The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency that would provide federal funding to local arts organizations, in response to mounting pressure from American Council for the Arts (ACA) and other voices advocating for a federal agency that would fund the arts. In 1996, American Council for the Arts and National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies (NALAA) merged to form Americans for the Arts.

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded more than $4 billion to date to state arts in support of artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. They support the arts through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.