ART WORKS Guidelines: Visual Arts

Visual Arts activity in the nation is undertaken by a variety of organizations and institutions-- from large and small, rural and urban, emerging and established, public or private non-profit-- many of which have solely artistic missions. Others are community-based organizations whose portfolios may, on occasion, include the visual arts.

The Arts Endowment is committed to supporting visual arts activity -- painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, drawing, craft, and public art -- that demonstrates  exceptional aesthetic investigation and meaningful community engagement.

Specifically, the Arts Endowment is interested in supporting contemporary artists and the projects they undertake, such as exhibitions, residencies, publications, commissions, public art works, conservation, documentation, services to the field, and public programs. The Arts Endowment is committed to encouraging individual artistic development, experimentation, and dialogue between artists and the public.


Art Works applications will be accepted under two deadlines: February 19, 2015, and July 23, 2015. Apply under the deadline with the NEA objective (in bold below) and project example that most closely corresponds to the primary focus of your proposed project. You will be asked to indicate the objective that is most relevant to your project in your application and on the application form.

February 19, 2015, Application Deadline
January 1, 2016, Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance


  • Commissions or public art.
  • Creation, commissioning, and presentation of new work in a national park or in an adjacent community.
  • Residencies where the primary purpose is to create new art.
  • Innovative uses of technology or new models in the creation of new work.
  • Curation or presentation of visual arts activities operating at the intersection of art/science/technology.


  • Exhibitions.
  • Periodicals, publications, or catalogues.

July 23, 2015, Application Deadline
June 1, 2016, Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance


  • Exhibitions of contemporary art with a focus on science/technology collaborations.
  • Community outreach activities.
  • Technology projects that provide online access to collections, exhibitions, organizational history, and other programming information.
  • Innovative uses of technology to exhibit new work or improve outreach to audiences.
  • Development of digital platforms to disseminate artistic works, information, or resources.
  • Conservation, preservation, restoration.
  • Documentation.
  • Services to the field.


  • Public programs such as lectures and symposia.
  • Presentation of workshops, residencies, and conferences that are designed for artists, curators, critics, scholars, and are open to the general public.
  • Education and related activities for youth, adults, intergenerational groups, and schools. (If your project is for youth, see "Choosing the Right Discipline for Youth Projects" to help you in your discipline selection.)


  • The development of artist live/work spaces.
  • The enhancement of public spaces through commissioning and/or installation of art works.
  • The creation of public spaces such as sculpture parks or gardens to house works of art.
  • Arts exhibitions, festivals, artist residencies, and other activities in public spaces that are intended to foster community interaction and/or enhance the unique characteristics of a community.

(Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact staff if they are considering Livability as an objective.)

Project Reporting and Evaluation

We ask all applicants to define what they would like to achieve, how they will evaluate the degree to which it is achieved, and, upon completion of the project, what they have learned from their experiences. Such feedback need not entail large-scale or expensive evaluation efforts. You should do what is feasible and appropriate for your organization and project. When a grant is completed, you must submit a final report and answer questions on your achievements and how these were determined. Arts Education grantees who apply for a Direct Learning Grant will be required to describe the assessment methods used to assess learning, and they may submit tools used to assess learning with their Final Report. (Please note that assessment tools may be shared publicly. If your tools are proprietary and have copyrights or trademarks attached, you will be asked to note that in your application and Final Report.) Before applying, please review the reporting requirements for the objective that will be selected for the proposed project: Creation, Engagement, Learning, or Livability.

Beyond the reporting requirements for all grantees, selected Art Works grantees will be asked to assist in the collection of additional information that can help the NEA determine the degree to which agency objectives were achieved. You may be required to provide evidence of project accomplishments including, but not limited to, work samples, community action plans, cultural asset studies, programs, reviews, relevant news clippings, and playbills. Please remember that you are required to maintain project documentation for three years following submission of your final reports.

Application Review

This category uses the agency's traditional method of application review. Applications are submitted to the Visual Arts staff and are reviewed by a diverse group of experts in the visual arts field.

Applications are reviewed on the basis of artistic excellence and artistic merit. For more detailed information on how artistic excellence and artistic merit will be evaluated, see the "Review Criteria." You can find additional information in the "Application Review" section of the "Frequently Asked Questions." See the "Application Calendar" for information on when we expect to announce grant awards and rejections.


Visual Arts Specialist: Meg Brennan,, or 202/682-5703; Kathleen Dinsmore, or 202/682-5719