Importance of Federal Funding for the Arts

Federal Arts Support

A federal arts role is crucial to a thriving cultural life.

  • The not-for-profit arts depend on a delicate balance of public and private funding, with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in a strong leadership position. NEA grants are powerful fundraising instruments for arts organizations—recipients are required to match all federal grants up to four-to-one.
  • The federal government works as a complementary partner with the state governments in funding the arts. State arts agencies rely upon federal leadership and funding in identifying and addressing cultural needs.
  • The NEA brokers partnerships among state and local agencies and private organizations to promote and expand the availability of arts around the country.
  • The arts have enjoyed bipartisan support at the federal, state and local levels for over 30 years.


NEA funds broaden public access to the arts.

  • NEA funds help to make the arts accessible to many people who could otherwise not afford them.
  • Many NEA direct grants are aimed at making the arts more widely available by supporting community outreach projects and educational initiatives aimed at making major institutions accessible to everyone.
  • The NEA supports projects in all states, including isolated rural areas and inner cities; projects are spread across racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines.
  • Each state arts agency receives a significant block grant from the NEA, constituting 40% of NEA funds. The distribution of NEA funds requires a 15% cap on the collective amount that arts organizations from any one state can receive, with the exception of projects of national significance and multi-state touring.


The NEA supports lifelong leraning in the arts.

  • The NEA provides unique leadership in local, state and national partnerships and initiatives strengthening arts education for students of all ages.
  • Through its grant programs, the NEA directly supports projects in which arts organizations, artists, schools and teachers collaborate to provide opportunities for adults and children to create, perform and respond to artistic works.
  • Arts education has been proven to help students increase cognitive development, inspire motivation and discipline, develop confidence and inventiveness, and hone communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Students who study the arts continue to outperform non-arts students on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). According to the College Board's 2001 College-Bound Seniors: A Profile of SAT Program Test Takers, students with more than 4 years of arts study scored 68 points higher on the verbal section and 51 points higher on the math section of the SAT than students with no arts course work.
  • Refer to TCG's Education page for information on the latest research studies and statistics on arts education.

Public Opinion

The American public supports federal funding for the arts.

  • A June 1996 poll conducted by Louis Harris found that 79% of the American people favor a governmental role in funding the arts.
  • The poll also found 61% of Americans would pay $5 more in taxes to support the arts.

Private Funding

Private support cannot relpace the role of federal funding.

  • In the publication Looking Ahead: Private Sector Giving in the Arts and the Humanities, foundations and corporations categorically state that they cannot make up for a loss of federal funding.
  • Private funding sources are responding to multiple requests from all sectors of the nonprofit community. Corporate and individual donors face difficult choices due to these increased demands. It is crucial that the federal government—through the NEA—signal to private donors that giving to the arts should be included among their contributions.
  • An October 2001 survey of 100 companies conducted by the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) demonstrated that contributions to arts organizations are expected to stay flat in 2002. Only 5 companies expected to increase giving.


The NEA is responsive to Congressional concerns.

  • The NEA awards direct grants in five interdisciplinary funding categories, including Access, Creativity, Organizational Capacity, Heritage/Preservation and Arts Learning.
  • Grants are given for specific projects, rather than to individual artists or for general operating support.
  • Priority funding is given to NEA grant applications that encourage public knowledge, education, understanding and appreciation of the arts and support projects in underserved populations.
  • Grantees must file interim and final reports, with grant payment contingent upon approval of these reports.
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