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Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit
photo of two men and three women dancing (Kairos)

4.2: Exploring Infrastructure


The National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency, awards more than $100 million annually in every state and jurisdiction ( Those dollars are estimated to generate more than $700 million in additional support. One distinctive feature of the grants process is peer review of applications. With a 2008 budget of $144.7 million, the Arts Endowment is the largest single funder of the arts in the nation. By law, the endowment allocates 40 percent of its annual program funds to states and regions, which use these funds to address local needs and broaden the reach of federal dollars across the nation.

Other federal agencies funding arts and culture include the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Six regional nonprofit arts organizations provide information and professional development to member state arts agencies and direct initiatives, such as touring performing artists and companies to communities. In 2006, their combined budgets were $21 million.


State arts agencies managed nearly $390 million in 2006. Ninety percent of this revenue came from annual or biennial state appropriations to state arts agencies. Some state arts agencies receive funding from private sources and other federal programs. State arts agencies provide an array of citizen services, including grant making, public information, partnership building, technical assistance, research, and planning. State arts agencies invest their funds in programs that foster


Local arts agencies, which are funded by state arts agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts, private donations, and municipal budgets, make grants to artists and organizations in the communities they serve. Like state arts agencies, they also provide advocacy and support services to artists and organizations, including professional development workshops for artists and print or online publications.

Another type of local arts agency is the United Arts Fund (UAF), which is the locus for corporate, business, and individual giving in a city or county. These organizations raise unrestricted, operating grant funds on behalf of three or more arts, cultural, and/or science organizations. Most UAFs were initiated by local business leaders seeking to minimize the number of individual funding requests and ensure that arts organizations meet standards of quality and fiscal responsibility.

Individual artists and arts organizations are the heart of the arts infrastructure. State and local arts agencies support a great diversity of individual artists primarily through services, fellowships, and grants to organizations that employ artists. Arts organizations—which may be dedicated to visual, performing, literary, folk, or media arts as well as arts education—receive roughly 56 percent of total funding from public and private sources and realize the rest through earned income (such as ticket sales and subscriptions). Exactly what they look like in any given community depends on the community. Typically, they include:

Every community is also home to for-profit arts organizations, such as dance studios, art galleries, craft shops, and stores that sell music, instruments, and theatrical supplies. The artistic life of communities also includes what is sometimes called “informal arts” or “amateur arts,” which include singing in houses of worship, quilting or sewing circles, scrapbooking, and creating Web pages.

Arts Education

A major partner of the National Endowment for the Arts is the U.S. Department of Education, which provided $13 million for arts education in FY2006. Its No Child Left Behind legislation includes arts as a core academic subject. State-level decision making—including teacher certification, high school graduation requirements, and standards for learning and assessment measures—guides much of what actually occurs in K-12 schools and out-of-school programs.

Creative Arts Therapies

The infrastructure of this field is the National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Association and the national associations devoted to specific disciplines:


Just as in the aging services field, foundations that fund artists, arts organizations, and arts programs are policy leaders as well as grant makers. Many smaller community and family foundations are involved in the arts at the local level. Nationally, two major players are the Wallace Foundation, which focuses on education leadership, arts participation, and out-of-school learning, and MetLife Foundation, which addresses arts education and access, among other areas. A resource is the Foundation Center.


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