CHALLENGE AMERICA: Application Review

Review Criteria

Applications will be reviewed on the basis of the criteria below, with equal weight assigned to artistic excellence and artistic merit. The review criteria reflect the NEA’s priorities and are aligned with the agency’s strategic plan. While proposals need not address each criterion marked “as applicable,” applicants may wish to consider all of the criteria when developing their proposals. 

Proposals must be for arts projects with specific, definable activities. The application may be rejected if it does not sufficiently describe the project activities. 

For more information about how these criteria relate to the Challenge America program, review the Applicant Resources and/or contact a Challenge America staff member. We are here to help. 


The artistic excellence of the project includes: 

  • The quality of the artists and other key individuals, creative process, works of art, organizations, arts education providers, artistic partners, and/or services that the project will involve and their relevance to the audience or communities being served. 


The artistic merit of the project includes: 

  • The ability of the project to reach and meaningfully engage with underserved groups/communities —those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited relative to: geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.
  • The value and appropriateness of the project to the organization’s mission, artistic field, artists, audience, community, and/or constituency. 
  • The ability to carry out the project based on such factors as the appropriateness of the budget, clarity of the project activities, the resources involved, and the qualifications of the project's personnel and/or partnerships. 
  • Clearly defined goals and/or proposed outcomes and an appropriate plan to determine if those goals and/or proposed outcomes are met. 

As applicable: 

  • Potential to strengthen the arts sector through knowledge-sharing and resources.  
  • Potential to make quality arts or cultural resources more widely available.
  • Potential of the project to grow organizational capacity and experience.

What Happens to Your Application

Applications are evaluated according to the "Review Criteria." After processing by our staff, applications are reviewed by a diverse group of arts experts and other individuals with broad knowledge of the specific types of projects in this funding area. Following further staff review, these recommendations are forwarded to the NEA Chair.

The Chair reviews the recommendations for grants in all funding categories and makes the final decision on all grant awards. Applicants are then notified of funding decisions.

After notification of funding decisions, applicants with questions may contact the staff. 

See the Application Calendar for information on when we expect to announce grant awards and rejections, and the earliest dates by which projects may begin.

Risk Assessment: All recommended applications undergo a review to evaluate risk posed by the applicant prior to making a federal award. This may include past performance on grants, meeting reporting deadlines, compliance with terms and conditions, audit findings, etc.