New Round of Grants for Artists Out of Work
On Wednesday, June 23, the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) announced that they were going to be handing out another round of grants for artists. President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, which is going to send about $135 million in pandemic relief funds for the arts and humanities. Many of the nation's largest centers for the arts and humanities got billions of dollars. This money was set aside is for individual artists, and much of it will be given to the NEA in order to hand it out.
The NEA was up to some shady business with their grants last year, which we will touch on in some detail below. First, however, it's about giving (hopefully) good news to all of those starving artists who paint, write and are involved in other forms of arts yet have been unable to make a living due to the pandemic.
Last year's arts endowment was over twice the size, under President Trump, but Biden's presidency is allocating the money differently. The bulk of the money will go to museums and other arts centers rather than into the pockets of actual artists. Reviews are mixed here on how people feel about this. It's great for these centers, and the people they employ, but it doesn't do nearly enough to address the millions of artists in this nation who cannot support themselves now.
According to a poll last year at the height of the pandemic, 63% of America's artists and creatives were unemployed and/or unable to make money. There are dozens of grants programs offered to these artists, but some of them were grossly mislabeled and none of the funds went to help actual artists in need.
As is typical with NEA grants, people will go to their website and fill out an application. The process is fairly lengthy, but the NEA claims that they need to be sure that someone is actually experiencing hardship. The fact that they ask about ethnic and religious background really causes a stir, but this is something that they do. An applicant must also prove that their art or other creative work has been sold before or is up for sale, and that it's the pandemic hindering these sales.
For some critics, the larger concern here is why the NEA is just now receiving this money, when it's technically been available since February. For four months now, this money has been out there floating in limbo, while government seems far more concerned with impeaching a former President and claiming that terrorists staged an insurrection at the Capitol in January. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, most people can agree that getting money to people in desperate need should trump Congress's attempt to deal with the January 6 incident, since those people arrested will be going through a court of law, and not a Congressional hearing.
Hopefully this money will get out as soon as possible to those in need.
Keeping a Watchful Eye on Grants
For federal grants, there's a very large committee that runs oversight to ensure that grants get to where they're supposed to be going. For privately funded grants, no such organization exists. Basically, private grants run via an honor system, that proves itself time and again not to be so honorable after all. Like last year, for instance, when "artist" grants of $10,000 were awarded to thousands of people who weren't actually artists but instead were racial minorities who got the grants because the organization felt it more important to hand money out to marginalized people.
This is fine. Everyone does, or at least should, wholeheartedly support grant programs aimed at helped marginalized people from under-served communities. However, when grants are packaged up as if they're going to be awarded to, say, starving country singer-songwriters in the Appalachia mountains, though instead are only given to minorities in inner cities who lost jobs in retail and factories, etc, there's something wrong with misleading people. It's not only the applicants being misled; it's also the charities that helped the grant-giving organization(s) raise the money. It's a shady practice. So, let's hope that these artist grants are actually given out to artists.
Yes, there are all sorts of people suffering due to the pandemic. If one wants to argue that marginalized people suffer more and deserve more, that's fine. Though why offer fake grants to other people if the grant money is only rewarded to a certain demographic? This sort of practice is harming grants and may be one of the main reasons we're seeing grants die down in 2021.
Many artists are very hard up right now and do not have an income. They're also in need of grant money. We can but hope that they will receive it this time.