A Portrait of the Arts Agency as Neo-Victorian

Author: O'Brien, Tom

Publication Year:

Media Type: Periodical (article)



The author outlines his vision for an ideal National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). He believes that it should be focused on art, as its charter demands, but strongly promoting arts education in the schools with a renewed emphasis on arts education that is needed more now than ever.

When the NEA was founded in 1965, it was not focused on arts education, but on helping to support professional artists. Since that time, program budgets for arts in schools have been slashed dramatically or eliminated altogether. In more recent years, the NEA has turned its attention to funding arts education projects. However, the author admits that research and experience indicate that these NEA-sponsored projects are inadequate and cannot substitute for the presence of full-time, on-site arts educators delivering regular instruction in the schools. Thus, the author claims that the NEA policy regarding arts education can be seen only as problematic.

Given the upcoming (2002) process of the agencys reauthorization, the author says that now would be a fine time to re-examine the NEAs focus. O'Brien offers three suggestions:

  1. Focus on elite standards and populist access rather than elite access and populist standards.
  2. Leave support of the avant-garde to the private sector.
  3. Focus efforts in K-12 arts education on the promotion of curricular-based instruction in the schools led by qualified teachers.

In closing, O'Brien writes:

Together, these three suggestions give the NEA a reasonable role in education while clarifying where specific responsibilities for leadership, delivery, and funding for arts education really lie.

Arts & Intersections:

Categories: Funding


Series Title: Arts Education Policy Review

Edition: Volume 103, Number 1






Name: Heldref Publications

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