Home News & Events Take aways from Mary Anne Carter's keynote address at the 2019 Arts Midwest Conference

Take aways from Mary Anne Carter's keynote address at the 2019 Arts Midwest Conference


Mary Anne Carter addresses a packed keynote audience of 1,000 arts professionals at the 2019 Arts Midwest Conference.

During the 2019 Arts Midwest Conference, recently appointed National Endowment for the Arts Chairperson Mary Anne Carter made one of her first public addresses in her new role as the leader of nation’s federal arts agency. Carter laid out a clear vision for her department’s role in ensuring all people have access to meaningful artistic experiences, her plans for continuing the Endowment’s legacy of good governance, and the importance of partnerships and relationships in creating a large and vibrant artistic landscape in the United States.

“I truly believe all Americans should have access to the arts. I don’t think it should matter where you live.”Mary Anne Carter

1. The National Endowment supports local arts


Carter opened her address by stating that 80% of NEA funding goes to grants and awards, with 2,500-3,000 grants awarded per year and a full 1/3 of Endowment funding going to smaller and mid-sized organizations with budgets under $500,000. Many of these grants are awarded through national and regional programs like those we have managed at Arts Midwest including Shakespeare in American Communities, NEA Big Read, and the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, ensuring that communities of all sizes have access to theater, literature, and touring programs.

“There’s a myth out there that we just fund the big organizations, Lincoln Center in New York or Kennedy Center in Washington DC, but no, we fund everywhere across America and it’s really important to be able to fund organizations that might otherwise not have access to those types of arts dollars,” she said.

Additionally, the Endowment is committed to expanding its workshops into more areas and congressional districts than ever before. But, if you haven’t had the opportunity to attend a workshop yet in your area, you can get a good primer on Endowment funding in their workshop video .

“I believe the closer the decisions are made to the people, the better the decisions are.”Mary Anne Carter

2. The Endowment values partnering with regional arts organizations, states, communities, and artists

By law, 40% of the Endowment’s budget goes to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations. “We work together really well, and that is really important,” Carter noted.

On top of that, the Endowment convenes 100 six-person grant panels a year, meaning that 600 citizens across the country from all geographic locations, ethnic backgrounds, and all arts disciplines guide the Endowment’s decision-making processes, or as Carter said, “That’s 600 American people across the country making funding recommendations on who should receive grants. I think that is good governance.”

To demonstrate the reach of their work, the Endowment has created fact sheets about arts funding and activities in all 50 states and is in the process of generating reports for all 435 congressional districts.

“Yes, we need to cover our urban areas, but we also need to cover our rural areas as well.“Mary Anne Carter

3. The arts stimulate the economy

The agency is making sure to tell people that the arts are not just an integral part of American culture and society, but they are also good business. The arts are an economic boon, according to Carter, “Arts contribute $840 billion to the economy, 4.7% of the GDP. It is more than agriculture. It is more than manufacturing. It is also more than transportation and warehousing…combined.”

If you want to further explore the economic impact of the arts on the economy, check out the 2018 Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account that tracks the annual economic impact of arts and cultural production from 35 industries, both commercial and nonprofit. The ACPSA reports on economic measures—value-added to gross domestic product (GDP) as well as employment and compensation. The report also includes the arts impact on state economies as contributions to gross state product (GSP).

Or check out the Endowment’s interactive tool for exploring the report’s data.