The NEA at 50: Shaping America's Cultural Landscape
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Endowment of Arts into existence on September 29, 1965, he said, “Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”
For the past 50 years, the NEA has been supporting artists and arts organizations that reveal this inner vision. The grants we award have sparked the creation of new artwork; taught generations of children the power of creativity; preserved our artistic heritage; and brought the arts to stages, movie screens, television sets, and public spaces around the country. Through this, the NEA’s history is inextricably linked with the American cultural canon, and has helped shape the diverse cultural landscape this country enjoys today.
In this anniversary issue of NEA Arts, we revisit seven NEA-funded individuals and organizations that have made an outsized impact on American culture. We look at how Jacob’s Pillow has promoted and preserved the field of dance, how Dale Chihuly elevated glassblowing into a fine art, and how the Wolf Trap Institute of Early Learning through the Arts has pioneered bringing arts education to young children. We also showcase Joy Harjo’s contributions to American literature, the impact Earshot Jazz has had in nurturing jazz music in Seattle, how the La Jolla Playhouse helped bring world-class theater beyond New York, and how art helped a community heal after the Oklahoma City federal building bombing in 1995.
As the NEA begins its 50th anniversary celebration, we invite you to join us by celebrating your own relationship with the arts. As President Johnson said 50 years ago, “The arts and the humanities belong to the people, for it is, after all, the people who create them.”
In other words, the arts—and the NEA—belong to you.