate discipline for their project. Applications that address multiple design disciplines (e.g., urban design and graphics) should be submitted under Design. Similarly, historic preservation organizations that focus on architecture, landscape architecture, or designed objects also should apply under Design. Museums and visual arts venues presenting a design exhibition or installation should contact Arts Endowment staff to determine whether to apply under Design or under Museums or Visual Arts. Finally, applicants should be aware that the Arts Endowment does not fund capital campaigns, construction costs, or the purchase or leasing of sites or structures. Please contact us if you have further questions.


The folk and traditional arts are rooted in and reflective of the cultural life of a community. Community members may share a common ethnic heritage, cultural mores, language, religion, occupation, or geographic region. These vital and constantly reinvigorated artistic traditions are shaped by values and standards of excellence that are passed from generation to generation, most often within family and community, through demonstration, conversation, and practice. Genres of artistic activity include, but are not limited to, music, dance, crafts, and oral expression.


Through its literature, a nation tells its stories to its citizens and to the world. The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to providing opportunities for Americans to make literature a more important part of their daily lives.

The Arts Endowment seeks to sustain and nurture a multiplicity of American literary traditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Ensuring that literary presses and magazines, community-based centers, and national literary organizations complement the trade publishing sector in the shaping of contemporary American letters.
  • Supporting organizations that nurture emerging and mid-career writers and providing assistance to nascent literary organizations.
  • Supporting endeavors to provide America's readers with direct access to contemporary writers.
  • Supporting the use of new technology and innovative projects.

NOTE: Literary publishing projects must focus primarily on contemporary literature and/or writers.

In addition, the Arts Endowment offers fellowships to published creative writers and translators in the areas of prose and poetry.


Organizations referred to as arts councils, departments of cultural affairs, or arts commissions make up the field of local arts agencies (LAAs). LAAs can be private, nonprofit entities; others are public municipal, county, or regional agencies that operate in cooperation with mayors and city managers. In addition, the LAA field includes statewide assemblies and cultural service organizations that work specifically with local arts agencies in the coordination of cultural leadership (but only for projects that will predominantly serve LAAs).

Often LAAs make grant awards directly to both artists and nonprofit organizations working in a variety of artistic disciplines. Nearly all LAAs present programming to the public, manage cultural facilities, provide services to artists and arts organizations, and facilitate community cultural planning. In accomplishing this work, LAAs collaborate with other governmental departments (economic development, parks and recreation, libraries, and local education agencies/school districts), as well as with convention and visitor bureaus.


The National Endowment for the Arts offers grants to support the development, production, and distribution of innovative projects that demonstrate media as art and media about the arts (e.g., visual arts, music, dance, literature, design, theater, musical theater, opera, folk & traditional arts, and media arts including animation and digital art).

Media arts, as defined by the National Endowment for the Arts, includes screen-based and print projects presented via film, television, radio, audio, video, the Internet, interactive and mobile technologies, video game consoles, transmedia storytelling, and satellite as well as media-related printed books, catalogues, and journals.


The National Endowment for the Arts supports museums and other exhibiting institutions and organizations that serve the field and the American public through grants for projects of the highest artistic quality. The Arts Endowment is committed to supporting a broad range of activity that reflects serious and exceptional aesthetic investigation.

Grants support projects undertaken by organizations that exhibit, preserve, and interpret visual material through exhibitions, residencies, publications, commissions, public art works, conservation, documentation, services to the field, and public programs.


The National Endowment for the Arts recognizes and supports a wide range of music, from classical to contemporary to America's indigenous jazz. It supports both performing ensembles and music presenting institutions including chamber music ensembles, choruses, early music programs, jazz ensembles, music festivals, and symphony orchestras.

Organizations of all types and sizes may apply for a variety of music production, presentation, and service projects. The Arts Endowment is particularly interested in innovative presentation methods and the development of skills that can help organizations attract new audiences for music. In addition to projects that focus on the standard repertoire, the Arts Endowment encourages the commissioning and performance of new American works.  


Opera is a multifaceted art form that comprises music and text to move a story or dramatic concept forward. The opera genre encompasses music of many periods from the works of Monteverdi, Pergolesi, Gluck, Rossini, Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini to the works of Benjamin Britten, Carlisle Floyd, Philip Glass, and beyond.

The National Endowment for the Arts supports opera companies and other organizations that professionally produce fully-staged and concert operatic works. Projects of all sizes that involve works from the entire operatic canon are eligible. The Arts Endowment is committed to advancing the highest levels of operatic artistry across the nation's cultural landscape. Support for American opera and the creation of opportunities for American artists also are of interest.


In addition to traditional presenting programs, this area supports artistic works and events that present multiple disciplines, combine and/or integrate art forms, explore boundaries between art disciplines, fuse or transcend disciplines, and look to new forms of expression. We seek innovative performances and exhibitions that introduce new voices and perspectives to the community and programs that engage people to become lifelong arts and cultural participants or practitioners.

Multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary art forms may include performance art, interactive and participatory works, multimedia performance, and arts/science collaborations that go beyond the boundaries of a traditional art form.

Projects should be multi- or cross-disciplinary in nature and may include work from the performing, visual, media, design, and literary arts. These projects can be for any stage of the artistic process including creation, commissioning, presentations, touring, training, residencies, and access to the arts. In addition, we also fund projects that provide services to artists and arts organizations. Projects that present or otherwise feature a single discipline (including but not limited to dance, music, literature, visual arts, media arts) should apply through that discipline.


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 elucidates the factors, conditions, and characteristics of the U.S. arts ecosystem and the impact of the arts on other domains of American life. To advance this work further, the NEA welcomes grant applications for projects seeking to use novel research questions and/or techniques to analyze high-quality datasets containing arts variables. The NEA encourages applicants from diverse research fields (e.g., sociology, economics, anthropology) and diverse areas of expertise, including, but not limited to, health, education, and urban and regional planning. Although applicants must be nonprofit organizations, they may partner with for-profit entities, and/or use commercial and/or administrative datasets.


By supporting the state arts agencies (SAAs) and regional arts organizations (RAOs) through Partnership Agreements, the National Endowment for the Arts makes the arts available in more communities than it could through direct grants. The Arts Endowment, SAAs, and RAOs work toward the following common goals:

  • Access to Artistic Excellence: To foster and preserve excellence in the arts and provide access to the arts for all Americans.
  • Learning in the Arts: To advance learning in the arts for children and youth.
  • Partnerships for the Arts: To develop and maintain partnerships that advance the mission of the National Endowment for the Arts.


The National Endowment for the Arts seeks to fund groundbreaking, innovative theater and musical theater in the American spirit that is bold, passionate, profound, creative, and engaging and that demonstrates serious, exceptional, and rigorous aesthetic values.  Projects funded by the Arts Endowment should help to fully realize an organization's mission and may provide support for organizations and artists in the creation and refinement of work, the public presentation of plays and musicals from all cultures and periods, and opportunities for professional development. This encompasses the entire spectrum of the nonprofit theater and musical theater field, including the production or presentation of traditional or classical repertoire, new plays and musicals, development laboratories, showcases, artist residencies, work for young audiences, experimental work, community-based work, outdoor historical dramas, and puppetry.


The National Endowment for the Arts supports the visual arts -- painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, drawing, craft, etc. -- through grants to organizations that serve the needs of and enhance opportunities for artists and their audiences. The Arts Endowment is committed to advancing and preserving the work of contemporary visual artists that reflects serious and exceptional aesthetic investigation.

Grants in the visual arts support projects undertaken by organizations that encourage individual artistic development, experimentation, and dialogue between artists and the public through exhibitions, residencies, publications, commissions, public art works, conservation, documentation, services to the field, and public programs.