Timeline of NEA Highlights

Find a highlighted grant or project for each year of NEA’s history from the thousands of grants we award annually. Complete lists of grants can be found in the Annual Reports from 1965 - 1997 and on our Recent Grant Search page from 1998 to the present.


Man in suit sitting at table outside the White House surrounded by many other men in suits and a woman in an orange jacket.
On September 29, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed P.L. 89-209, the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, in the Rose Garden of the White House. This piece of legislation established the National Endowment on the Arts and the Humanities Foundation as an umbrella for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and their respective councils.


The cover of a program for a performing arts event.
In June 1966, a $29,000 grant supported the Festival of the Performing Arts of the American Indian produced by the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). Seventy-five Native American performers representing more than 31 tribes participated, drawing national attention to the cultural and historical significance of Native Americans.


A huge red iron sculpture next to a black building.
Stamped on everything from the city's letterhead to its garbage trucks, Alexander Calder's "La Grande Vitesse" is much more than a landmark. It's the ubiquitous symbol of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Arts Endowment awarded a $45,000 grant to Grand Rapids as part of the agency's new public art initiative.


An architectural spec of a building design.
For more than 40 years since Westbeth opened for mixed residential and commercial use, artists such as choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham, photographer Diane Arbus, and poet Muriel Ruekeyser have lived and worked at Westbeth, helping to make it one of the largest artist colonies in the world.


Portrait of man with short gray hair wearing a black jacket.
In 1969, George Russell applied for and was awarded a grant from the recently formed National Endowment for the Arts to support his work—it was the first grant in the jazz field that the NEA awarded. Russell would receive additional grants from the NEA, as well as an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship in 1990, and the agency’s faith in his work was not misplaced.