National Endowment For The Arts Announces 2011 Grants, Provides New Guidelines For Media Art

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) made two important announcements this week. Along with its annual crop of grant recipients, the agency released new guidelines for Arts in Media, which will allow video games and mobile art to qualify for funding.

This year's set of grants, which total more than $88 billion, include stalwarts such as symphony programs and partnerships with state arts groups, as well as some newer initiatives.

One unique program, San Antonio Youth (SAY) Sí, will allow high school students to "conceptualize, produce, refine, and eventually exhibit and sell their own artwork" in the manner of a professional artist, according to the NEA's website.

Another, to be spearheaded by the University of Arkansas Main Campus in partnership with the Downtown Little Rock Community Development Company, will support the revitalization of Little Rock's Pettaway neighborhood. This program, devoted to urban as well as artistic development, represents a "Livability" initiative, one of the four pillars of the NEA.

A full list of grants, state by state, can be found here.

Though none of this year's grants reflects the new Arts in Media classification, applications for grants submitted before September of this year will be eligible. The new guidelines will not only cater to media that depicts more traditional art forms (what the NEA calls "media projects about the arts"), but also those that have artistic merit on their own, or "media projects that can be considered works of art." The latter classification would finally qualify some video games as art and developers and gamers have been cautiously excited ), if a bit impatient.

Advocates like geek news website believe that "we may begin to see some video games of the ‘public’ works’ variety, games which are released for the world to enjoy, which may have good production values, but which are also not part of the commercial video games world."

Supporting the broad range of initiatives now allowed by the new classification, however, may anger fans of more traditional art forms, given the agency's shrinking budget.