The National Endowment for the Arts is a United States federally funded program that offers support and funding for projects that exhibit artistic excellence. It was created by the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government.
The NEA mission is "to [enrich] our Nation and its diverse cultural heritage by supporting works of artistic excellence, advancing learning in the arts, and strengthening the arts in communities throughout the country."
Between 1965 and 2003, the agency has made more than 119,000 grants. Congress granted the NEA annual funding between $160 and $180 million from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s. However, in 1996, Congress slashed NEA funding to $99.5 million (see Chronology of Federal Support to the NEA) (http://www.nea.gov/about/Chronology/NEAChronWeb.pdf) as a result of increasing pressure from right-wing groups such as the American Family Association, who have criticized the agency for funding artists as diverse as Robert Clark Young, Andres Serrano, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Since 1996, the NEA has rebounded somewhat with a 2004 budget of $121 million.  (http://www.backstage.com/backstage/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000549770)
It offers grants in three areas:
and additionally awards individual fellowships in literature.
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