Making an Impact
2012, Number 1
Over more than 45 years, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded nearly 140,000 grants to artists and arts organizations nationwide. We can give you many statistics about NEA-supported projects: how many people were in the audience, how many kids participated in an arts class, how many artists presented during a festival. Something we can’t quite measure, however, is how any one individual is impacted by an NEA-supported project. Take, for instance, an anecdote related by Steppenwolf Theatre Company Executive Director (and former NEA Director) David Hawkanson about company co-founder Gary Sinise: “Gary Sinise as a young high school student around 1973 was taken up to Minneapolis to see this production of Of Mice and Men [at the Guthrie Theatre]. That production…was underwritten by a special grant from the National Endowment for the Arts…. Gary will often say that that production is what inspired him to want to create his own company and to be a theater artist for the rest of his life.” Steppenwolf, of course, is now an internationally lauded theater powerhouse, regularly receiving NEA support since 1984 for work that’s inspiring and impacting a new generation of theater artists and audiences.
And that’s what we’re looking at in this issue: impact. The artists and organizations profiled in this issue all received our funding at critical points in their development, support that ultimately magnified the reach of their art. From poet Nikki Giovanni and dancer-choreographer Mark Morris to the Mississippi Arts Commission, the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, and, of course, Steppenwolf, we’re taking a look back at where they were and asking—where are they now?
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Petrichor by choreographer Mark Morris, who received his first NEA grant in 1983. Photo by Brian Snyder