You may have noticed a recent influx of posts about National Endowment of the Arts grants, with Charleston recipients including the Charleston Parks Conservancy and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. That’s because the NEA recently announced and awarded their second major funding initiative of the fiscal year of 2017. And good news for Charleston: The Office of Cultural Affairs was part of that funding, receiving a $20,000 art works award, which assists in planning and implementing a year-long arts marketing and advocacy campaign in the city.

Now, more than ever, the arts are a powerful tool. Earlier this year President Trump released a proposed budget that would eliminate arts and humanities endowments. Fortunately for the arts world, that proposition was shut down under a new budget agreement (that funds the government through September, at least), one that boosted funding for the NEA.

But winning a battle isn’t winning the war; art can always serve as activism. Look no further than the recent voices of Spoleto Festival USA — from Henry Naylor’s Syrian fighter Angel to We Love Arabs‘ take on the Arab Israeli conflict. Last year there was the Hamilton controversy with Mike Pence, when, after a performance, actor Brandon Victor Dixon asked the then vice president-elect to “hear us out … we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us.”

More recently there was outrage over The Public Theater’s Julius Caesar, with Delta and Bank of America pulling their sponsorships of the show because the character of Caesar resembles President Trump. Last week two right-wing protestors rushed the stage of the performance and yesterday CBS reported that police are investigating threats made to the wife of the director of Julius Caesar.

Needless to say, the arts can stir controversy — and create change, or, at least, conversations (we don’t support violence, FYI). Charleston’s $20,000 NEA grant will include a comprehensive platform of digital tools including a centralized arts calendar, mapping technology, social media channels, and downloadable content.

In addition to the grant for regional arts marketing, the NEA also awarded the Office of Cultural Affairs a Big Read grant for events in Sept.-Oct. 2017, which will focus on Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. In a statement NEA chairman Jane Chu said, “Through the NEA Big Read we are bringing contemporary works to communities across the country, helping us better understand the diverse voices and perspectives that come with it.”

Stay up to date with the arts campaign and the Big Read project at

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