Federal Bail-Outs! The National Endowment for the Arts takes action.

Not a bail out of the arts by any stretch, but the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently announced its latest round of grants, including awards for seven Portland-based organizations (see below). Many on the list are accustomed to receiving NEA support, having achieved the vaunted status of “institution.” (Though none of those should take the award for granted). For the smaller, scrappier folks, such as Miracle Theatre and NW Professional Dance Project, receiving an NEA grant is an especially noteworthy accomplishment.

A few years ago, the NEA converted to an online application system, replacing an old-fashioned paper process which inevitably entailed a hurried sprint from Kinkos to FedEx to meet the deadline. The modern age has not made the task easier; while a necessary step into modernity, the online grant process is still a daunting, bureaucratic obstacle course. Much of it has been outsourced to create the illusion that government has shrunk by shifting tasks previously handled by civil servants to corporate cronies. Conservatives argue that government agencies are run by bumbling bureacratics bent on blocking hardworking (real) Americans from freedom. Their theory is that outsourcing jobs to the private sector will allow the invisible hand to streamline everything. I hate to break it to them, but the federal grant application process is now even more confusing, largely thanks to the fact that many entities, both private and public, have a piece of the action.

The first step in applying for an NEA grant is to register with Dun & Bradstreet to secure a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number. Registration is free for the organization, but undoubtedly costs taxpayers a little fee for Mister Dun and Mister Bradstreet. Your next stop is to register with the Central Contract Registrar (CCR), an organization which “collects, validates, stores and disseminates data in support of agency acquisition missions.” What do Halliburton and a local dance company have in common? They both have to get a DUNS number and register with CCR if they want to get federal money.

Registering with CCR will get you a Trading Partner Identification Number (TPIN) -- write it down before you forget! With your TPIN in hand, you can drop over to Operational Research Consultants (ORC), a “credential service provider,” where you will create yet another username and password.

Congratulations, you can now register with grants.gov, the central portal for most government grants. Don't start on that proposal yet! First you need to register your organization’s Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR)--that's the person who can submit proposals on your behalf.

Hold on there partner! Before an AOR can act, your E-Biz Point of Contact (POC) will have to log on to authorize the AOR. I forget how to designate who is the POC -- maybe back there with CCR or ORC. By the way, you haven't even started the grant application yet.

My point is that it takes both fortitude and smarts just to get your proposal to the NEA in the first place, let alone have it stand out when examined by the panel of your peers. While your project description and work samples are important, it sure helps if the panelists are already familiar with you. Since the NEA no longer sends panelists on site visits to see your work and to meet the artists, that DVD you sent better be in focus.

I'm not trying to trash the NEA, which I wholeheartedly support. I just want to cite a few of the reasons why securing NEA funding is tough for any organization, especially those that are small or young. Frankly, the money from the NEA is helpful, but it's not a huge amount; the Regional Arts and Culture Council gives operating support grants that outstrip the recent NEA awards to Portland groups. However, the recognition bestowed by the NEA certainly has prestige value and can leverage other contributions.
(By the way, I remember hearing Kristy Edmunds nobly declare that the newly formed PICA wasn't going to accept government grant funding -- how long did that last?)

With that tiresome preamble, let me extend my hearty congratulations to Portland’s latest winners of the NEA lottery:

Miracle Theatre Company ($15,000): To support a production of The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa, written by Chicano theater pioneer Luis Valdez. First performed in 1964, the play represents a watershed moment in the development of Chicano identity in the United States.

Northwest Professional Dance Project ($10,000): To support the creation and presentation of three new dance works from choreographers Sarah Slipper, James Canfield, and Thaddeus Davis. The works will premiere at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.

Oregon Ballet Theatre ($10,000): To support the commissioning and performance of a new work by choreographer James Kudelka. The work will be performed at the Newmark Theatre in Portland, Oregon, and a variety of outreach activities will surround the project.

Portland Center Stage ($15,000): To support the 11th annual JAW (Just Add Water): Playwrights Festival. Artistic Director Chris Coleman and Associate Artistic Director Rose Riordan will lead the festival, supporting playwrights in the development of new works to enhance the repertoire of the American theater.

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art ($20,000): To support the Time Based Art Festival and related educational activities. The 10-day festival will feature local, national, and international artists working in dance, theater, music, visual art, film, and multidisciplinary forms.

Portland Opera ($12,500): To support the Portland Opera Studio Artists (POSA) and the POSA Chamber Opera. The training program provides education and performance opportunities for young artists, while the chamber ensemble provides audiences access to more intimate chamber operas.

White Bird ($20,000): To support the presentation of dance companies in the White Bird Uncaged series. The project will include master classes and lecture-demonstrations.


Anonymous said...

I got a grant from the federal government for $12,000 in financial aid, see how you can get one also at

Anonymous said...

I got a grant from the federal government for $12,000 in financial aid, see how you can get one also at http://couponredeemer.com/federalgrants/

MightyToyCannon said...

Dear Alice and Alyssa,

Congratulations on your federal grants! You might have done better with a transfer of funds from a Nigerian bank account, but $12,000 is nothing to sneeze at!