Prepared Statement of Dana Gioia
Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts
Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment
and Related Agencies
U.S. House of Representatives
March 20, 2007
Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee:
I am honored to come to you again to report on the state of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and to discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2008 budget request for $128,412,000. We are pleased that the President's budget contains an increase of $4 million for the NEA.
As I begin my second term as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, I am proud to report that the NEA is currently operating with high artistic standards, unprecedented democratic access, inclusive partnerships, and improved efficiency. We have made remarkable progress in recent years and today have a strong sense of confidence in our public mission, reputation and record of service.
The Arts Endowment's programs now reach into every corner of our nation -- bringing the best of the arts and arts education to the broadest and most varied audiences possible. While maintaining the highest artistic and educational standards, the agency has effectively democratized its programs, while also keeping them relevant to the needs of diverse communities. This expanded reach has been made possible by national initiatives such as Shakespeare in American Communities, NEA Jazz in the Schools, Operation Homecoming, Great American Voices, Poetry Out Loud, The Big Read, and American Masterpieces that together reach thousands of communities, classrooms, and military bases -- collectively serving millions of Americans.
Meanwhile our grants process has been broadened through our Challenge America: Reaching Every Community program that helps to ensure that direct grants reach arts organizations in every Congressional district in the United States in addition to our state arts agency and regional arts organization grants. In 2007 we will achieve for the third consecutive year our goal of reaching every community in the United States — with many grants once again going to organizations that have never before received Endowment support.
Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is proud to support the President's budget request for Fiscal Year 2008 and to report on our progress during the past year. To support our vital mission, we are requesting a budget of $128,412,000, which includes $102.942 million for grant-making activities with $61.765 million committed to American Masterpieces, Challenge America, and basic grant programs and $41.177 million allocated for state and regional partnerships.
Agency Goals and Accomplishments
The past four years have been a period of enormous innovation, sustained energy, and meaningful renewal at the NEA. We have made a series of significant changes that enable the agency to serve the nation more efficiently and effectively.
NEA grants are producing economic benefits throughout the country by nurturing local arts groups and enhancing local economies. With each dollar awarded by the NEA generating on average $6-$7 dollars from other sources, the NEA is triggering an investment of approximately $600 million for the arts from private donors and non-federal sources.
We welcome this opportunity to showcase the following programs that exemplify NEA's commitment to excellence, broad geographic reach and arts education.
Challenge America: Reaching Every Community
The creation of the Challenge America program in 2001 marked a turning point in NEA history. This program built upon the agency's strengths in supporting the arts and art education but challenged the NEA to broaden its service to Americans outside established cultural centers. The program quickly broadened the geographic distribution of grants, but it did not fully realize its original goals of reaching the entire nation. In an average year, direct grants reached only about three quarters of the nation (as measured by Congressional districts). Consequently, areas of the nation representing more than 70 million citizens received limited service from the agency.
Four years ago, we set the goal of delivering a direct grant to every Congressional district in the United States. In 2005, and again in 2006, the NEA realized 100% coverage with direct grants awarded to high-quality organizations in all 435 districts. In 2007 the NEA will again achieve that 100% coverage goal. The Arts Endowment considers the new Challenge America program one of its central achievements.
When I came to the NEA, I was dismayed to learn how little was done in international cultural exchange. Over the past few years, the NEA has focused on developing several programs that showcase America's artistic creativity and excellence abroad. We now provide assistance to U.S. music and dance ensembles invited to perform in international festivals abroad. We have joined with the Open World Leadership Program to support short-term residencies for Russian artists and arts administrators with U.S. arts groups.
And most recently, as a partner in the State Department's Global Cultural Initiative launched in September, the NEA has begun a series of International Literary Exchanges. In partnership with other countries and U.S. independent presses, the NEA is providing American readers with access to literary works by contemporary writers of other countries and providing foreign readers with access to the work of highly talented living American writers. Building on the success of a U.S.- Mexico poetry anthology published in 2006, the NEA is currently developing similar projects with Russia, Northern Ireland and Pakistan.
The Arts Endowment's national initiatives allow the agency to create partnerships with hundreds of local arts organizations, schools, and public institutions to achieve common goals. Creating these partnerships allows federal dollars to be spent more effectively. Over the past four years these widely applauded initiatives have reached millions of Americans with programs of the highest quality and truly egalitarian reach. Managed through the regional arts organizations, the initiatives have provided hundreds of grants to arts organizations and employment to thousands of actors, singers, writers, musicians, and artists as well as directors, designers, stagehands, and technicians -- all directed at providing cultural services greatly needed and appreciated by local communities and schools.
Many adults and young people are unfamiliar with the significant artistic and cultural achievements of our nation. They have few opportunities in school or daily life to learn about the arts or acquire skills to appreciate or participate in them. To address this challenge, the Arts Endowment established American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius. It vividly embodies the goals of excellence and outreach and features educational programs along with presentations of artistic works themselves.
Now in its third year, American Masterpieces is fully under way with five major components -- visual arts, dance, choral music, musical theater, and literature. American Masterpieces grants have enabled 27 museums in 14 states to tour exhibitions to 136 cities across the nation, reaching an estimated audience of 4.1 million. Choral music grants have supported the creation of eight regional festivals celebrating American choral music in seven states and the District of Columbia. Fifty dance companies are reviving and touring American choreographic masterpieces nationwide. In Musical Theater, 13 theater companies in 11 states are reviving and touring significant works of American musical theater. All these programs are reaching into underserved rural and urban American communities and introducing new generations to their rich artistic legacy.
The Big Read
The National Endowment for the Arts' widely discussed 2004 report, Reading at Risk, identified a critical decline in reading among American adults. Drawn from a U.S. Census sample of 17,000 Americans, Reading at Risk established an especially alarming fact: literary reading is rapidly declining among Americans of all ages, races, genders, income and levels of education.
Challenged to stem the decline in reading, the NEA developed a literary component of American Masterpieces called The Big Read. With Mrs. Laura Bush as its honorary chair, the Endowment is uniting communities and generations through the reading and discussion of a common book. To make the Big Read work, communities are creating new partnerships involving schools, libraries, literary centers, arts councils, dance and theater companies, symphony orchestras and museums, television and radio stations, as well as mayor's offices and chambers of commerce to broaden the reading of quality literature in every segment of the community.
Piloted in ten cities in 2006, Big Read programs are underway in 72 towns and cities across the country during the Spring months of 2007. Our goal is for Americans to reconnect to the pleasure of reading great American novels in 200 communities across all 50 states in 2007 with 400 communities participating in 2008.
We have an opportunity to impact America profoundly with The Big Read. With additional funds for the Big Read requested by the President, we believe that we can make a significant difference in making the United States a better place to live for individuals, for families and for communities. The decision to expand The Big Read into 400 communities is a pivotal moment in connecting Americans to their culture.
Shakespeare in American Communities
The NEA's Shakespeare program is now in its fourth year with Shakespeare for a New Generation, a program that focuses on providing American students an opportunity to see a live professional performance of Shakespeare. Since the program began in September 2003, the Endowment has awarded 100 grants to 59 theater companies that have brought new productions of Shakespeare to more than 1400 communities in mostly small and mid-sized cities, and to 18 military bases. More than two thousand actors have performed for students attending 2500 middle and high schools.
The award-winning NEA Shakespeare classroom toolkit has been distributed free to 20,000 schools -- 32% of which are located in rural communities -- reaching 15 million students. The NEA's Shakespeare program has reached deeply into all 50 states with an overwhelming positive response from teachers and students alike.
NEA Jazz in the Schools
The Arts Endowment's long-standing support of jazz was broadened in 2006 with the NEA Jazz in the Schools program, an engaging and substantive introduction to jazz created for high schools. Developed with Jazz at Lincoln Center and with support from Verizon and the Verizon Foundation, an academic tool-kit, made available in January 2006, has already been provided free to 8,800 classrooms across all 50 states. Used by teachers during Black History Month, some 4.5 million students have participated in the program, which introduces jazz as a distinctively American art form as well as a powerful and positive force in African-American social history. This new educational program was added while the agency maintained all of its 50 State NEA Jazz Master touring, and radio and awards programs.
Operation Homecoming and Other Programs for the Military
Operation Homecoming was created by the National Endowment for the Arts to help U.S. troops and their families write about their wartime experiences. We are proud to report that the program achieved its goals well beyond our expectations. Operation Homecoming began in 2004 with 50 writing workshops conducted by some of America's most distinguished writers on 30 military installations here and abroad. In response to a call for submissions, military personnel and their families submitted more than 12,000 pages of written material that was judged by an NEA panel of distinguished writers, editors and historians. With Andrew Carroll as editor, Random House published an anthology of the best 100 literary works in Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families.
The program now draws to a close with the production of two films showcasing wartime writing and the creative process. This initiative was supported by the Boeing Company, which also funded Great American Voices that sponsored performances by 24 opera companies on 39 U.S. military bases with visits to neighboring schools. The response has been excellent, and the performers have consistently played to packed houses.
As we contemplate the future of the National Endowment for the Arts, we remain dedicated to our stated mission of bringing the best of the arts -- new and established -- to all Americans. Too few Americans, especially younger Americans, have the opportunity to know and experience the best of our nation's rich artistic legacy. Too few students have access to arts education in their schools and communities. The Arts Endowment's mission is to enrich the civic life of the nation by making excellent art and arts education truly available throughout the United States. A great nation deserves great art.
Return to News Index
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20506