Creativity Connects and Challenge America

Posted by National Endowment for the Arts on January 11, 2016

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the nation’s only arts funder to award grants in all 50 states and U.S. jurisdictions. As the first step in its funding process, the NEA has posted application guidelines for the Art Works and Challenge America categories for art projects anticipated to take place in 2017. New in this fiscal year is a pilot grant opportunity that is part of the NEA’s 50th anniversary initiative, Creativity Connects.*

Art Works is the NEA’s largest funding category, supporting the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, and promoting public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. Matching grants range from $10,000 to $100,000. In fiscal year 2015, the NEA awarded 1,870 grants totaling more than $52 million through this category.

Creativity Connects: Additional funding opportunity through Art Works

The Creativity Connects pilot grant opportunity supports partnerships between arts organizations and organizations from non-arts sectors. Those sectors may include business, education, environment, faith, finance, food, health, law, science, and technology. Selected projects should:

  • Demonstrate the value of working with the arts
  • Support the infrastructure for the arts to work in new ways with new sectors
  • Build bridges that create new relationships and constituencies
  • Create innovative partnership projects to advance common goals

An organization that submits an application to Art Works: Creativity Connects is still eligible to submit an application to other National Endowment for the Arts categories including other areas of Art Works and Challenge America. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project from the other application.

Challenge America offers support primarily to small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations—those populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. The program offers matching grants of $10,000. In fiscal year 2015, Challenge America funded 163 projects totaling $1.63 million.

Guidelines and application materials are in the Apply for a Grant section of the website.

The impact of the NEA’s direct grants are significant. By the end of the current fiscal year 2016, the NEA anticipates it will support:

More than 30,000 concerts, readings, and performances and more than 3,000 exhibitions of visual and media arts with annual, live attendance of 20 million.
Performances on television and radio with additional audiences of at least 300 million.
Projects that generate more than $600 million in matching support through a ratio of matching to federal funds approaching 10:1.


In order to offer applicants the highest level of technical assistance, the NEA has scheduled webinars covering the basics of the Art Works and Challenge America funding categories, how to apply to the NEA, how to select work samples, and how to prepare a strong application. After each presentation, there will be time for Q and A with NEA staff. The schedule below indicates Eastern Standard Time. To join any of the webinars, go to the webinar section of

Art Works guidelines workshop
Date: January 20, 2016 3:00 pm

Art Works: Creativity Connects guidelines workshop
Date: January 27, 2016 3:00 pm

Challenge America guidelines workshop
Date: March 9, 2016 3:00 pm

*Creativity Connects™ is used with permission from Crayola, LLC.

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