President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act, September 29, 1965 Pictured: President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act on September 29, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.)


As an expression of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was established in 1965. Like the Endowment, the NEA Dance Program represented the first attempt at regular federal contributions to arts funding and, consequently, embraced merit-based support of all styles of dance in fifty states. For thirty years, until the 104th Congress (1995-1996) significantly slashed funds, the NEA Dance Program fueled growth and development of grass roots dance organizations as well as American companies, choreographers, and dancers that established new international standards. The Dance Touring Program, for example, not only helped to provide the means for audiences in smaller cities to have access to major artists, but also stimulated cross pollination between local groups and national treasures. Tangential benefits were also gained through NEA support of new choreography and such projects as the PBS television Dance in America series, which reached millions of households. Especially under Nancy Hanks as NEA Chairman (1971-1978), the American Dance Boom became a reality that gave broad national access to singular creative achievement. www.arts.gov

Learn more in National Endowment for the Arts, an essay by Asheley B. Smith.