On the Money: New Music Funding in the United States

The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), established by Governor Nelson Rockefeller as a temporary commission in 1960, and converted to a permanent agency in 1965, is the oldest government arts agency in the country.

When the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was established by Congress in 1965, the legislation required that 20% of NEA appropriations pass directly to states that were willing to create arts councils. By 1967, all 50 had taken the bait.

NYSCA’s budget is $50 million in FY2000, the largest of the state arts councils, which range all the way down to $342,000 for Wyoming. In many ways the most fully realized of the lot, NYSCA will serve as our model for historical development.

NYSCA is barred from making grants to individuals. Its support to new music is in the form of grants to organizations, both general operating support and grants for specific projects. That includes the Individual Artists Program which makes grants to organizations for composer commissions in alternate years. NYSCA’s largest single act for new music has been line-item funding for Meet The Composer. This organization was founded with NYSCA support as a New York State project. When it expanded nationally, NYSCA support continued in six figures, providing support to hundreds of composers in-state.

Many other state arts councils make fellowships or small project grants available to individual artists, e.g. money to make a demo tape or to develop a marketing kit.

But in order for NYSCA to do so, it had to create an independent organization: the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), founded in 1971. Its services to artists were initially fiduciary–providing loans and nonprofit sponsorship for artists’ projects. Educational residency programs were soon added. In 1984, NYSCA provided further funds specifically for an Artist Fellowship program, which continues today. A number of New York State composers receive these $7,500 fellowships in the alternate years when composers are eligible.

In these times of state budget surpluses, state arts council budgets are rising–7% from 1999 to 2000, and a remarkable 88% since 1993, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Funding for the arts and for new music, as for education, is a highly devolved phenomenon: leadership without financial support comes from Washington, while the major appropriations and decisions are made locally. Recent history has only accelerated that reality.

From On the Money: New Music Funding in the United States
by Theodore Wiprud
© 2000 NewMusicBox