Arts organizations work hard to engage with their communities. Any little extra bit of help—even from the national government—can make that possible.
Among the numerous institutions that came to a grinding halt during the government shutdown earlier this year was the National Endowment for the Arts. For 35 days its website announced that it would be unable to review grant applications, return email inquiries, or even answer the phones. But, from its beginnings in 1965 optimism has always run strong at the NEA. In the funding package signed by the President that finally ended the shutdown the Endowment actually received a boost of $2 million for its fiscal year 2019 budget. “After a 35-day furlough,” acting chairman Mary Anne Carter announced, “we are happy to be back to the important work of providing access to the arts for all Americans.” (more)
Last month the Endowment announced $27 million worth of arts grants. 52 of those grants, totaling over $1.2 million, came to Texas. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, in large part because of their vibrant arts scenes received a lot of the grants, but they also went to arts organizations in places like Beaumont, Galveston, El Paso, Wichita Falls, Odessa, and Lufkin.
Projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico received funding in this latest round of grants. And while big organizations did receive help for programs they’re mounting, most of the grants were to small outfits trying to introduce more people to the arts.
60 orchestras around the country received grants in this latest round, money that will be used for education programs, community outreach activities, commissioning new works, and for training young musicians. To look down this list of grants is to get a sense of how active local orchestras are in trying to engage their populations. The Boston Youth Symphony received $45,000 to support a strings training program to serve students in Boston schools. The El Paso Symphony Orchestra got $15,000 to help stage a youth orchestra festival. The Kansas City Symphony got the same amount to help pay for a series of free chamber music concerts. $10,000 certainly doesn’t sound like a lot against the backdrop of the entire federal budget, but for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra it’s going to make the difference between being able to produce an education program for young people in that city, and the idea just remaining on the wish list where it would effect no one’s life.
I know a lot of people think of the National Endowment for the Arts as nothing more than an elitist organization that serves only the interests of the very well-off. A quick look at the long list of grants that it makes each year however, shows that it’s anything but. Because of what it does, more people get to experience the wide range of what the arts can really be.