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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.

Submitted material

NEA debuts ‘Chairman’s Corner’ podcast

A weekly visit with the chairman

Today, the NEA announced the first episode of a new weekly podcast featuring National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter. Each week, host Josephine Reed will interview Chairman Carter (right) about what’s on her mind. They will discuss the work of the Arts Endowment and artists and arts organizations across the country. Take a listen to this week’s "Chairman’s Corner" where she talks about the current impact of COVID-19 on the arts community and the $75 million the National Endowment for the Arts received from Congress in the CARES Act.
The NEA invites you to visit its frequently updated COVID-19 resource page at this link. South Carolina artists (#SCartists) and S.C. Arts Commission constituents can visit the SCAC's response page here.

Jason Rapp

Mary Anne Carter confirmed by U.S. Senate to lead NEA

The United States Senate voted today to confirm Mary Anne Carter as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Carter had served as acting chairman of the agency since June 5, 2018 and becomes the Arts Endowment’s 12th chairman since its inception in 1965. “I look forward to continuing to lead a talented and dedicated staff of professionals in our important work of ensuring that every American – in every community and in every neighborhood – has access to the arts,” Carter said. Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch said, “From inspiring thousands of arts administrators and supporters in cities and states across America, to representing the United States abroad in demonstrating the importance of collaboration and communication across cultures at the International Federation of Arts Council and Cultural Agencies conference in Kuala Lumpur, Mary Anne understands the inherent value of the arts, the importance of using the arts to help enhance quality of life, and the transformative power it has to individuals as well as to places. Americans for the Arts is grateful to have a partner who shares our steadfast commitment to providing access to the arts for all Americans, and we look forward to working with Mary Anne in the coming years.” "The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) is delighted to hear of Mary Anne Carter's confirmation as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts," said NASAA President and CEO Pam Breaux. "Her deep engagement with state arts agencies demonstrates her dedication to the federal-state partnership that allocates 40 percent of the Endowment's program funds to states and regions. It is clear to NASAA and to our members that Mary Anne understands the economic, educational, civic and cultural value that the arts bring to communities throughout the nation. We enthusiastically look forward to continuing this meaningful work with her and her team."

About Mary Anne Carter

Since arriving at the agency, Carter has pushed to make the National Endowment for the Arts more accessible to the American people, directing an expansion of Creative Forces (an arts therapy program for U.S. service members and veterans recovering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and other psychological health conditions) and bolstering many of its national initiatives, including Shakespeare in American Communities, NEA Big Read, Poetry Out Loud, and the Jazz Masters and National Heritage Fellowships. To further expand the reach of the Arts Endowment, Carter has held the past several public meetings of the National Council on the Arts at locations outside the agency’s offices. These include a meeting in Charleston, West Virginia in June 2018—the first such meeting outside of Washington, DC in 27 years—and in June 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. Carter brings a unique perspective to the Arts Endowment. Prior to her appointment, Carter was engaged in public policy analysis, issue tracking, and corporate and campaign communications through her work as a public affairs consultant. During her time at the Arts Endowment, she has demonstrated that lessons learned in her prior professional life are effective tools in directing the work of an agency dependent upon the support and confidence of Congress. Her knowledge and genuine love for the arts are rooted at the most personal of levels—through the learning differences initially observed in her daughter at age seven. This challenge led Carter to schools that employ the arts as a teaching method in every class, making the learning process both productive and enjoyable for her daughter. Carter understands the power of the arts, as she witnesses that power every day.