Sunday, February 20, 2011

The NEA pt. 5: Excellence

Scott Walters is wondering about the NEA's definition of "excellence":
The NEA regularly asserts that its primary criterion for awarding grants is "excellence," and the citizens of the arts world nod in agreement. The peer review panels are instructed to search for excellence in each and every grant proposal, and they do so with confidence that they will recognize that particular quality in each and every variety and permutation, and award pots of money accordingly.
He spends the rest of the post wondering about that definition. Go and read it. But I have a tangential question: are any other fields' subsidies (of which there are many) related to "excellence"? Farm subsidies aren't. Oil subsidies certainly aren't. I'm sure some are, but I am curious about when we subsidize "the best" and when we subsidize all who meet a certain class (more like film subsidies).


Scott Walters said...

Very interesring idea. So you get subsidized when you meet a certain threshold of competence>

Guy said...

It's similar to the approach for how you get 501 (c) 3. You don't actually have to show that you're a good non-profit; you just have to meet their definition.

The first part of the definition is kind of hazy (purpose) but the second part is cut and dry: you can't divide profits, and you can't keep the money/assets when the company folds.

If by 'competence' you mean that they're not criminal or negligent, I think you could come up with a reasonably clear standard (not necessarily black and white, but at least able to pass the Reasonable Man test). And then what you get would be some small seed capital; it would grow as you grow in abilities/audience/excellence/what have you.

That being said, I have a suspicion that if you gave every competent art group in the United States $100, you would probably already have a way, way bigger budget than the NEA.