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Mary Anne Carter, NEA chair, steps down

From National Endowment for the Arts Public Affairs.

 


As the Biden administration prepares to take the reins of government, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter is stepping down from her position leading the National Endowment for the Arts effective today.

In a note to staff she said, “A new team should have a new leader. I will leave with warm feelings towards all of you and pride in our work.” She outlined four goals that guided her throughout her tenure and noted her belief that those goals were not only met but often exceeded.

Protecting and Strengthening the Agency

  • The agency saw modest budget increases for the past four years. The current agency budget is the seventh largest budget in its history.
  • When an amendment came up in the House of Representatives to cut the agency’s funding, it received the least number of votes in a decade.
  • The “wasteful public spending” list compiled and distributed by Senator Rand Paul has not included any agency grants or projects for the past two years, notable since the agency was regularly featured.
  • Chairman Carter’s prioritized regular agency communication with members of Congress.

Messaging

Chairman Carter made a strategic decision to change the way the Arts Endowment talked about the arts. Two specific changes included highlighting the arts as:

  • Economic engines for state and local communities. The creation of individual state fact sheets emphasized the arts in economic terms and have been downloaded and quoted numerous times by the field, communities, and elected officials.
  • A part of health/well-being/healing. The Arts Endowment expanded into this growing area of interest in the arts via the launch of the Sound Health Network and the agency’s first report on arts in opioid recovery, among other examples.

Outreach

Chairman Carter regularly spoke about the importance that all Americans have access to the arts. During her tenure, the agency emphasized reaching out to typically underserved communities, making them aware of federal culture resources. These include:

  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The agency developed an outreach plan that included events, work opportunities, and targeted information. To date, more than half the nation’s HBCUs have been contacted by the Arts Endowment’s HBCU team.
  • Native Americans. The Arts Endowment was the catalyst for the first-ever convening of Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians, called Native Arts and Culture: Resilience, Reclamation, and Relevance. The gathering allowed participants representing more than 40 tribes and nations a chance to discuss issues affecting Native arts and culture today.
  • Folklife/Traditional Artists. The National Folklife Network initiated in 2020 is the first stand-alone initiative in the Arts Endowment’s support of the folk and traditional arts in more than 30 years.

Building the Bench

Another priority for Chairman Carter was educating people outside the arts field, such as elected officials at the state and local levels, on the importance of the arts. This effort included:

  • S. Conference of Mayors (UCM). Expanded the existing relationship such that the agency was featured in their annual conference and as a partner in UCM’s City Song Project.
  • Speakers of the House in the states. This was an influential group to engage with regarding the importance of funding the arts at the state level.
  • Chambers of Commerce. Uniting Chambers of Commerce with their local arts organizations further builds upon economic development for their communities.
  • Health/medical field. Working with neurologists, oncologists, medical colleges, etc. through the Arts Endowment’s Office of Research & Analysis helped build movement for integrating the arts into our health and well-being.

Additionally, the agency expanded its relationships with other federal government agencies such as:

  • Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. The agency expanded the number of Creative Forces clinical sites, supported community-based arts programs around these sites, and provided telehealth services as part of the network.
  • Department of State (DoS). Projects that engaged DoS include the United States/Japan Creative Artists Program that worked towards events during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, co-hosting an event in Malaysia with the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies, and hosting the 2020 Americas Cultural Summit that is being rescheduled.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For the first time, the agency deployed staff after a natural disaster to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This led to the request for the agency to join FEMA’s disaster and economic recovery teams.
  • Department of Education (DoE). The agency committed more funding to the Arts Education Partnership, encouraging the DoE to do the same and resulting in the largest single year increase.

Other unique accomplishments include sponsoring a children’s booth at the National Book Festival in 2019 and publishing Creativity and Persistence, Art that Fueled the Fight for Women’s Suffrage to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Chairman Carter concludes, “Lastly, I am most proud and humbled by something I never saw coming—the pandemic. This team’s response to the crisis situation swells my heart with pride. All of us shifted overnight to at-home offices, continued operation excellence, and maintaining the confidence of those we serve. Nothing mentioned above compares to that. Thank you.”


About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more.


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