GallupARTS is compiling the New Deal artworks around New Mexico’s McKinley County in a virtual museum. (photo by Kirk Gittings, image courtesy gallupARTS)

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) have announced a combined $62 million in grants — $34 million and $28 million, respectively —supporting a vast array of projects, ranging from theater productions to virtual museums.

While some NEH-funded projects center history and government, the NEA focuses solely on the arts and literature. This is the NEA’s first round of 2023 grants, and the majority of the awards ($29 million of the total) went toward its “Grants for Arts” allocation, which saw 1,251 organizations funded. Newly supported projects include an Ohio children’s theater play about Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in the US Congress; a program bringing folk art to senior adults in Indiana; and an exhibition at North Carolina’s Nasher Museum of Art that uses contemporary artworks to examine climate crisis from cultural and identity standpoints.

This round, NEA also funded projects specifically aimed at underserved communities, poetry and translation projects, and research into the effects of art and the state of the art ecosystem. Last year, NEA’s second round of funding — which is typically higher than the first as it includes city and regional grants — came in at $91 million.

Meryl McMaster, “From a Still Unquiet Place from the series As Immense as the Sky” (2019), included in the Spirit in the Land exhibition at Nasher Museum of Art (© Meryl McMaster; courtesy the artist, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, and Nasher Museum of Art)

NEH also announces grants throughout the year and issued 204 awards in this first 2023 grouping. One of this round’s funded projects is Harvard University’s Mapping Color in History, which received almost $350,000. The interdisciplinary initiative compiles information about paint pigments in South Asian and Himalayan paintings into an online database that will allow users to learn about the colors’ historical, geographical, and scientific contexts.

Another NEH grant recipient is the University of Southern California (USC), which was awarded nearly $100,000 for its Chinatown History Project. Combining historical research with augmented and virtual reality, the project aims to educate people about the history of Los Angeles’s lost Chinatown, which was eradicated when the Union Railroad Station was constructed in 1939. The neighborhood’s residents were displaced, and now LA’s Chinatown is located northwest of its original location. The history project began when San Marino’s Huntington Library acquired 128 photographs of Chinatown before it was demolished. Now led by USC professor William Deverell (with the help of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California and Metro Los Angeles), USC is using archival material to explore the lives of the people, businesses, and cultures that existed there.

The Chinatown History Project began when the Huntington Library acquired 128 photographs of LA’s former Chinatown neighborhood. (courtesy The Huntington)

NEH also awarded $400,000 to New Mexico nonprofit GallupARTS. It’s the group’s third NEH grant toward its New Deal Art Virtual Museum, which will consolidate the region’s artwork created during the 1930s New Deal into one online platform. Executive Director Rose Eason told Hyperallergic that the “game-changing” award will allow the nonprofit to finally open the virtual museum to the public.

“I encourage everyone to explore these projects and the ways they help provide inspiration, understanding, and opportunities for us to live more artful lives,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson in a statement.

A complete list of NEH awardees can be found here, and a complete list of the recent NEA grant recipients can be found here.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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