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Arts booster – Budget increases

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The National Endowment for the Arts is gaining support from Congress with the help of its chairman, Bill Ivey, a folklorist with a background in country music, the Associated Press reported Nov. 26.

Congress cut the NEA budget from $176 million in 1992 to less than $100 million in 1996 following an unsuccessful push by congressional conservatives to kill the agency in the early 1990’s.

Conservatives opposed NEA funding because the agency supported projects some found obscene.

The budget remained at the 1996 level until Congress increased it by $7 million for 2001.

Ivey secured the extra funding by pledging to spread NEA donations throughout U.S. and agreeing to increase access to the arts in rural states.

Ivey became NEA chairman in 1998 after running the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, Tenn., for 27 years.  He has shifted the NEA toward awarding grants for general arts themes.  The NEA, for example, is more likely to award funds for music creation, presentation and heritage rather than just for jazz.

Ivey, who says that has led to greater diversity among grant recipients, hopes to convince Congress to further increase the NEA’s budget so the agency can provide larger grants to organizations that foster the arts, with an emphasis on education programs. 

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