ARAD Works: Student Elizabeth Metts writes on Individual Artist Grants and the National Endowment for the Arts


The State of the American Artist: Foundations Respond to the Congressional Elimination of NEA Individual Artist Fellowships

by Elizabeth Metts, Teachers College, Columbia University

“…An NEA grant holds national importance and gives artists national significance. But will the NEA ever renew its fellowship program? Can it? Should it?”

ABSTRACT: In 1995, the 104th Congress mandated that the National Endowment for the Arts eliminate its individual artist fellowship program. With the congressional mandate came the question of who would support individual artists if not the NEA, and whether this new support would be more beneficial than the NEA with its project-based direct monetary grants. I examine the forms of support foundations have provided—including project grants, materials, professional development, artist space, and funding databases—and I argue that the elimination of the NEA’s fellowship program will help artists by providing and fostering a more diversified support system. Creative Capital Foundation filled a venture capitalist role formerly attributed to the NEA by promoting innovative and provocative works through its open application process. The Ford Foundation launched two influential research initiatives on artists’ needs and spearheaded the establishment of the USA Artists grant program. These two foundations’ initiatives have important policy implications—such as how scalable and sustainable these foundational responses can be without NEA participation—for American artists, given the likelihood that the NEA will not restore its individual artist fellowships.

To read Elizabeth’s full paper about the necessary role that foundations play in supporting individual artists, please contact the ARAD program at

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