National endowment for the arts

DEFINITION

The federal grant making agency that the US Congress created to foster the excellence, diversity and vitality of the visual, literary, design, and performing arts, to benefit all Americans. It does its work by awarding grants to nonprofit arts organizations in all fields as well as through its own leadership activities. As mandated by statute, the NEA [not to be confused with the National Education Association] promotes the continued vitality and excellence of the arts throughout the United States. It augments access to and appreciation of all the arts. It endeavors to support arts activities of merit, to promote the overall financial stability of arts organizations, and to make the arts available to all Americans. The Arts Endowment seeks to increase non-Federal contributions to cultural activity through both its funding and advocacy. The agency does not direct the creative activities of individual artists or arts organizations. Rather, it acts as a catalyst and as partner with others who support the arts. Although a very small percentage of the grants made by the Endowment have stirred controversy, some of it very negative, it continues to endeavor to preserve and improve the environment in which the arts have flourished, never imposing a single aesthetic standard or attempting to direct artistic content.Also see censorship, First Amendment rights, New Deal art, xenophilia, and xenophobia.

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