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Understanding the U.S.A.

Arts & Culture

The Bill T. Jones Dance Company is known for performing avant-garde pieces that explore life's journeys.

The Bill T. Jones Dance Company is known for performing avant-garde pieces that explore life's journeys.

Overview

The development of the arts in America -- music, dance, architecture, the visual arts, and literature -- has been marked by a tension between two strong sources of inspiration: European sophistication and domestic originality. Frequently, the best American artists have managed to harness both sources.

In the 20th century artists in the United States broke free from Old World antecedents, taking the various cultural disciplines in new directions with impressive, innovative results.

In the 21st century, Music, film, theater, dance, architecture and other artistic expressions continue to transform. A rejuvenation in music, new directions in modern dance, drama drawn from the U.S. heartland, independent filmmaking across the landscape, the globalization of the visual arts -- all of these are part of the contemporary scene in the United States.

While the arts and culture in the United States continue to engage substantial attention, energy and resources of society, this happens largely outside the direction of government. The United States has no "ministry of culture" that sets national policy for the arts in the United States government, thus reflecting the conviction that there are important areas of national life where government should have little or no role. The two national endowments -- the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) -- provide grant support for individual artists and scholars and for arts and humanities institutions.

Online Reading

American Canvas (National Endowment for the Arts)(PDF file 1.36MB)

The Arts in America: New Directions (Electronic Journal, Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, April 2003)(PDF file 667KB)

How the United States Fund the Arts (National Endowment for the Arts)(PDF file 446KB)

Portrait of the USA: Distinctively American Arts (published by Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, Sept 1997)(PDF file 70KB)

Portrait of the USA: Exporting Popular Culture (published by Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, Sept 1997)(PDF file 67KB)

Art in the State Department

U.S. Returns Artifacts to China

  • U.S. Government Returns Artifacts to the People’s Republic of China

    View photos of artifacts, including this Northern Qi Dynasty limestone statue of the Buddha, A.D. 550-577, returned to the People’s Republic of China by the U.S. government.

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