"We were invited to talk about our ideas and hopes for the endowment," said Andrea Snyder, the executive director of Dance/USA, a national service organization. "It was more than just, 'We need more money.' "
She said that she hoped the N.E.A. would focus on issues like health insurance for artists, "how we support individual artists in this country, and reframing the importance of the arts in this society."
Since a Jan. 16 report in The Los Angeles Times much of the speculation about the agency's next chairman has focused on Michael C. Dorf, a lawyer who served on Mr. Obama's arts-policy team during the campaign and was an adviser to the transition. The newspaper described him as the leading candidate for the post. Mr. Dorf declined to comment on his candidacy.
As special counsel to the long-serving Illinois Congressman Sidney R. Yates, who died in 2000, Mr. Dorf helped develop national policies on arts financing. During the culture wars of the 1990s he advised an independent commission that sought to preserve the N.E.A. after accusations that it had supported some projects that ran counter to patriotic or moral ideals.
Other possible N.E.A. candidates mentioned include Wynton Marsalis, the trumpeter and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center; Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Minnesota state Senator Richard J. Cohen; or a return of Mr. Ivey. It is unclear when the administration will make a selection, though some arts professionals said they expected a decision in the next few weeks.
Arts groups said that they would seek to drive home the idea that culture is an economic engine. "Arts jobs are jobs," said Marc A. Scorca, president and chief executive of Opera America. "We see opera companies cutting health care, administrative staff - these people are taxpayers and rent payers and mortgage payers, just like every other employee."
For many, the inaugural celebrations and the inauguration itself - with Michelle Obama and her daughters dancing to pop music at the Kids' Inaugural, and Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and others performing at the swearing-in - demonstrated a new administrationís recognition that culture matters.
Arts professionals sense that the Obama administration is "open and desirous of partnering with the arts community," said Jesse Rosen, president and chief executive of the League of American Orchestras.
"That bodes well for what will happen next," he said. "It's important that our voices be heard."