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National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

Related: USA - government funding of art

Government funding of art is much rarer in North American than it is in Europe. In the 1990s The National Endowment for the Arts, a United States federally funded program that offers support and funding for projects that exhibit artistic excellence; was criticized for funding controversial work by Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe and Todd Haynes. [Jan 2007]

Whether government funding for the arts should be discontinued, maintained, or extended brings two sets of incommensurable values into conflict. On one hand, the case against funding makes two valid points. First, tax-supported funding forces consumers to forgo goods and services which they would prefer more than art. Second, many individuals believe it is unjust to force conservative Christians to support an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe, to draw an example from the U.S. context. On the other hand, funding supporters point out that more money will support more artists, more art, and, if done with reasonable care, will improve our artistic heritage. Neither side has succeeded in showing that its favored values are more important than the values favored by the other side. -- Tyler Cowen


The National Endowment for the Arts is a United States federally funded program that offers support and funding for projects that exhibit artistic excellence. It was created by the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government.

The NEA mission is "to [enrich] our Nation and its diverse cultural heritage by supporting works of artistic excellence, advancing learning in the arts, and strengthening the arts in communities throughout the country."

Between 1965 and 2003, the agency has made more than 119,000 grants. Congress granted the NEA annual funding between $160 and $180 million from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s. However, in 1996, Congress slashed NEA funding to $99.5 million as a result of increasing pressure from conservative groups such as the American Family Association, who have criticized the agency for using tax dollars to fund artists such as Robert Clark Young, Andres Serrano, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Since 1996, the NEA has rebounded somewhat with a 2004 budget of $121 million. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Endowment_for_the_Arts [2004]

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