National Endowment for the Arts Forgoes the Met for New Media

by Patrick Brennan

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced a round of 2012 grants — whatever one’s thoughts on the federal government having such a program, it’s supported some very worthy artistic endeavors over the years. Those priorities appear to be changing, leaving behind high culture for “mobile applications” and “video games”:

Among the PBS programs receiving significantly less financing under the 2012 Arts in Media grants were “Live From Lincoln Center,” which was awarded $100,000 last year and nothing this year.

The Metropolitan Opera received $50,000 for its national “Great Performances at the Met” telecasts, $100,000 less than in 2011. WNET in New York received $50,000 to support other “Great Performances” productions and the same amount for “American Masters,” compared to $400,000 for each last year. . . .

Other programs receiving less than in 2011 include “The PBS NewsHour,” whose $50,000 is half that of last year; the documentary series “Independent Lens” which also got $50,000, down from $170,000; and the documentary series “POV,” which received $100,000, down from $250,000.

WNET did receive $75,000 toward production of a new series, “The Elastic Animation Festival,” and its companion Web site, and PBS received $50,000 for creation of mobile applications. A number of individual documentaries and smaller PBS programs also received funds, as in years past when the category was Arts on Radio and Television.

Among the radio grants were two to NPR totaling $120,000 to support music programs and Alt.Latino, a podcast about Latin alternative music. American Public Media sustained a major cut to its classical music programming, including “Performance Today,” receiving $20,000, down from $150,000 last year.

In a telephone interview Alyce Myatt, the endowment’s media arts director, said that while public television and radio remain “the leads, we also know we have a generation — not of kids but adults — who are consuming content online and on mobile.” . . .

In particular, she said, the endowment hopes to encourage a public media sector for gaming. Among the projects the endowment financed were a University of Southern California video game that uses the writings of Henry David Thoreau; Power Poetry, from Odysseus Group of New York City, which encourages youths to write poems via texting; the Flea Theater’s production of a play using interactive technology; and Spelman College’s “HERadventure,” an augmented reality computer game featuring a superheroine.

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