What Does the NEA Do For Me?

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.34.58 PM To give you a sense of the NEA’s role in making culture happen, we asked a number of organizations to share how they, and the public, are impacted by NEA support. The takeaway: individual and corporate support becomes imperative.

(We did not include state arts agencies, such as Georgia Council for the Arts, which receive funds from the NEA for redistribution, representing an additional loss for many organizations.)

Click here to read about the #GAArtsFuture postcard campaign to save the NEA.


Marci Tate Davis, manager of public relations at the High Museum of Art

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget? 

In FY16 (June 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016), the High received $60,000 from the NEA to support the exhibition “Alex Katz, This is Now.” The High’s annual budget in FY16 was approximately $20 million.

What do/did the funds support?

The funds supported the exhibition “Alex Katz, This is Now.”

How would your organization would be affected?

Major exhibitions at the High Museum of Art are made possible through NEA funding. These include Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine ArtsRadcliffe Bailey: Memory as MedicineDream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas; and Alex Katz, This Is Now, to name a few. A loss or reduction of NEA funding could affect the High’s ability to develop these important exhibitions as well as programming that expands our ability to share the artists’ works with our patrons.

Does your organization have a plan in place to address the elimination of arts funding?

If this funding is eliminated, the High would need to solicit additional support from individuals and corporate sponsors to make some major exhibitions possible.


Chris Appleton, executive director of WonderRoot

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget? 

Received $150k. Budget $850k.

What do/did the funds support?

Arts and transit initiative in southwest ATL, including mural commissions and infrastructure.

How would your organization would be affected?

As an organization working at the intersection of art and community development, loss of NEA funds would both hamper WonderRoot’s ability to serve some of Atlanta’s most vulnerable residents and decrease important progress made in increased access to arts & culture resources for citizens on the south side of Atlanta. Furthermore, NEA funding serves as a catalyst for private philanthropy to WonderRoot. Just this year, we received more national funding than ever before because of the NEA’s support of WonderRoot.


Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, executive director of the Spelman Museum of Fine Art

The NEH awarded the museum a Humanities Access Grant ($100,000), which supports summer internships in museums for students. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has made it possible for the museum, in collaboration with Spelman’s Department of Art & Visual Culture, to pilot a Curatorial Studies Program. The award from the NEH is essential and will help us multiply our efforts to diversify the museum field over time.


Jesyca Holland, C4 Atlanta 

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget? 

We received $10,000 in 2016 in support or our Artists in the Market Place (AIM Atlanta) course for arts professionals. Our annual operating budget is $250,000.

What do/did the funds support?

The funding supported the AIM Atlanta program. AIM is a marketing and communication course for arts professionals. Specifically, it funded a curriculum rewrite, workbook materials, facilitator fee, and it helped to offset the cost of the course for arts professionals. Our class fees are way below market rate for ongoing, adult education. We spend a lot of time each year updating content with new research and with new facilitation/teaching methodologies. Funding helps support the staff time it takes to create curricula for our programming. For that particular grant, we also created an “lite” version of AIM. This version was online and captioned. We don’t have that up and available right now as we are in the midst of rewriting the course materials. Based on feedback from AIM participants, we are now extending the course from three-weeks to four-weeks beginning this fiscal year. We are also including more teaching techniques to include different types of learners.

How your organization would be affected?

Federal funding is not easy to obtain. It is highly competitive and requires matching funds. We apply for federal funding to support innovation in existing programs, or for the creation of new programs that include collaborative partnerships in other sectors. Without it, our programs may stagnate. Federal funding sets really high standards for compliance and accountability. If federal funding for the arts went away that would be a loss to the entire field during a time when the arts needs to be more accessible, not less. We have an application in with the NEA now for one of our programs. If we don’t get it, the program won’t end but we will reduce the number of times per year it is offered. Federal funding also supports state funding. The NEA funding that Georgia Council for the Arts is receives is a significant portion of its total budget. Any loss would be a huge blow to arts organizations and artists in our state. We receive funding from the State of Georgia for our programs as well. We offer workforce development training for creative freelancers. Communities need robust opportunities for artists if they want to retain them as workers, and that includes ongoing training for artists.

Does your organization have a plan in place to address the elimination of arts funding?

Funding can fluctuate from year to year so we always try to create a budget that “hopes for best, but prepares for worst.” We are looking at partnerships in other sectors as a way to support programming. If we lost all of our public funding, it would be very difficult to keep our doors open. Yes, we can always compete in the market, but then we would not be serving the very people we set out to serve. We do have strategies in place to increase private giving over the next several years. However, federal funding sets the stage–if we lose it then I am afraid that the ripple effect could also impact how Americans personally support art. It would set a terrible precedent.


Saskia Benjamin, executive director of Art Papers

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget? 

Our last NEA grant was for $15,000. Our budget that year was just over $550,000.

What do/did the funds support?

That grant went to support the development of our new website and to commission some web-based content for the launch. Our website is a platform for content delivery to our global audience. Some of the content from the magazine is available free of charge to readers with added accessibility because of computer-related accessibility tools. In addition we are commissioning web-exclusive editorial and artistic content for the website. Because our print publication, ART PAPERS, is now quarterly, the website enables us to deliver content with greater frequency throughout the year. So we are providing content digitally to an audience eager to learn about contemporary art and culture on a global scale.

On the flip side of that, we are also serving artists and writers through the commissioning of their work for publication in print and online. We commission around 130 artists and writers annually. This is in addition to supporting artistic careers and cultural institutions by increasing awareness via exhibition reviews, feature stories, interviews, etc.

And to bring it all the way home to Atlanta, Georgia, we are supporting and enriching our local audience via print, online, and public programming; are commissioning local artists and writers; and are promoting the local and regional art and cultural scenes to a global audience.

How would your organization be affected?

We have been pretty consistently funded by the NEA for the past 20 years, so losing funding that we have kind of come to rely on means there will be an impact. We will just try really hard to make sure that the public doesn’t feel that impact.

For many organizations that were founded in the 1970s, including Art Papers and several other local arts organizations, the NEA was the first major grant we received. It was seed money, an initial investment in a group of artists with a vision for making their community better. I would say 41 years later, we’ve been a pretty safe investment for the NEA, and for the federal government. On so many levels, it would be a tragedy for the NEA to be eliminated. Will is be the end of Art Papers? No, but it will be the end of many, many other organizations, especially those in suburban and rural communities where access to arts and culture and to funders who support arts and culture is scarce. The elimination of the NEA will change the fabric of America for the worse and will disadvantage the already disadvantaged the most.

Does your organization have a plan in place to address the elimination of arts funding?

We have come to terms with the fact that government funding, whether federal or local, is decreasing and doing so at an accelerated rate. Eliminating arts funding in its entirety would simply speed up this steady decline. Unfortunately it would be catastrophic for those institutions that rely heavily on those funds. Organizations learn to make up gaps in funding that happen over the course of a year, but some gaps, especially those that are unexpected and large, can be too much to make up in a single year. It’s very similar to the situation local homeowners faced recently when property tax assessments doubled and even tripled in a year. Homeowners expect and even prepare for their taxes to go up, but when the rate of increase is greater than expected, the gap can become insurmountable for many.

Nonprofits, especially those like Art Papers that have been around for 41 years, have learned to do a lot with a little. However, this is not a sustainable strategy for organizational longevity or programmatic excellence. It is also detrimental for philanthropy as a whole. We are teaching our funders – corporate, foundation, individual donors – that we can survive on these reduced budgets. But the truth is, we are simply surviving. There are no funds for innovation. There is no safety net. There is no room to fail, and increasingly there is no room to succeed.

So what will Art Papers do? We will do what we are already doing, because there is no wiggle room. We will find ways to maximize the existing funding streams of our annual fundraiser. We’ll steward more potential individual donors. We will find ways to get in front of corporations. We will continue to seek funding on a national level. We will continue to work on board development. And we will do all of this while trying to expand our programming so that we can do more, serve more, and innovate. We will do all of this, while facing the possibility that the funding we have” come to rely on,” might be no more.


Susannah Darrow, executive director of ArtsATL

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget?

$10,000, $400,000

What do/did the funds support? 

The Legacy Series, a 12-part series of profiles in recognition of artists who are making marks and elevating the ordinary in the city’s arts and culture landscape.

How would your organization be affected?

Federal funding plays a large role for our organization, both internally and tangentially. ArtsATL would not be able to work with the writers and videographers we do to create series like this. Support from the NEA also provides an important stamp of approval for our other institutional donors. As an organization that covers the arts around Atlanta, we regularly cover organizations and presentations that would not exist without the support of the NEA and NEH. These funds are a huge part of what contributes to the overall cultural fabric and quality of artistic presentations in our city.

Does your organization have a plan in place to address the elimination of arts funding?

With the potential loss of federal funding, we are exploring other opportunities to fund these types of projects through corporate and individual support. In some cases, we will not be able to pursue certain topics in the same way as we might have with public support.


Heather Karellas, development director at Center for Puppetry Arts

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget?

Our most recent grant from the NEA was $10,000. Our current annual budget is $3,699,329 ($3.7MM). Applications to IMLS and NEH for this year are still pending.

What do/did the funds support?

Our most recent NEA grant supports our June-July 2017 production of Cinderella Della Circus, a Family Series puppetry performance for ages 4+. With high-flying thrills, Cinderella Della Circus brings puppetry and the circus together with fairytale magic and teaches audiences the importance of self-acceptance.

How would your organization would be affected?

While NEA funds reflect a proportionally small percentage of our budget, they provide critical support for our Family Series shows. These shows teach audiences about curriculum-based topics and introduce many children in the Atlanta area to live theater for the very first time. Without NEA funds, the Center would have to seriously consider whether we can do as many performances (we currently do 500+ per year).

Does your organization have a plan in place to address the elimination of arts funding?

Public funding for the arts has been in decline over the past 30 years. So in response, the Center has begun to rely more on corporate, foundation, and individual donors out of necessity. However, as with most nonprofits, every dollar of funding is absolutely critical toward our ability to realize our mission and goals. Further loss of public arts funding would erode the Center’s base of support, during a time when arts funding is already scarce. Currently (as of the most recent Giving USA 2017 report), only 5% of all contributions from corporations, foundations, and individuals are allocated toward the arts, culture, and humanities. Georgia already ranks 49th in the country for per capita public arts funding (as measured by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, based on projected FY2018 funds).

Special note:

National funders like the NEA also provide support to local grant funders, such as Georgia Council for the Arts and South Arts (and the NEA has relationships with similar state/regional organizations across the country). The NEA also funds research and scholarly activities that provide important news and information to the field from which all organizations, even those not funded, can benefit. Additionally, organizations are not guaranteed funding from the NEA; instead, a competitive grants process inspires arts organizations across the country (in every single congressional district!) to come up with innovative, boundary-pushing projects in order to compete for those dollars. This, in turn, benefits the American people, who get to engage with and be inspired by these projects. Also, while grant funding for organizations like the NEH and IMLS is also extremely competitive, those institutions are incredibly valuable to arts and cultural museums, as they understand the best practices and needs of museums. A collection of the Center’s size (more than 3,600 puppets and objects) requires a great deal of support and upkeep. Having funders that believe in, and are willing to support, less glamorous, but essential projects like archival shelving upgrades and archive digitization are vital to the survival of our country’s cultural history.


Kathleen Covington, content strategist at Alliance Theatre

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget? 

The amount changes year over year, but the Alliance received $30,000 from the NEA ArtWorks program in 2016/17 to support our annual Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. We do receive additional NEA support through the Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA). GCA’s grantmaking is funded in part with NEA funds.

What do/did the funds support?

Historically, the Alliance receives an ArtWorks grant to support the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. The Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition solicits plays from the leading MFA graduate playwriting programs in the United States and then conducts a rigorous selection process to find four finalists and one winning play. The winner receives a full production as part of the Alliance Theatre regular season.  The winner and four finalists also receive development opportunities for their works including staged readings with industry professionals at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and in Atlanta. A one-of-a-kind opportunity for emerging playwrights, the Competition transitions student playwrights to the world of professional theatre. Past winners have become some of today’s most exciting writers and playwrights and include Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue inspired the 2016 Academy Award-winning film for Best Picture, MoonlightKenneth Lin, who is a writer for the Netflix hit original series “House of Cards,” and Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist Meg Miroshnik (The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls).

How would your organization be affected?

The loss or severe reduction of federal funding will impact the Alliance’s budget and, perhaps even more significant, our competitiveness for other grant applications. Often, other government funding opportunities and foundations want to see an organization receives public support. A strong track record of receiving NEA support serves as an imprimatur for our organization and our work. As the NEA says on their website: Every $1 of NEA support generates an additional $9 in public and private funding, an impressive return on investment.

Does your organization have a plan in place to address the elimination of arts funding?

If federal arts funding is eliminated, the Alliance will increase appeals to individual giving and other foundation supporters for the Kendeda Competition.

Special note:

The Alliance recognizes how important NEA funding is to providing arts access for rural and low-income communities. We’ve added a statement of support for the NEA to our website and include an insert in all of our show programs to bring awareness to the issue and encourage our patrons to reach out to their representatives to show their support.


Lauren Elliot, individual gifts officer at Atlanta Ballet

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget? 

Atlanta Ballet received a $20,000 award from the NEA during FY17; Atlanta Ballet’s FY17 budget is $10,926,887.

What do/did the funds support?

The NEA funds supported Atlanta Ballet’s production of Yuri Possokov’s Firebird. This piece was a regional premiere, and the second work that Atlanta Ballet has performed of Possokhov’s. Possokhov is a world-renowned choreographer, working with prestigious ballet companies including San Francisco Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet. Possokhov’s Classical Symphony brought Atlanta audiences to their feet, and the movement style fit the company perfectly. The April performance of Firebird was the highest grossing mixed repertory program in Atlanta Ballet’s history, raising 219% of the budgeted single ticket revenue goal. Without support from funders like the NEA, this production would not have been possible.

How would your organization be affected?

The NEA has played a significant role in both nurturing our dance programs and funding the creation of new works for our nationally recognized professional dance company for many years. While Atlanta Ballet is a renowned leader in the promotion and education of dance, the institution plays a vital role in the city’s cultural growth and revitalization.

The importance of the NEA goes beyond supporting the productions that enhance the lives of our audiences. Atlanta Ballet alone employs over 100 people and generates $18 million in revenue and tax dollars. Like thousands of other arts organizations that represent cities across the United States, we rely on grants, gifts and donations from passionate advocates to make unique and much-needed artistic contributions to the city of Atlanta. The NEA is crucial in persuading others to add their support, which hugely impacts Atlanta Ballet’s place in the hierarchy of innovative dance companies nationwide, further promoting Atlanta’s reputation as a leading cultural destination that attracts locals and visitors alike.

Diminishing the NEA by cutting its funding would be a tragic outcome for arts organization throughout the county as the NEA is the only arts funder in America, public or otherwise that supports the arts in all 50 states. Every congressional district benefits from an NEA grant, which helps give every American the opportunity to benefit from arts engagement. The impact of this decision would be felt even more acutely in Georgia, which ranks near the bottom among states in public support for the arts.

Does your organization have a plan in place to address the elimination of arts funding?

The NEA is a critical supporter of state, local, and regional arts organizations, as well as every other major arts organization in the state.  While the loss of a $20,000 grant from the NEA may not seem like a large burden for Atlanta Ballet, the impact will be significant. Atlanta Ballet will need to find a funder(s) to cover the NEA award loss, as well as the anticipated reduction in annual local and state government art fund support (due to their loss of NEA funds). In addition, Atlanta Ballet will now be competing with every other major arts organization to secure supplementary funds from (often the same) patrons and foundations who support arts & culture in Atlanta and Georgia. The NEA provides millions in support to Georgia arts organizations each year. That is a huge burden to place on our limited arts patrons & foundations.


Mark Sloan, executive director, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget?  

We received $15K and our annual budget is $800K

What do/did the funds support?

The NEA grant will support our upcoming exhibition “Roberto Diago: La Historia Recordada.” Diago, a renowned Cuban artist who lives and works in Havana, examines the vestiges of slavery in the Caribbean, and his exhibition here will explore connections between slavery in Charleston and his native Cuba. The grant will specifically be used towards video documentation and a brief residency for the artist, in which he will create new works for the exhibition at the Halsey Institute. The video will help us contextualize Diago’s important work and present it to a broader audience.

How would your organization be affected?

We have received 5 NEA grants in 6 years. Though the grant amounts are not tremendous, these grants lend credence and legitimacy to the projects that is unavailable any other way. Other funders look more favorably on projects with the NEA seal of approval.

Does your organization have a plan in place to address the elimination of arts funding? 

We are always struggling for resources.  We do not have a specific plan. First, we’ll panic, and then we will develop a Plan B. We would feel the skip of the funding, for sure, if it were to go away.


J.R. Olive, Mill Hill project director, Macon Arts Alliance

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget? 

$134,370 from the NEA with matching funds from the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation. MAA’s FY2018 operating budget is $442,406 which does not include any public or foundation grants.

What do/did the funds support?

Our NEA funds support a staff position to implement the grant, stipends for existing staff for time spent working on the grant, and contract fees for a consulting group helping to research and develop a cultural master plan for the neighborhood. Significant funding goes directly to artists’ projects including residencies, materials and supplies, facility rental fees, marketing, housing, and more. On a small scale the public gets to participate in arts-based engagement projects that are fun, but also provide and opportunity to share their experience through art and provide valuable data that will help inform the future of change in their neighborhood. On a larger scale, all of the work we’re doing is to help establish an artist village which will create a hotbed of activity and interest in a depressed neighborhood. The ripple affect of combating blight, adding houses back to the tax rolls, putting feet on the street in a historically neglected neighborhood, and establishing a creative identity for the neighborhood is huge. These changes breed positivity and the more positive people are about their city, the more they want to be a part of furthering that positive change.

How would your organization be affected?

Macon Arts Alliance has existed without federal funding for more than 30 years.  However, growth is extremely slow without supplemental funding from the NEA. NEA funding has allowed us to expand in a rapid and progressive way and use art to tackle challenges typically in the realm of local government. Local government often doesn’t fully understand or isn’t capable of effectively combating hyper-local community issues with creative solutions or at an impactful pace while we, as a community based non-profit, are.

Does your organization have a plan in place to address the elimination of arts funding?

Again, while we apply usually apply for more than 20 public and private grant funding opportunities annually, MAA doesn’t rely on grant funding to operate.  That said, the Mill Hill project and any future initiatives that would require a significant expansion of our exiting budget would not be possible without grant funding.


Armando Bellmas, director of marketing and communications, McColl Center for Art and Innovation, Charlotte, NC

How much did your organization receive, and what is your annual budget?

We were awarded two NEA grants for fiscal year 2018. The first is an ArtWorks grant for $25,000, the other is an Our Town grant for $50,000. Our annual budget is $1,960,000.

What do/did the funds support?

Both grants support our artists-in-residence and their community engagement projects. The ArtWorks grant will partially fund the studio practice and projects of artists in our fall 2017 cohort. The Our Town grant will complement the projects that are part of a larger ArtPlace America-funded project, A Tale of Two Cities, that addresses issues of homelessness and housing in Charlotte, specifically in the area around McColl Center in uptown Charlotte.

How would your organization be affected by the loss or severe reduction of federal funding, i.e., what impact will it have for the public?

The loss of NEA funding would be a major blow to our artists-in-residence. The amount of the grant may be small compared to our total operating budget, but that amount makes it possible for artists to pursue a residency, develop their practice, and make a mark on our community.

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