The National Endowment of the Arts’ FY-12 Appropriations Request has just been posted, and cuts $21 million to return to its 2008 funding level. Among program “modifications”: the establishment of “American Artists of the Year awards,” which will “remove specific reference to Jazz, Folk, and Opera” and give discipline awards annually in two categories:
- Performing Arts: Dance/Music/Opera/Musical Theater/Theater
- Visual Arts: Design/Media Arts/Museums/Visual Arts (including crafts)
This evidently means the end of the Jazz Masters Fellowships, which have been conferred upon 123 people since it began in 1982. Jazz Masters have also been documented by the Smithsonian Institution’s Oral History Project, and have received tour support for live performances.
There’s no dollar amount affixed to these Awards — that information is
not broken out as a separate line in the NEA’s overall budget. However, this modification is based on this statement in the budget request:
Reductions necessary to accommodate a budget of $146.255 million will result in actions such as the following:
Replacement of the large-scale honorific celebrations in Jazz, Opera, and Folk and Traditional Arts with a less expensive effort which celebrates all of the arts (consistent with our 2012 legislative request).
Other details of the new plan:
NEA American Artists of the Year honorific awards would be
made not only to individuals who have devoted a lifetime to the
advancement of artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation, but to
individuals who at mid-career have made an extraordinary contribution to
I read this as:
- To perform is to perform, never mind the process, stresses and circumstances performing artists live with in their separate disciplines require different sorts of energies and activities in pursuit of success. They will all be honored as one.
- “(J)azz, folk and opera”
artists will compete not only with others in their
disciplines, but with each other, with composers of contemporary
symphonic or chamber work, and also with dancers, musical theater and
straight theater performers for honors (in the case of the Jazz Masters,
the Awards come with a $25,000 honorarium).
And oh yeah, you don’t have
to have been at it all your lifetime, mid-career prominence will due (a determination implicit in the honors bestowed as 2010 Jazz Masters Awards to not only jazz elder Ellis Marsalis but also his accomplished, mid-career sons). This expands the field of possible honorees in all disciplines significantly. Receiving an American Artist of the Year Award may become tantamount, odds-wise to winning the lottery.
There’s sure to be more interesting news in this NEA document. Any of it good? If so, please comment below.