NEA Celebrates 50 Years

The National Endowment for the Arts is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It was on September 29, 1965, one month after signing the Voting Rights Act that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act which gave birth to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Visit the NEA 50th Anniversary website for more details

50th Anniversary Initiative: Creativity Connects

The major initiative of the 50th anniversary is Creativity Connects. Through this initiative, the National Endowment for the Arts will investigate how artist practices and support systems are changing, how the arts do and can connect with other sectors via creativity, and develop a digital systems map that depicts a creativity ecosystem. This ecosystem map will lay the groundwork for future investments in the arts field.

Other New Programs


The National Endowment for the Arts is partnering with Playbill, Inc. and Disney Theatrical Group to develop a pilot songwriting program that will provide an avenue for talented high school composers and lyricists to both showcase and refine their songwriting talents. The program is still in development and details will be announced in 2016.


The NEA is also encouraging the talent and creativity of young people by adding a new element to the annual Poetry Out Loud competition. In addition to reciting published poems by other poets, Poetry Ourselves will give each of the state champions the opportunity to submit an original poem. The poem will be judged separately from their recitations in the national finals, and will function as a distinct competition for poetry writing.


In November 2015, the NEA will announce the first tranche of grants awarded for Imagine Your Parks – a special anniversary grant type that celebrates the natural beauty and diversity of our National Park system. These grants will support the arts that take place in or were inspired by our national parks, and will expand the way we think about the arts in relation to our natural world.


Events throughout the anniversary year will highlight different elements of the National Endowment for the Arts’ legacy of supporting learning, creativity, and engagement. The schedule to-date includes:

  • On Tuesday, September 29, four former NEA chairmen—Jane Alexander, Rocco Landesman, Bill Ivey, and Frank Hodsoll—will join current Chairman Jane Chu for a panel discussion moderated by PBS NewsHour Co-anchor and Managing Editor Judy Woodruff. The panel takes place from 10:30 to 11:30 am at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Nan McEvoy Auditorium. It is free and open to the public. Space is limited. To reserve a seat, guests can sign up through this page
    • The festivities continue on October 14th, when a taping of In Performance at the White House will honor the joint 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. This concert, called “A Celebration of American Creativity,” will feature musical and other performances, and will be broadcast nationally on PBS on January 8, 2016.
  • In December 2015, the NEA and the NEH will gather at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas to honor the president whose signature brought the two agencies into existence.
  • To close out the 50th anniversary celebration, the National Endowment for the Arts and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will host a national convening in October 2016 on the future of the arts in America. This gathering will bring together artists, thinkers, and policymakers to continue the dialogue about how the NEA and its partners can strengthen the arts sector for the next 50 years, and explore how the arts are a critical component to imagining, building, and securing our future.


Throughout the coming year, the NEA will post new multimedia content on the NEA’s website stories map that showcases the impact of the arts, including:

  • More than 60 videos highlighting the role the arts play in every U.S. state, district, territory, and region.
  • A dozen milestone videos detailing key grants in the history of the National Endowment for the Arts, and how those grants have made an impact on American culture as a whole.
  • Crowd sourced stories about how the arts and the National Endowment for the Arts have impacted the lives of Americans. To date, hundreds of people from across the country have submitted their arts stories and collecting these stories will continue throughout the year.
  • Audio and video stories from luminaries including author Junot Diaz, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Rep. Tom Cole, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Stories will be presented as part of the NEA arts story bank.


In addition, visit for an interactive 50 year timeline, a suite of static and motion graphics, the fall issue of NEA Arts devoted to stories of its grantees, and a collection of fact sheets detailing the NEA’s work.