(NEA) an independent agency of the U.S. government that supports the creation, dissemination, and performance of the arts. It was created by the U.S. Congress in the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965. Literature, music, theatre, film, dance, fine arts, sculpture, and crafts projects are among those funded by the NEA. The majority of NEA grants go directly to institutions such as art museums, not-for-profit theatres, and symphony orchestras; to arts programs in schools; and to support events such as folk arts festivals. Typically, recipients are required to match their NEA grants with funding from other sources. Grants are also awarded to individual artists for specific projects: for example, to an author for writing a novel or to a jazz musician for composing an extended work. The endowment has especially encouraged culturally diverse American arts, providing National Heritage Fellowship Awards to, for example, folk and blues musicians, instrument makers, weavers, metalworkers, woodcarvers, and others who embody Native American, Latin American, Asian, and other ethnic arts traditions in American communities. Grants are often awarded by the NEA in cooperation with state and local arts agencies. When it began, the United States had five state arts agencies; after the NEA's third decade, all states had arts agencies. In that period the number of arts organizations in the United States increased dramatically, including twice as many large symphony orchestras, an eightfold increase in theatres, and a tenfold increase in dance companies. Subsequent opposition to the NEA in the U.S. Congress, however, resulted in a decrease in funding from a high of nearly $176 million in 1992 to less than $100 million in 1996.

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