Statement by National Endowment for the Arts Chair Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson on LGBTQ+ Pride Month
Every year, the month of June is celebrated as LGBTQ+ Pride Month throughout our nation. Pride is a community celebration of acceptance, identity, and belonging. Despite past and present obstacles, the LGBTQ+ community continues to provide an array of critically important voices, talents, innovation, and leadership to our nation. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) proudly provides resources and funding to help all Americans live artful lives and has committed to advancing inclusive work that helps us express our full diversity, one of our nation’s greatest strengths.
This year, through a Challenge America grant, Miami Beach Pride used NEA funding to help bring visibility to LGBTQ+ artists and showcase their work in venues with maximum accessibility. NEA’s grants to the Los Angeles LGBT Center help provide a safe harbor for senior citizens and youth with a focus on creative self-expression through theater, comedy, creative writing, and visual arts. Richmond Ballet will use Grants for Arts Projects funding to increase dancer and staff salaries for a dance and community engagement project—Creating Home: An Exploration of Identity and Community through Dialogue and Dance—with a focus on public dialogue and discussion with local LGBTQ+ and Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.
These examples from Florida, California, and Virginia, as well as many other efforts around the country, are ways in which the Arts Endowment provides a platform for LGBTQ+ artists to tell their stories, showcase their talents, and enrich our lives through literature, music, theater, media and film, the visual arts, and design.
Over the years, LGBTQ+ artists and their contributions have earned important accolades and helped us advance as a nation in profound ways. This has been made possible by bringing attention to public health issues, our evolving formation of American identity, and our common humanity. For example, LGBTQ+ poet Jericho Brown, received an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship in 2011 and used the funding to research the lives and perspectives of people who were the first to report on the AIDS crisis in our nation. He drew inspiration from the research to create collections of poetry. In 2020, Brown received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book of poems The Tradition, which takes readers on a journey about trauma, Black perspectives, queerness, and history.
In the same year, LGBTQ+ lyricist, composer, and playwright—Michael R. Jackson—received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the musical A Strange Loop. Jackson is the first Black LGBTQ+ artist to win a Pulitzer for a musical (which received 11 Tony Award nominations this year). Through its funding of the world premiere at the Playwrights Horizons theater company, the NEA played a critical role in helping to launch this significant artwork.
Renowned composer, songwriter, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim gifted our nation with timeless Broadway music and lyrics from shows such as West Side Story and Into the Woods. Sondheim was a 1996 recipient of the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government. The NEA supported many of his musical productions, from the Wilma Theater production of Passion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Phamaly Theatre Company’s production of Into the Woods in Denver, Colorado. Throughout Sondheim's career in stage and film, he received an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards, and eight Grammy Awards. Even after his death in November 2021, Sondheim leaves the world with lyrics that will continue to teach us about triumph in the midst of loss and how to navigate through personal struggles.
In so many ways, the LGBTQ+ community has and continues to influence American arts and culture, helping us along toward our aspiration of a more perfect union. The NEA is proud to celebrate PRIDE month and underscore the importance of inclusivity throughout the year.
Please join us at arts.gov and our social media channels as the NEA’s celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month continues and we share more stories about LGBTQ+ artists and arts organizations on our blog and weekly podcast.