National Endowment for the Arts Hits the Road with Grant Workshops for Local Non-Profit Arts Organizations
Arts Endowment aims to spread wider net of federal funding for local arts in smaller communities
July 29, 2003
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the tradition of many performing artists, the National Endowment for the Arts is going on tour. And it's drawing large crowds wherever it goes by offering audiences an historically popular product: money. No, the Endowment isn't handing out fistfuls of cash, but it is handing out valuable guidance on how local arts organizations can improve their chances of winning a competitive grant from the nation's leading annual funder of the arts.
"Our charge is to bring art to all Americans, and if there are parts of the country we're not reaching, then we're not fulfilling that charge," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "We are, in effect, going door to door to find out how we can help extend our reach into as many American communities as possible."
Since April of this year, the NEA has conducted grant workshops in Rochester, New York; Asheville and Salisbury, North Carolina; State College, Pennsylvania; Edinberg, Texas; Santa Clarita and Sacramento, California; Mobile, Alabama; Las Vegas, Nevada; Spokane, Washington; and Orlando, Florida. At each site, the audiences exceeded expectations - and double digits.
The workshops are done in cooperation with Members of Congress who act as host and often with the organizational help of state arts agencies. The events serve not only to help explain the grant making process, they also put arts organizations in touch with each other - and with their federal representatives.
"It's more than just bringing information about grants," said NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Eileen Mason, who is leading the workshop effort. "In some cases, we're finding the arts organizations learning from each other because they're finally meeting face to face. And the Members of Congress are learning more about the NEA, the importance of federal funding for local arts organizations, and the positive effect these organizations have on communities in their districts."
As more and more Members hear about the effectiveness of the workshops, the Arts Endowment's "tour" schedule is filling up with invitations to come into more districts to benefit more organizations.
"Often, smaller arts groups may feel that there's no way they can compete on a national level for federal funding. They hear that we give grants to the Metropolitan Opera so they think, 'well, we're not the Met!'" said Mason. "The fact is, we have programs and opportunities that might be perfect for them, but they don't know they exist. That's why we're reaching out with information and guidance on what makes a successful grant application."
In many cases, the presence of the National Endowment for the Arts along with a Member of Congress in a local community has generated considerable media interest, which further spreads the word that the Arts Endowment is actively seeking to extend federal support of the arts into smaller communities and more rural areas.
Mason has been gratified by the attendance at all of the workshops so far. "I know that generally people shudder at the words, 'We're from the federal government and we're here to help' but in this case, it really seems to be working!"
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency