11 Things You Probably Didn't Know Were Funded With Help From The National Endowment For The Arts

President Trump has proposed eliminating the NEA in his first federal budget. Here's a sampling of famous American art created with the help of the endowment since it was founded in 1965.

1. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images / Via arts.gov

In 1980, when organizers of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund were searching for a monument designer, they turned to the NEA's Council for the Arts, which funded a national competition to find one. Completed in 1982, Maya Lin's iconic, winning monument — a glossy, 247-foot black wall inscribed with the names of 58,307 soldiers who were killed or missing in action in the Vietnam War — is now one of the most popular memorials in Washington, DC, visited by over 3 million people each year.

2. The Sundance Film Festival

Jemal Countess / Sundance Institute / Via arts.gov

Robert Redford's Sundance Institute began as a small workshop for filmmakers and artists in 1981 with support from the NEA. It's since gone on to produce the biggest film festival in America, which has launched the careers of Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson, among numerous others.

3. Alice Walker's first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / Via arts.gov

In 1970, more than a decade before she earned a Pulitzer Prize for her literary classic The Color Purple, a young Alice Walker used an NEA Discovery Award to fund work on her debut about a sharecropper in rural Georgia.

4. The American Ballet Theatre

Gene Schiavone / ABT.org / Via arts.gov

In 1965, the very first NEA grant — a check for $100,000 — went to the American Ballet Theatre, which was on the verge of insolvency at the time. Based in New York, America's National Ballet Company performs for 450,000 people each year during its annual national tours.

5. A Prairie Home Companion

prairiehome.org / Via arts.gov

In 1976, a grant from the NEA helped grow Garrison Keillor's wry, satirical variety show about small-town life in Minnesota from a fledgling curiosity at a college auditorium, to a (still-running) nationally syndicated program beloved by millions of weekly radio listeners for decades.

6. Jeffery Eugenides' novel Middlesex

Picador / Via arts.gov

Two years after the release of his debut novel, The Virgin Suicides, in 1993, Jeffrey Eugenides received an NEA fellowship that funded work on his long-gestating, more ambitious follow-up, Middlesex. After it was released in 2002, the book was heralded as a modern American classic, receiving the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and selling more than 3 million copies, in part due to its selection by Oprah's Book Club.

7. Hamilton

Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images / Via broadwayjournal.com

Back in 2013, when it was still called by its working title, The Hamilton Mixtape, Lin-Manuel Miranda's record-shattering, Tony Award–hoovering musical was a selection of the Powerhouse Theater Season, a New York theater workshop funded that year in part by a $30,000 NEA grant. A Powerhouse reading of Hamilton marked the first time the full musical was unveiled in public.

8. John Kennedy Toole's novel A Confederacy of Dunces

Penguin / Via arts.gov

John Kennedy Toole killed himself in 1969, leaving only a manuscript of his classic American tragicomedy behind. Ten years later, novelist Walker Percy — working in tandem with Toole's mother, Thelma — succeeded in pitching it to the Louisiana State University Press, which applied for an NEA grant to help pay for the novel's publishing costs. In 1981, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

9. The American Film Institute

Kevin Winter / Getty Images / Via arts.gov

In 1967, at the behest of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the NEA partnered with the Motion Picture Association of America and the Ford Foundation to create an archive of important works in US film history. The American Film Institute, born from that collaboration, has since preserved over 27,500 theatrical features, including films, shorts, newsreels, and documentaries. Its graduate film program in LA, the AFI conservatory, counts John Cassavetes, David Lynch, and Terrence Malik among its alumni.

10. Michael Cunningham's first novel, A Home at the End of the World

Macmillan. / Via arts.gov

Before he wrote the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Hours (which was later turned into the Academy Award–winning film of the same name), Michael Cunningham completed his debut novel with the help of an NEA fellowship. In 2004, A Home at the End of the World was adapted by Cunningham into a film of the same name starring Colin Farrell and Robin Wright.

11. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis

Floto+Warner / Via arts.gov

The Walker Art Center, one of the Midwest's premiere art museums, is visited by over 700,000 people each year. Since 1968, the museum has used NEA funding to house and nurture the work of dozens of renowned, multi-disciplinary artists, including Ralph Lemon, Merce Cunningham, and the Minnesota Opera Company.



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.