A press release from the Dallas Museum of Art sent me to the website of the National Endowment for the Arts the other day, to see what merited money in the recently announced Access to Artistic Excellence awards. In them, plenty of museums received money for a variety of activities, including the Chrysler Museum, to catalogue its glass collection, and the Montclair Art Museum, to help digitize its permanent collection. Dallas got $85,000 to support its exhibition archives resources online.
But it was the earlier round of grants that proved to be more interesting. They show how the NEA actually is giving more money to individual artists — as filtered through artists’ communities and residencies.
You’ll recall that NEA chief Rocco Landesman has said he wants to restore awards to artists, which were lost in the ’90s culture wars and are unlikely to be resurrected any time soon. But a few years ago, the NEA also created a category ot Access to Artistic Excellence awards specifically for “Artist Communitites” like the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo and many more. Previously, artist communities could apply for NEA money, but they did not have a category of their own.
There have now been two rounds of grants in this category. Last year, NEA gave 26 awards in this category totalling $575,000. The grants ranged from $10,000 to $35,000, assuming I counted and added properly.
This year, the NEA gave 25 awards in this category totalling $610,000. The grants ranged from $10,000 to $50,000.
I’m guessing a bit here, because there’s no easy way to search for previous grants to artist communities, bit I think that have done better than they used to. And — I postulate — because it’s at least partly because these awards are a backhanded way for Landemann to get money to individual artists.