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 our strategic plan. While proposals need not address each criterion marked “as applicable,” applicants may 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 a specific discipline, review the discipline-specific guidelines and/or contact a discipline 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 involved in the project and their relevance to the audience or communities the project aims to serve.


The artistic merit of the project includes:

  • 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, 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 outcomes are met. This includes, where relevant, measures to assess student and/or teacher learning in arts education.
  • Evidence of direct compensation to artists, makers, art collectives, and/or art workers

As applicable:

  • Engagement with individuals whose opportunities to experience and participate in the arts are limited by geography, race or ethnicity, economics, or disability.
  • Ability to strengthen the arts sector through knowledge-sharing and resources.

What Happens to Your Application

Applications are evaluated according to the Review Criteria above.

After processing by our staff, applications are reviewed, in closed session, by advisory panelists. Each panel comprises a diverse group of arts experts and other individuals, including at least one knowledgeable layperson, with broad knowledge in the areas under review. Panels are convened virtually by discipline. Panel membership changes regularly. The panel recommends the projects to be supported, and the staff reconciles panel recommendations with the funds that are available. These recommendations are forwarded to the National Council on the Arts, where they are reviewed in an open public session.

The Council makes recommendations to the NEA Chair.

The NEA 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.