The National Endowment for the Arts Celebrates 50 Years of Supporting the Arts

Still image of US Map
Still from the "National Endowment for the Arts: About Us" motion graphic.
Washington, DC—The National Endowment for the Arts is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It was on September 29, 1965, one month after signing the Voting Rights Act that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act which gave birth to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. To mark this milestone, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu today launched a year-long anniversary celebration at a Newsmaker Breakfast at the National Press Club in Washington, DC that will demonstrate how the NEA advances learning, fuels creativity, and celebrates arts engagement. Chairman Chu noted in her remarks, “This country is what it is today because of its commitment to chasing wild dreams, pursuing innovative ideas, and finding the passion that ignites the spirit. The Congress of 1965 rightly recognized that to be a leader with might and strength but without heart and soul was to be an ineffectual leader indeed.” 50th Anniversary Initiative: Creativity Connects The major initiative of the 50th anniversary is Creativity Connects. Through this initiative, the National Endowment for the Arts will investigate how artist practices and support systems are changing, how the arts do and can connect with other sectors via creativity, and develop a digital systems map that depicts a creativity ecosystem. This ecosystem map will lay the groundwork for future investments in the arts field. Other New Programs Songwriting Challenge The National Endowment for the Arts is partnering with Playbill, Inc. and Disney Theatrical Group to develop a pilot songwriting program that will provide an avenue for talented high school composers and lyricists to both showcase and refine their songwriting talents. The program is still in development and details will be announced in 2016. Poetry Ourselves The NEA is also encouraging the talent and creativity of young people by adding a new element to the annual Poetry Out Loud competition. In addition to reciting published poems by other poets, Poetry Ourselves will give each of the state champions the opportunity to submit an original poem. The poem will be judged separately from their recitations in the national finals, and will function as a distinct competition for poetry writing. Imagine Your Parks In November 2015, the NEA will announce the first tranche of grants awarded for Imagine Your Parks – a special anniversary grant type that celebrates the natural beauty and diversity of our National Park system. These grants will support the arts that take place in or were inspired by our national parks, and will expand the way we think about the arts in relation to our natural world. Events Events throughout the anniversary year will highlight different elements of the National Endowment for the Arts’ legacy of supporting learning, creativity, and engagement. The schedule to-date includes:
  • On Tuesday, September 29, four former NEA chairmen—Jane Alexander, Rocco Landesman, Bill Ivey, and Frank Hodsoll—will join current Chairman Jane Chu for a panel discussion moderated by PBS NewsHour Co-anchor and Managing Editor Judy Woodruff. The panel takes place from 10:30 to 11:30 am at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Nan McEvoy Auditorium. It is free and open to the public. Space is limited. To reserve a seat, guests can sign up through this page
  • The festivities continue on October 14th, when a taping of In Performance at the White House will honor the joint 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. This concert, called “A Celebration of American Creativity,” will feature musical and other performances, and will be broadcast nationally on PBS on January 8, 2016.
  • In December 2015, the NEA and the NEH will gather at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas to honor the president whose signature brought the two agencies into existence.
  • To close out the 50th anniversary celebration, the National Endowment for the Arts and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will host a national convening in October 2016 on the future of the arts in America. This gathering will bring together artists, thinkers, and policymakers to continue the dialogue about how the NEA and its partners can strengthen the arts sector for the next 50 years, and explore how the arts are a critical component to imagining, building, and securing our future.
Stories Throughout the coming year, the NEA will post new multimedia content on the NEA’s website stories map that showcases the impact of the arts, including:
  • More than 60 videos highlighting the role the arts play in every U.S. state, district, territory, and region.
  • A dozen milestone videos detailing key grants in the history of the National Endowment for the Arts, and how those grants have made an impact on American culture as a whole.
  • Crowd sourced stories about how the arts and the National Endowment for the Arts have impacted the lives of Americans. To date, hundreds of people from across the country have submitted their arts stories and collecting these stories will continue throughout the year.
  • Audio and video stories from luminaries including author Junot Diaz, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Rep. Tom Cole, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Stories will be presented as part of the NEA arts story bank. In addition, visit for an interactive 50 year timeline, a suite of static and motion graphics, the fall issue of NEA Arts devoted to stories of its grantees, and a collection of fact sheets detailing the NEA’s work. Join the anniversary conversation on Twitter at #arts4US. About the National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Creativity Connects ™ is used with permission from Crayola LLC.


Victoria Hutter,, 202-682-5692