Early on in the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge, it became abundantly clear that the local arts agencies (LAA) in each of the Knight cities were well-positioned to scan the local environment for potential projects and partners. So naturally, when the NEA began discussing next steps to expand the arts journalism opportunity beyond the eight Knight cities, we turned to local arts agencies and will explicitly support projects that “encourage new and innovative models of collaboration and partnership to advance the field of arts journalism and arts criticism.”  The deadline is August 9.  Click here for more details.

What’s new and different about this second iteration of the Community Arts Journalism Challenge?
Support is now offered through the NEA’s core grant making to LAAs  This means that applications are handled identically to all of the NEA’s other grant making, with a process run through grants.gov, the required portal used for all federal grant making. Most LAAs can easily meet the NEA’s eligibility requirements and are quite adept at managing community collaborations and partnerships. And since the NEA requires a minimum 1:1 budget match for each request, local arts agencies are usually in a position to lend financial support to a project—as well as logistical and other support.

What do we expect to see at the upcoming August 9th deadline?
In conversation with LAA leaders, no one questions or disputes the fact that arts journalism is in serious decline in almost every American city. And although the problem is widely acknowledged, long-term, sustainable solutions remain elusive. The arts journalism decay has been steady, while the business models of arts journalism—and other forms of media—are practically changing overnight. And quite frankly, until the Knight/NEA Arts Journalism challenge was launched, I don’t think very many LAA leaders even considered taking a leadership role to address these issues.
I can’t wait to see the proposed projects and partnerships. The leadership, assets, partners, and support structures needed to support sustainable models of arts journalism are vastly different in each city, so we don’t anticipate a “one size fits all” response. And although NEA applicants may only submit one application per year (with the exception of Our Town), I am encouraged by the enthusiasm and bold optimism of some of the LAA leaders I’ve talked to, who are taking steps to embrace innovative approaches, and are proposing new collaborations and partnerships to advance arts journalism and arts criticism.  And the good news is that the Knight Foundation has generously agreed to continue its support by providing the match to eligible projects in the eight Knight cities.

Why are they doing this?
Because these leaders understand that informed, critical voices in their communities are crucial for stimulating dialogue with artists, for setting markers of excellence and achievement, and perhaps most importantly, for engaging a broad and diverse range of voices in the community around artistic and cultural expression.

The Local Arts Agency / Arts Journalism awards will be announced with all Art Works awards in April 2013.

By Michael Killoren, director Local Arts Agencies / Challenge America Fast-Track National Endowment for the Arts