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.


Two older white men seated in a radio station are playing accordions.
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.


Chinese American girls dressed in blue and pink holding fans and dancing on stage.
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.


A drawing of a youth holding a frame up in front of his face.
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."


Black man in robe with his arms around a white woman in a white dress, on stage.
In 2003, the NEA in cooperation with the regional arts organization Arts Midwest introduced the initiative Shakespeare in American Communities.


A large group of men and women of all ages sitting around a table listening to an older man in white shirt speak.
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.


Male student in blue shirt standing in front of mic on stage with a large sign behind him.
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.


A Black man with a gray beard wearing a gray suit posing next to an Asian woman with dark hair wearing a purple dress.
Building on the ideas from existing “City Reads” programs, the NEA created the Big Read in 2006, designed to be a national reading program.


A white board from a meeting with What do arts provide written at the top of one column and Audiences at the top of another.
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.


A man in a suit is kneeling in front of a Black woman in a black dress wearing a turban.
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.


A group of people on stage, three standing and six sitting.
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.