Mellon Grant Underscores National Dance Project's Growing Influence

In the world of commercial business, corporations consolidate, buy competitors, and merge with other companies all the time. The nonprofit world also experiences similar ebbs and flows as funding resources dry up, shift, or in some cases expand. Naturally, non-profit arts organizations need to stay on top of these changes, especially when funding in certain fields consolidates in the hands of a few philanthropic entities and recipient organizations. One such field is that of dance.


As we note in our Dance Funding: Trends and Tips, of the top 50 foundations awarding grants for arts and culture, only seven have programs in national grantmaking that include dance organizations. One of the major funding players is the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which announced a few years ago that it was committing $50 million to its Performing Artists Initiative over 10 years.

Then there's arguably the most important non-profit player in the dance field: the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, which recently announced it had received a multimillion-dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Established in 1996, the Boston-based project — which also receives support from the MetLife Foundation and (surprise) the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation —allocates money to choreographers, dancers, and dance organizations across the United States. The numbers speak for themselves: The project now reaches more than 3.2 million in 37 states and has distributed more than $24 million since its inception.

"With nearly $8 million invested in the National Dance Project, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a pillar for the program, helping to sustain many of the most important choreographers of our day," said NEFA Executive Director Rebecca Blunk.

In an age where dance funding is generally low on the proverbial grant-funding totem pole, this is no small feat. Given the project's reach, its formidable coffers, and its position as one of the few reliable sources for dance funding left in the United States, dance organizations and performers may want to calibrate its fundraising efforts and program offerings accordingly. Specifically, the project awards grants across four main areas: production residencies, international exchanges, regional development of dance artists, and the work of contemporary art centers.

We strongly encourage dance organizations and individual dancers to check out some of NEFA's grants and programs in greater detail because, well, that's where the money is. Some of the programs include production grants, residencies, and touring awards of up to $35,000 for each artist and company. As noted in our Dance Funding Guide, there are precious few awards available for individual dancers and/or those at the beginning of their careers, and this is a good place to start.