NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

National Endowment Isn't The WPA

August 20, 1997

Some people wrongly equate the National Endowment for the Arts with the depression-days Work Progress Administration, says columnist Paul Greenberg. In the 1930s, as part of its many public works projects, the WPA paid small stipends to artists throughout the United States to create art for public enjoyment. The NEA, on the other hand, pays artists to create art for elites.

  • Of the $100 million the NEA distributes each year, a third of its direct grants go to only six cities -- New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington.
  • Some states receive only the $400,000 minimum the NEA is required to allocate to each state, and a third of the country's congressional districts never get any direct funding from the NEA.
  • A fifth of its grants go to arts organizations that already have multimillion-dollar budgets, and 19 percent of the money goes for administration.

Unlike the WPA, says Greenberg, the NEA is private art at public expense. In fact, last year 63 percent of NEA grants were not properly accounted for, according to the Office of the Inspector General's report to Congress.

Source: Paul Greenberg, "NEA Emphasizes Not People's Art but an Elite's," Conservative Chronicle, August 20, 1997.


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