Prepared Statement of Dana Gioia
Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts
Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment
and Related Agencies
U.S. House of Representatives
March 10 , 2005
Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee:
I am honored to come to you again after two years in office to report on the state of the National Endowment for the Arts and to discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2006 budget request for $121,264,000.
As the National Endowment for the Arts approaches the fortieth anniversary of its founding legislation (September 29, 1965), the agency enjoys a renewed sense of confidence in its public mission, reputation, and record of service. Through a series of important national initiatives of the highest quality such as Shakespeare in American Communities, NEA Jazz Masters, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, and Challenge America: Reaching Every Community, the NEA has achieved a level of public service and national coverage unprecedented in its history. Supporting arts and arts education programs of the highest quality across the entire United States, the Arts Endowment now reaches both large and small communities as well as rural areas, inner cities, and military bases - successfully combining artistic excellence with public outreach.
FY 2006 Budget Request
The Arts Endowment is proud to support the President's budget request for Fiscal Year 2006 and to report on our progress during the past year. To support our vital mission, we are requesting a budget of $121,264,000, which includes $45,118,000 for Direct Endowment Grants, $14,922,000 for Challenge America: Reaching Every Community, $30,108,000 for State and Regional Partnerships, and $8,000,000 for a national initiative begun last year to celebrate our nation's greatest artistic achievements. American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius, an ambitious multi-year program, will bring the best of America's creative legacy to a broad public in all 50 states. It vividly embodies the goals of both our Agency and the Administration.
Agency Goals and Accomplishments
The past two years have been a period of enormous energy and renewal at the NEA. We have made a series of significant changes that have enabled the agency to serve the nation more efficiently and effectively. Among our most important accomplishments we would like to single out the following programs for special attention.
1. Shakespeare in American Communities: Shakespeare for a New Generation
As the Arts Endowment completed its initial Fiscal Year 2004-2005 national tour of Shakespeare in American Communities (which reached 170 cities in all 50 states), the agency was asked by the National Council on the Arts and by members of this subcommittee to make this innovative and acclaimed venture a permanent program. The NEA has responded by establishing a national program that brings professional theater to American high school students - Shakespeare for a New Generation.
Shakespeare for a New Generation allows professional theater companies to bring free or subsidized performances of Shakespeare to high school students in towns throughout their regions. By combining arts presentation with arts education, the Shakespeare program simultaneously assists theater companies, actors, arts presenters, teachers, and students with the same funds. The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive from all. The goal of our Shakespeare program is to bring one million students into a professional production of Shakespeare by the end of 2006.
So far 30 theater companies located in 23 states - and serving nearly 600 communities, including military bases, in all 50 states - have received grants for the program. Up to 40 new companies will be chosen later this month for the next round of touring. Meanwhile more than 15,000 high schools reaching eight million students have already received our free Shakespeare teaching materials.
2. NEA Jazz Masters & Jazz in the Schools
Our expanded NEA Jazz Masters, which honors this distinctly American musical form, has been another notable success. We have expanded the lifetime achievement fellowships from 3 to 6 artists per year, redesigned the award ceremony, and added a 50-state tour as well as television and radio programming. The new awards ceremony has achieved enormous status - not only being widely covered by the press but also being televised. This increased coverage not only benefits the distinguished individual artists being honored but also the art itself by bringing jazz heightened public attention in the media.
In 2006 the jazz program will have an important new component - NEA Jazz in the Schools. This new program will provide high school teachers with excellent material on jazz - including DVDs, CDs, posters, and an interactive Web site - to use especially during February, Black History Month. This program will both introduce millions of students to the pleasures of jazz and will explain the art's positive role in American social history.
3. Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
Another recent NEA innovation has been to provide programs of high quality for military personnel and their families. For the first time the NEA is providing significant programs created for the nearly four million Americans serving in the military, recovering in military hospitals, or living with their families in military communities. Last year the NEA and the Department of Defense partnered to bring free Shakespeare performances to military bases. Currently the NEA is offering Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience.
The NEA is now midway through this unprecedented program that will bring thirty distinguished American writers (novelists, historians, poets, and biographers) to 20 military bases and hospitals to offer writing workshops for returning troops and their spouses. Funded by The Boeing Company, this program also provides a literary CD and online educational resources for the participants. The troops have already submitted nearly 1,000 letters, poems, and memoirs about their wartime service. The best submissions in terms of literary excellence and historical importance will be collected in an anthology to be published next year.
4. Reading at Risk
The NEA has recently strengthened its commitment to important civic roles - providing accurate information on the arts, arts participation, and arts education to the American public. The agency now issues a series of surveys and studies to assist American artists, arts managers, educators, librarians, journalists, civic leaders, and citizens in understanding the issues affecting the arts. Our 2002 assessment of U.S. participation in the arts - conducted in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau - found that of all the arts disciplines the most dramatic decline had been in the area of reading of literature by Americans.
"Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America," is a study the NEA issued last year which demonstrated an alarming decline in literary reading by virtually all American adults - no matter what age, income, education level, gender, race, or region. The study also documented a precipitous decline in reading among young adults. This carefully researched and meticulously documented study garnered enormous attention in the media and has initiated a serious national debate about the importance of reading in American society.
The NEA is now developing several significant programs to arrest or reverse the decline in American reading. Although the Arts Endowment cannot change the current trends by itself, the NEA can play a catalytic role in bringing both public and private support to bear on addressing the issues. In Fiscal Year 2005-2006 the agency will introduce new programs of high quality, broad national reach, and public accessibility designed to promote literary reading.
5. Challenge America: Reaching Every Community
Finally, the recent program that best exemplifies the Arts Endowment's increased commitment to combining artistic excellence with the broadest public accessibility is the dramatic evolution of Challenge America, which the agency has redesigned and renamed Challenge America: Reaching Every Community.
Congress initiated Challenge America in Fiscal Year 2001 to support arts education and outreach projects, especially in underserved communities. The program marked a significant administrative change in the Arts Endowment's focus - from serving the established urban cultural centers to a broader national mandate. The Challenge America program was successful in broadening the NEA's investment, but it never fully succeeded in becoming national in its reach. Although the NEA's partnership with State and Regional arts agencies did allow NEA funds to reach every part of the U.S., direct NEA grants still missed much of America. In the average year there were usually at least 100 congressional districts (representing one-fourth of the U.S. population) that received no direct NEA grants.
Last year the agency set for itself the goal of reaching every community in the United States with at least one direct NEA grant in addition to our state, regional, and local touring funds and our national initiative projects in all 50 states. Furthermore, we set a second internal goal of broadening our funding without lowering our artistic standards. In practical terms that meant funding one or more organizations of the highest quality in every Congressional district.
The NEA is proud to report that in Fiscal Year 2004 the agency awarded grants in 433 of 435 Congressional districts. Most of these new grants have gone to excellent but younger organizations, which have never before received NEA funding.
Challenge America: Reaching Every Community represents the NEA's commitment to democratizing the funding process while maintaining high artistic standards. We believe that the steps we have taken make the agency's grant process more open, equitable, and inclusive, especially with regard to smaller, less-established groups and organizations. The National Endowment for the Arts could not be considered truly “national” while overlooking one quarter of the nation. Through Challenge America: Reaching Every Community as well as our other grant programs, the NEA is committed to reaching every community in Fiscal Year 2006.
Improving Agency Efficiency
The Arts Endowment has made significant improvements in its internal management and cost controls, although the results are obscured in the Fiscal Year 2006 budget. In Fiscal Year 2005 the agency absorbed federally mandated wage, rent, security, and systems increases on a flat overall budget. Over the past two years, the Arts Endowment has streamlined its grants process and simplified its application categories. The NEA staff now handles more applications (a 30 % increase from Fiscal Year 2000 to 2004) and more grants (a 12 % increase in the same period) without an increase in staff. The agency has also handled a substantial workload of Challenge America grants, reaching every community while actually operating on a reduced administrative budget. Other changes include:
- Implementation of a new financial management system that complies with the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program;
- Initiation of a grantee technical assistance program to assist grantees in their efforts to comply with federal and Arts Endowment grant requirements; and
- Expanded use of technology to improve the application/grant process. For example, Literature fellowship recipients may now submit final reports online. All grantees may now check the status of their payment requests online as well as obtain a history of all grants received.
Having spent the past two years rebuilding and renewing the agency - internally and externally - the Arts Endowment has entered a new phase of its history. Confident of its mission, truly national in its reach, successfully engaged with the American people, and committed to high artistic standards, the agency has been restored to its rightful position as one of the nation's premier public institutions.
As we contemplate the NEA's future, we remain dedicated to our stated mission of bringing the best of the arts - new and established - to all Americans. Too few Americans, especially younger Americans, have the opportunity to know and experience the best of our nation's rich artistic legacy. Too few students have access to arts education in their schools and communities. The NEA's mission is to enrich the civic life of the nation by making the arts and arts education truly available throughout the U.S.
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