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 29, 2006
Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee:
I am honored to come to you again after three years in office to report on the state of the National Endowment for the Arts and to discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2007 budget request for $124,412,000.
This year the National Endowment for the Arts celebrates its fortieth year as a public agency. This occasion not only allows the agency to look back on its impressive historical record of achievement in fostering the arts and arts education across America, it also provides an excellent vantage point for the Arts Endowment to appreciate its remarkable progress in recent years and the strong sense of confidence in its public mission, reputation, and record of service it currently enjoys.
The Arts Endowment is now a public agency that reaches every community in America - bringing the best of the arts and arts education to the broadest and most varied audiences possible. While maintaining the highest artistic and educational standards, the agency has effectively and measurably democratized its programs, while also keeping them relevant to the needs of diverse communities. This expanded reach has been made possible by national initiatives such as Shakespeare in American Communities, NEA Jazz in the Schools, Operation Homecoming, Great American Voices, Poetry Out Loud, The Big Read, and American Masterpieces that together reach thousands of communities, classrooms, and military bases - collectively serving millions of Americans.
Meanwhile our grants process has been broadened and democratized through our Challenge America: Reaching Every Community program that ensures that direct grants reach arts organizations in every Congressional district in the United States to supplement our state arts agency and regional arts organization grants. In 2006 we will again achieve our goal of reaching every community in the United States — with many grants once again going to organizations that have never before received Endowment support.
Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Request
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is proud to support the President's budget request for Fiscal Year 2007 and to report on our progress during the past year. To support our vital mission, we are requesting a budget of $124,412,000, which includes $44,904,000 for Direct Endowment Grants; $14,097,000 for Challenge America: Reaching Every Community; $29,964,000 for State and Regional Partnerships; and $9,852,000 for American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius, an ambitious program reaching across all the arts, that 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 three years have been a period of enormous innovation, 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 highlight the following programs for special attention.
Challenge America: Reaching Every Community
The creation of the Challenge America program in 2001 marked a turning point in NEA history. This program built upon the agency's strengths in supporting the arts and art education but challenged the NEA to broaden its service to Americans outside established cultural centers. The program quickly broadened the geographic distribution of grants, but it did not fully realize its original goals of reaching the entire nation. In the average year direct grants still reached only about three quarters of the nation (as measured by Congressional districts). Consequently, areas of the nation representing over 70 million citizens received limited service from the agency.
In FY 2004 the Arts Endowment set itself the goal of delivering a direct grant to every Congressional district in the United States. This program set the additional goal of achieving this objective without lowering the agency's artistic standards. This ambitious target was not easy to accomplish, but all of the agency's program directors led by Deputy Chairman of Grants and Awards, Tony Chauveaux, worked assiduously to achieve it, and grants were eventually awarded to high-quality organizations in 433 of the 435 districts.
In 2005 the NEA achieved and realized its goal of 100% coverage with all 435 districts receiving direct grants. In 2006 the NEA will again achieve that 100% coverage goal. The Arts Endowment considers the new Challenge America program one of its central achievements.
The Arts Endowment's national initiatives allow the agency to create partnerships with hundreds of local arts organizations, schools, and public institutions to achieve common goals. Creating these partnerships allows federal dollars to be spent more effectively - both in terms of executional excellence and cost efficiency. Over the past three years these widely-applauded initiatives have reached millions of Americans with programs of the highest quality and most egalitarian reach. Managed through the regional arts organizations, the initiatives have provided grants to over a hundred arts organizations and employment to thousands of actors, singers, writers, musicians, and artists as well as directors, designers, stagehands, and technicians — all directed at providing cultural services greatly needed and appreciated by local communities and schools.
Shakespeare in American Communities
The Shakespeare program now enters its third year of national touring, with Shakespeare for a New Generation, a program that focuses on providing American students an opportunity to see a live professional performance of Shakespeare. Since the program began in September 2003, it has brought new productions of Shakespeare to more than 1100 communities (mostly small and mid-sized cities), and over 1900 schools, as well as 18 military bases. The award-winning NEA Shakespeare classroom toolkit has reached 11 million students across 17,000 middle and high schools - 35% of which are in rural communities. The program has reached deeply into all fifty states. Later this year thirty new theater companies will be awarded grants to begin the fourth year of this program.
NEA Jazz in the Schools
The Arts Endowment's long-standing support of jazz was broadened in 2006 with the NEA Jazz in the Schools program, an engaging and substantive introduction to jazz created for high schools. Developed with Jazz at Lincoln Center and with support from Verizon and the Verizon Foundation, an academic tool-kit, made available in January 2006, has already been provided free to 3,000 classrooms across all 50 states for use during Black History Month. Approximately 1.3 million students participated in the program, which introduces jazz as a distinctively American art form as well as a powerful and positive force in African-American social history. This new educational program was added while the agency maintained all of its other Jazz Masters touring, radio, and awards programs.
Operation Homecoming and Other Programs for the Military
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience will approach its completion this fall with the publication, by Random House, of the best literary writing produced by U.S. troops and their spouses. By the end of the first phase of the project, writing workshops had been conducted at 33 bases here and abroad. More than 10,000 pages of written material were submitted by the troops and their spouses and judged by a panel of distinguished writers, editors, and historians. Random House's book will appear in September. This initiative was supported by the Boeing Company, which also funded Great American Voices, a program that allows 24 opera companies to perform at 39 U.S. military bases and visit neighboring schools. The response has been excellent, and the performers have consistently played to packed houses.
American Masterpieces is now fully underway with five major components - visual arts, dance, choral music, musical theater, and literature - in 2006. The visual arts component has already begun with FY 2005 and FY 2006 grants awarded to 27 museums in 14 states to tour exhibitions to 136 cities across the nation, reaching an estimated audience of 4.1 million. Choral music has been supported through grants to create eight festivals in seven states, plus the District of Columbia, to feature choral groups and ensembles from the region in celebration of American music. Fifty grants in Dance will be awarded later this year for touring and revival of American choreographic masterpieces. In Musical Theater, 13 grants have been awarded to companies in 11 states to revive and tour significant works of American musical theater. American Masterpieces features educational programs along with presentation of the works themselves.
In response to the alarming decline in American reading habits presented in the NEA's widely discussed 2004 report, Reading at Risk, the agency has created a new literary component for the American Masterpieces program - The Big Read. This program is designed to promote reading of great American books and unite communities through reading. The program creates partnerships in local communities, involving schools, libraries, literary centers, television and radio stations, and arts councils, as well as mayor's offices and chambers of commerce to reach every portion of communities to broaden reading of quality literature. Pilot programs have already been launched in ten cities across the country. The program will be expanded to include 100 communities across all 50 states.
As we contemplate the future of the National Endowment for the Arts, 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 Arts Endowment's mission is to enrich the civic life of the nation by making the arts and arts education truly available throughout the United States.
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