Review Criteria

Applications will be reviewed on the basis of the criteria below, with equal weight assigned to artistic excellence and artistic merit. While proposals need not address every 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, organizations, arts education providers, works of art, 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:

  • Importance and appropriateness of the project to the organization’s mission, artistic field, artists, audience, community, and/or constituency.
  • Ability to carry out the project based on such factors as the appropriateness of the budget, the quality and clarity of the project activities and goals, the resources involved, and the qualifications of the project's personnel.
  • Potential to serve and/or reach individuals whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability, as applicable.
  • Appropriateness of proposed performance measurements. This includes, where relevant, measures to assess student and/or teacher learning in arts education.
  • Plans for documentation and dissemination of the project results, as applicable.
  • Evidence of direct compensation to artists, art collectives, and/or art workers.
  • As applicable, engagement with the following constituencies (as encouraged by White House Executive Orders):
    • Historically Black Colleges and Universities,
    • Tribal Colleges and Universities,
    • American Indian and Alaska Native tribes,
    • African American Serving Institutions,
    • Hispanic Serving Institutions,
    • Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and
    • Organizations that support the independence and lifelong inclusion of people with disabilities.

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 remotely 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 Chairman.

The NEA Chairman 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. 

Any applicant whose request for funding has not been recommended may ask for an explanation of the basis for denial. In such instances, the NEA must be contacted no later than 30 calendar days after the official notification.

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.