NEA National Millennium Projects were developed to support multidisciplinary activities in all 50 states and involve local communities in the creation and preservation of artistic works starting in the year 2000.
In 2001, the NEA launched Challenge America, a new national grants program earmarked for projects that brought arts activities to underserved populations whose access to the arts was limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.
The nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists and Writers received a chairman's extraordinary action grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the exhibition and its companion catalog of post-9/11 work by young artists as "an honest, moving, and beautiful memorial to the tragic events of September 11th."
In 2003, the NEA in cooperation with the regional arts organization Arts Midwest introduced the initiative Shakespeare in American Communities.
In 2004, the Arts Endowment started a new initiative: the NEA Arts Journalism Institutes to provide arts critics with the training necessary to improve the country's arts coverage.
In 2005, the National Endowment of the Arts, in partnership with the Poetry Foundation, held a pilot program for a new initiative, Poetry Out Loud, a poetry contest involving memorization and recitation.
Building on the ideas from existing “City Reads” programs, the NEA created the Big Read in 2006, designed to be a national reading program.
Announced in March 2007, the Education Leaders Institute used the successful structure of the NEA’s Mayors’ Institute on City Design to structure the program—bringing in key players for two-and-a-half days to discuss arts education problems specific to their localities.
On the evening of October 31, 2008, four stars in the opera world were feted as the inaugural recipients of the newest national lifetime achievement award in the arts—the NEA Opera Honors.
The NEA convened the National Summit on Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities from July 22-24, 2009, to review progress made since the last such convening in 1998.