NEA awards more than $4 million to California arts projects

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The National Endowment for the Arts awarded more than $4 million through 178 grants to support arts projects in California in the latest round of grant funding. Projects range from a set of plays based on interviews with families who rely on food banks, to dance pieces that commemorate the National Park Service.

"The arts are part of our everyday lives — no matter who you are or where you live - they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like those in California offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day," NEA chairman Jane Chu said in a written statement. 

In the 50 years of the organization, NEA has awarded more than $5 billion in grants. This year, NEA awarded $27.7 million to projects across the county. The bulk of the money — more than $26 million — went to "Art Works" grants, which fund projects that focus on the creation and presentation of work and new ways of promoting arts in the community.

More than $2 million nationally went to arts education projects. Here's a selection of Southern California-based grantees in that category:

  • 826LA, Los Angeles, $15,000 — To support the Young Authors' Book Project, an in-depth creative writing and publishing project for high school students. 
  • City Hearts, Topanga, $15,000 — To support the full-year program, Setting the Stage-Arts Learning For Life, where teachers will lead arts classes in schools and communities throughout LA County.
  • Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) Los Angeles, $50,000 — To support the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles at Heart of Los Angeles, an after-school music program, that provides free ensemble-based music instruction to students. 
  • KCET, Burbank, $25,000 — To support Departures: Youth Voices along the LA River, a media arts education program, 
  • Ryman Arts, Los Angeles, $25,000 — To support pre-professional studio art classes for high school students, focusing on drawing from observation, color and composition, and critical analysis.
  • Unusual Suspects Theatre Co., Los Angeles, $15,000 — To support the Youth Theater Residency Program, where students will study theater arts, create their own plays, and collaboratively produce and perform in each other's plays. 
  • Venice Arts, Venice, $10,000 — To support the Art Mentoring Program, where youth receive free, technologically intensive arts instruction with a focus on art creation in photography, filmmaking, and digital media. 

During this round of funding, the NEA marked both its 50th anniversary and the centennial of The National Park Service with grants that support arts projects that take place in National Parks. Eight California projects received funding from the "Imagine Your Parks" grant, including the Echo Park-based Machine Project. The group plans to curate performances, installations and other pieces that explore the legacy of National Parks. Think, nature hikes that end in concerts or virtual tours of scenic peaks.

A smaller portion of funding goes to Challenge America grants, which support smaller organizations that deliver arts to underserved populations. Two dozen California organizations received those grants. Explore the full list of grantees here.

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