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.


Black woman with long braided hair wearing glasses, sitting and signing a book.
More than a decade before the publication of "The Color Purple," Alice Walker was one of 41 emerging writers to receive an NEA Discovery Award in Literature.


Woman in dress holding on to the side of a train.
Artrain got funding from the NEA for its first national tour. Wherever it stopped, Artrain acted as a community catalyst, encouraging the formation of local and regional arts councils, bolstering art education programs, and spurring downtown revitalization and railroad station renovations.


Photo of window with writing on it.
In 1972, NEA Chair Nancy Hanks developed the Federal Design Improvement program, a four-pronged plan for upgrading federal design.


Exhibition in museum featuring artwork by Alaska Natives.
In 1973, the NEA funded a touring exhibition, The Far North: 2000 Years of American Eskimo and Indian Art, to be shown at the Alaska Museum of History and Art in Anchorage throughout the summer to introduce the rich artistic heritage of Alaska’s Indigenous people, from early Inuit ivory carvings to 19th-century Yupik spirit masks.


The cover of the Museums USA publication.
In 1974, the NEA commissioned a comprehensive survey of museums, Museums USA, the first major research project undertaken by the agency, covering 1,821 art, history, and science museums in 50 states and the District of Columbia.


An ancient Cambodian sculpture of a god reclining on his arms.
The Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program was created by Congress in 1975 for the purpose of minimizing the costs of insuring international exhibitions. The program, administered by the National Endowment for the Arts on behalf of the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.


Man with beard in a tuxedo holding a handkerchief in his left hand
The National Endowment for the Arts supported the creation of Live From Lincoln Center—in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting—with a public media grant of $200,000.


Four people in colorful costumes and facepaint on a stage.
The world-renowned arts celebration Spoleto USA started in 1977, when the Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy, set up an American counterpart with help from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Woman with short brown hair and glasses, wearing a green tee-shirt, working on a sculpture.
The NEA’s program, the U.S./Japan Creative Artist Fellowships, created in 1978 in partnership with the Japan-United States Friendship Commission (JUSFC), sends U.S. artists to spend three months in Japan.


Cover of the book The Confederacy of Dunces
A Confederacy of Dunces continues to be recognized as a classic American novel and a canonical work of modern Southern literature and was brought to publication with the assistance of the NEA.