Showing posts from July 24, 2011

On "Excellence"

Let's start with the legislation that brought the NEA into existence, which I mentioned at the end of my previous post -- that the NEA should dedicate itself  "to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education." Notice that this is similar to a three-legged chair: excellence is one leg, wide distribution is the second, and arts education the third. There is no indication in the legislation that one is more important than the other. Indeed, according the the NEA's own National Endowment for the Arts: A History 1965 - 2008, "The Arts Endowment’s mission was clear—to spread this artistic prosperity throughout the land, from the dense neighborhoods of our largest cities to the vast rural spaces, so that every citizen might enjoy America’s great cultural legacy." (italics mine)

And yet, my impression from my contact with the NEA and with artists who look to the NEA for l…

Analyzing the NEA 'Our Town' Grants (Part 2)

When I published my post "Analyzing the NEA 'Our Town' Grants," several people wanted to know about whether the awards reflected the applicant pool, and I said I didn't know. Last week, I was contacted by Jamie Bennett, the Chief of Staff and Director of Public Affairs for the NEA, who provided me with the data. (Ian, have at it!)

Let's go inside the numbers a bit using my particular lens. The NEA provides us with breakdowns according to county population and city population. The reason I focus on county population is that there are many places that officially have small populations, but are really bedroom communities for a much larger nearby metropolis. From my perspective, these are not small or rural communities, but extensions of the larger population center, and the arts options available to them are mostly to be found in the city. My focus is on small and rural communities that are in counties that are also small or rural. Nevertheless, let's examin…