Last fall the National Endowment for the Arts awarded almost a million dollars in grants to 34 arts groups across the state, large and small.
That money funded everything from King County’s Creative Justice Program, an alternative to youth incarceration, to a project that brings professional theater artists to rural Davenport, near the Colville reservation in eastern Washington. A significant portion of the NEA awards went to projects targetted at youth, community outreach, or rural touring programs.
The NEA also funds some of Seattle’s big arts groups.
The Seattle Symphony received $40,000 last year; Pacific Northwest Ballet was awarded $60,000, which funded a season program. The State Arts Commission receives a large grant, which is matched by the state Legislature. Much of that funding is allocated to youth or community outreach programs in rural areas.
The Seattle Art Museum also gets regular NEA funding for some of its marquee exhibitions, but SAM director Kimerly Rorschach says the support goes beyond money: The NEA runs something called the federal indemnification project. It helps museums and other institutions with the high costs of insuring major art exhibition tours. For example, SAM took advantage of that program when it brought major shows of art by Picasso and Gauguin to Seattle. Rorschach says that art may not have traveled here without that support.
President Lyndon Johnson signed the NEA and NEH into law in 1965. At the ceremony he called art “a nation’s most precious heritage.”