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Local Arts Index: NEA & State Arts Agency Grants in Your County

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

This post is one in a series highlighting the Local Arts Index (LAI) by Americans for the Arts. The LAI provides a set of measures to help understand the breadth, depth, and character of the cultural life of a community. It provides county-level data about arts participation, funding, fiscal health, competitiveness, and more. Check out your county and compare it to any of the nation’s 3,143 counties at

Today we release Local Arts Index indicators #4 and #5 (out of 50).

The arts are supported by public funds from municipal, regional, state, and federal governments. A telling measure of the competitiveness of the arts organizations in your county is how well they are competing for public dollars compared to other counties.

Two indicators show arts county funding over multiple years to grantees by (1) the National Endowment for the Arts and (2) your state arts agency.

Total NEA grants per 10,000 population, 2005–2009

This indicator is a measure of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants dollars per capita in the county. It is calculated by summing NEA funding to grantees in each county over the years 2005-2009 and dividing by the 2010 population.

For ease of comparison, it is presented as a figure for every 10,000 residents. The benefit of aggregating over five years is that it avoids single-year spikes and dips, and gives a better sense of how NEA funds serve the county over time rather than at just one moment.

This analysis excludes grants to the state arts agencies and regional arts organizations (e.g., Mid-Atlantic Arts Federation, Western States Arts Federation). Data was provided by the NEA.

Keep in mind:

  • This is a calculation over five years and for every 10,000 people. Thus, a county value of $5,000 for this indicator is equivalent to 10 cents per person per year for five years.
  • The size of a county’s population can have a big impact on this measure. In a county with a smaller population, for example, a given sum of money does more for each resident than when the county has a larger population. An extreme instance is a $5,000 grant in Borden County (TX). With its population of 641 people, the grant actually represents $78,000 per 10,000 residents.
  • We do not divide the funding into specific disciplines and project types for this report.

The NEA made grants in 744 counties during these years. As a point of reference, the national average for those counties is $1,485 for every 10,000 residents, and there were grants of $556 for every 10,000 people in the median county received.

Total state arts agency grants per capita, 2003-2009

State governments are important supporters of arts and culture—reaching communities, organizations, and artists through a variety of funding programs. State arts agencies are funded primarily by allocations from their state legislatures and funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. This indicator measures state arts agency funding per capita in each county.

We obtained data from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), which collects data from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. NASAA provided data for funding by states in fiscal years 2003-2009.

Arts funding was grouped by county, aggregated for all of the years, and then divided the sum by the 2010 population. The indicator can be interpreted as the cumulative state arts agency dollars serving each county resident in the seven-year span of 2003-2009.

A point to consider when comparing your county to another: state arts agency funding comparisons will be most valid within your state, and not to counties in other states. This is because policies and funding amounts vary widely state-to-state.

Stay tuned to ARTSblog as we continue to shed light on the indicators that make up the Local Arts Index each week.

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