What is NEA? | National Endowment for the Arts | Catch My Job


A group of well-dressed men and women in a dimly lit room listen to a tall man from behind a stage

Picture r. Philip Hanes, Jr


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), established by Congress in 1965, is an independent federal agency that is the largest funder of arts and arts education in communities nationwide and a catalyst for public and private support for the arts. By advancing equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, the NEA fosters and sustains an environment in which the arts benefit all in the United States.

NEA’s primary activities include making grants to nonprofit arts organizations, public arts agencies and organizations, colleges and universities, federally recognized tribal communities or tribes, and individual writers and translators. Grant applications are reviewed by a panel of industry experts and individuals from around the country. All grants, except individual grants for authors and translators, must be matched by nonfederal sources. NEA funds are appropriated annually by Congress. For a quick overview of our grant process, watch our animated video.

Although NEA’s primary activity is grantmaking, it is a national leader in the field and a convener of the arts community and individuals working at the intersection of art and important issues such as health, community development, and education. . The NEA is an important resource for research on the value and importance of the arts and shares that information with stakeholders and the public.

NEA’s new strategic plan and equity action plan for fiscal years 2022 – 2026 provide a blueprint for positioning the agency as the lead agency within the federal government for social and economic change through the arts and building on current processes already in place. Implement new strategies to ensure fairness and equity progress.

Together, the Arts Endowment’s activities help bring meaningful arts experiences to all Americans, helping to ensure that artistic lifestyles are available to everyone in the country.

Funding opportunities

There are three project-based grant opportunities for NEA organizations: grants for arts projects in specific disciplines; Challenge America’s grants for projects reaching underserved communities; and Our Town Creative Placemaking grants that support programs that integrate arts, culture, and design activities into community projects. NEA’s partnership agreements fund state arts organizations in 56 states and jurisdictions and six regional arts organizations.

The NEA offers two funding opportunities for research: Research Grants in the Arts Fund research that investigates the value and impact of the arts, and NEA Research Labs fund transdisciplinary research teams based in the social and behavioral sciences.

The NEA funds literary fellowships for translation and creative writing in prose and poetry, the only individual grants that the NEA awards.


The NEA presents two lifetime achievement awards: the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in jazz, and the National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. In addition, the NEA solicits nominations from the public for the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given by the US government to artists and patrons of the arts and presented by the President.

Partnerships and Initiatives

The NEA works with other federal agencies, state and local governments, state arts organizations and regional arts organizations, and private nonprofits on initiatives that provide access to quality arts programming experiences for thousands of Americans across the country. You can find more information about this programming on the Initiatives page.

Publications about NEA

These publications provide a good overview of the agency’s work since its inception in 1965.

Annual Report, 1965 to Present
Provide an overview of NEA activities in each fiscal year of the agency’s history.

Guide to the National Endowment for the Arts
This online publication provides details on the programs and activities NEA supports and links to different areas of the agency website to help you better navigate the site and find the material you’re looking for. 2022

National Endowment for the Arts: A History 1965-2008
This publication documents the agency’s major activities since its creation by the US Congress in 1965. Also includes overviews of the organization’s impact on dance, literature, media arts, museums, music, opera, theater, and the visual arts. 2009

Legacy of Leadership: Investing in America’s Living Cultural Heritage Since 1965
Celebrating NEA’s 35th anniversary, this publication highlights more than 50 important NEA-funded projects that have made a lasting difference to communities, individuals and organizations. 2000

National Endowment for the Arts, 1965-2000: A Brief Chronology of Federal Support for the Arts
A thumbnail history of the first 35 years of federal government support for the arts and accomplishments from the NEA’s inception. 2000

Timeline of NEA highlights

Each year, the National Endowment for the Arts awards thousands of grants to organizations and individuals across the country. We’ve created this timeline to showcase some of the stellar projects and artists the NEA has supported over the past 50+ years. Find a year in any decade and read about a project, arts organization or artist we supported that year.

Milestone video

In 2015, the NEA’s 50th anniversary, the organization produced a series of milestone videos highlighting some of the artists, arts organizations, and arts programs the NEA has supported over its history.

American Film Institute
Maya Lin
National Council for Traditional Arts
Steppenwolf Theater Company
Sundance Institute
Edward Villela
Walker Art Center
A look at art education
creative force
NEA Literary Fellowship

NEA Chair

Roger Stevens (1965-69)
Nancy Hanks (1969-77)
Livingston Biddle (1977-81)
Frank Hodsole (1981-89)
John Frohnmeier (1989-92)
Jane Alexander (1993-97)
Bill Ivey (1998-2001)
Michael Hammond (2002)
Dana Gioia (2003-09)
Rocco Landsman (2009-12)
Jane Chu (2014-18)
Mary Ann Carter (2019-21)
Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD (2021-present)


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