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Survival of the fittest: Is the NEA unintentionally weeding out small presses?

March 28, 2011 \am\31 9:30 am

We got an anonymous e-mail with information about the NEA raising grant money and I thought about what that may do to small publishing companies.

Image: Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe NEA gives out grants that range from $10,000 – $100,000 in order to “sustain and nurture” literary traditions, among them small presses. In previous years, the grant has had a minimum of $5,000, which is what most literary magazines and small presses applied for. For the most recent cycle, however, the NEA has raised that minimum to $10,000.

If a press company receives the minimum $10,000 grant they will need to match that amount. That’s a large amount of money for a small press company to raise.

We can’t all be multi-million dollar literary corporations. Or multi-thousand.

This new minimum potentially eliminates a number of small press companies. Our apologies to Antioch Review, River Styx, Two Lines, Crazyhorse, Colorado Review, perhaps even bigger-smallies like Creative Nonfiction, Gulf Coast, Kaya Press, Provincetown Arts, Pleiades, Manoa, Chicago Review, Ecotone and more.

There must be another way.

But, there’s not.

These small presses need the money from the NEA. Not only do they need the money, but they need the prestige, the imprimatur that corresponds with an NEA grant. A grant from the NEA puts the company a step ahead of the others.

If companies aren’t funded by the NEA, they receive money from state art agencies, who receive a large sum from the NEA. In this economy, the state is beginning to make severe cuts nationwide. Kansas is the first state to completely eliminate the state arts agency and Texas is well on its way.

With the NEA raising their grant sum and state art agencies making cuts, companies are looking elsewhere for funds, but the wells are running dry.

Keep in mind. The Literary Arts categories are being overlooked due to the popularity of visual and performing arts. I’m inclined to blame Hollywood. Star Power and Star Appeal are overshadowing the the publishing industry and leaving literature in their dust to pick up their own pieces.

With the downfall of support for literary magazines and small presses they are quickly losing their prestige.

NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman seems to think that the economic crisis is working out well for these small companies. He believes the crisis is separating the best from the worst among non profits.

Survival of the fittest indeed.

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2 Comments
  1. March 28, 2011 \pm\31 12:21 pm 12:21 pm

    Sadly, I think the simple answer is “yes.”

    Chairman Rocco Landesman said, essentially, that there are too many arts organizations.

    I don’t think he was saying we should rid ourselves of the big dogs.

    This, the NPR cuts. What’s next?

  2. March 29, 2011 \pm\31 3:18 pm 3:18 pm

    I like the name Rocco better than the name Dana.

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