The National Endowment for the Arts Announces a New Federal Interagency Task Force to Promote Research on the Arts and Human Development

Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Education Department are among 13 federal agencies and departments seeking to advance research on the arts and well-being across the lifespan

The National Endowment for the Arts is leading a new task force of 13 federal agencies and departments to encourage more and better research on how the arts help people reach their full potential at all stages of life.   

"Human Development" is a framework that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners use to devise research and programs that help people lead full lives from early childhood through old age. While many studies have found links between the arts and positive cognitive, behavioral, and social outcomes, most of this research is small-scale and short-term. There are major gaps in federally sponsored arts research. For example, there is no large-scale research on the arts and creative thinking, a critical asset in today's global economy. There are research gaps on how the arts influence both youth and aging populations. And there is no nationally representative research on how the arts affect people with illness, injury, or disability. Until now, arts research has not been part of significant research on human development, and there has been little coordination among federal agencies, researchers, and practitioners to rectify this problem.

Taking a collective leap forward, the members of the NEA Interagency Task Force will work together to help fill the research gaps and build a stronger evidence base to inform future policy and practices nationwide. The task force will:

  • host a series of quarterly webinars on compelling research and practices;
  • coordinate the distribution of information about funding opportunities for researchers and providers of the arts, health, and education across the lifespan;
  • conduct or commission a gap-analysis and literature review of federally sponsored research on the arts and human development;
  • identify and leverage joint research funding opportunities across agencies;
  • host a convening with researchers and practitioners for professional development and capacity-building in the field of arts and human development

"It is my job to support artists and arts organizations in their prime mission: making and presenting art. But we also have a responsibility to look beyond ourselves to see the ways in which our work connects with our fellow citizens and the world at large," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "I am pleased to be working in partnership with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to create a research agenda that explores the role of the arts in human development across the life span."

The task force is a result of The Arts and Human Development, a white paper that proposes a framework for long-term collaboration among federal agencies to build capacity for future research and evidence sharing about the arts' role in human development. The white paper stems from a first-ever convening between the NEA and the Department of Health and Human Services in March 2011 in Washington, DC with NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In her remarks at the convening, Secretary Sebelius stated, "It is our hope that coming out of this meeting we can deepen our collaboration on research and identify new avenues for studying how the arts can improve all our lives."

Participating federal agencies and departments in the task force are:


A public webinar to announce the new task force takes place today, November 30, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET. NEA Research & Analysis Director Sunil Iyengar and guest speakers will present findings from the NEA-HHS white paper, discuss the interagency task force, and answer questions from the media and the public.  No pre-registration is required.  For more information on the webinar,

About NEA Research

The NEA is the only federal agency to conduct long-term and detailed analyses of arts participation. For more than 30 years, the NEA Office of Research & Analysis has produced periodic research reports, brochures, and notes on significant topics affecting artists and arts organizations, often in partnership with other federal agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recently, the NEA announced a new research grant opportunity to foster more research on the value and impact of the arts on the nation.  The NEA is committed to extending the conversation about arts participation by making data available to both the research community and the public at large. 

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at


Sally Gifford