Doris Duke Foundation: Grants for College Performing Arts


OVERVIEW: Colleges and universities consistently receive a share of arts grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). The foundation's performing arts strategy has four specific subprograms that support performance, organizational transformation, national sector building, and building demand for the arts. Overall, the focus is on dance, jazz, and theater. The foundation also underwrites a number of regranting programs designed to support performing and visual arts programs at colleges and through arts groups.

IP TAKE: True, the Duke Foundation's support for college arts programs is somewhat limited, but this small number of grants represents big money for the select awardees. Even though unsolicited proposals are not accepted, the foundation does sometimes have open competitive grants, and invites LOI's.

PROFILE: The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has as its mission “to improve the quality of people's lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke's properties.” Within that context, the Arts program has its own mission  “to support artists with the creation and public performance of their work.” The foundation does this mainly “through grants administered by intermediary organizations.”

The Performing Arts program is subdivided into four “initiatives and strategies”: Artistic Creation and Distribution, Support for Organizations, National Sector Building, and the Doris Duke Performing Artist Initiative. 

Lately, the majority of grants for college and universities have come from the Duke Foundation's Performing Artists Initiative — which is a special $50 million program designed to serve as a catalyst for projects that build interest in the arts with diverse audiences. Launched in 2012, the initiative is a 10-year program, so artists at colleges and universities still have time to get to know this critical funding source. 

Here's how the program works. There are three awards, each with a different focus and target recipient. Doris Duke Artists “invest[s] in exemplary individual artists in contemporary dance, jazz, theatre and related interdisciplinary work who have proven their artistic vitality and commitment to their field” through unrestricted funding that will allow them to continue to grow.

The second award category, the The Doris Duke Impact Awards, gives grants to “talented artists in the fields of contemporary dance, jazz, theatre and related interdisciplinary work, who have yet to receive significant national recognition for their work, but who show great promise” in the hope of raising their profiles, the quality of their work, and their overall career development.

The final award category, Building Demand for the Arts, is directed at “organizations and artists in joint efforts to develop audience demand for jazz, theatre and/or contemporary dance.” The desire of this award is to see “that artists and organizations can work together in imaginative ways to create and pilot methods of reaching the public and developing interest in and access to the performing arts,” especially “to engage communities in new ways” as well as “promote deeper partnerships, longer relationships, and new kinds of conversation and cooperation between organizations and artists.”

Since the Performing Artists Initiative launched in 2012, partnerships between colleges and artists have received a few different grants, including support for technological innovations, promoting interest in dance, and the “integration” of art with social services.

The Duke Foundation also supports colleges and universities through its three core arts programs: Artistic Creation and Distribution, National Sector Building, and Organizational Transformation. DDCF does not have a grantmaking program dedicated specifically to college performing arts, so its overall focus in that area is more limited than other foundations whose performing arts giving is more directly tied to higher education.

In addition to its own grantmaking, the foundation is known for supporting a variety of regranting organizations. Several years ago, for example, it gave a $1.2 million grant to the Association of Performing Arts Presenters for the Campus Community Engagement project.

As is increasingly the norm among larger grantmakers, the Duke Foundation hosts a grants database of past awards. This particular source is unique in that it goes back all the way to 1997, so fundraisers can get a much broader picture of the trends in the foundation’s funding over the years. Duke also features a Grantee Spotlight blog that can give further insight into its priorities, as well as an Open Competitions & Funding Opportunities page that may be worth the occasional review.

In terms of getting your foot in the door, it might be a little tricky. As per the foundation, “unsolicited proposals are not being considered at this time.” There is always the possibility for future funding, however, and the foundation does welcome letters of inquiry for that purpose. Before sending that LOI, however, be sure to review the very specific list of performing arts projects the foundation does not fund to make sure your initiative is eligible.


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