Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Performing Arts program issues multi-year grants to leading theater, music, and dance organizations that "contribute to the development and preservation of their art form, provide creative leadership in solving problems or addressing issues unique to the field, and which present the highest level of institutional performance." These are some of the most presigious grants in the performing arts and are given to institutions at some of the highest levels of performance.

IP TAKE: Though Mellon is known for giving much of its funding to the more prominent and recognizable companies with national visibility, they do, on occasion, give to smaller organizations. Just know that you're going to be up against some heavy competition.

PROFILE: With up to $100 million in grants awarded yearly, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is regularly at the top of the list for U.S. Foundations awarding arts & culture grants. They conducted their own four-year study into new play development and production in the United States by asking current leaders in the performing arts what they felt was lacking in the world of theater grant making. Their conclusions led them to evolve their approach away from the type of funding that gives too few master playwrights and artistic directors access to the keys to the entire theater kingdom. Their new direction is on quality, not quantity.

The Foundation no longer focuses on awarding grants exclusively to new works. They now focus more on the depth of the work and the relationships theater leaders are fostering with artists and other theaters through various collaborations. This means greater opportunities for theaters of all sizes to get their productions funded through Mellon. However, the one thing that has not changed at Mellon is that it only funds not-for-profit productions.

Grants are made by invitation only. They ask that you submit a 2-3 page query, not a full proposal. If they decide your query has merit, they'll extend an invitation to submit a full proposal. In your query, always make sure to provide an overview of your organization, its history, mission, goals and the relevance your organization's work to the Performing Arts program at Mellon. All queries must be sent by regular mail. No other forms of submission are accepted. As a tip, you should try to submit your query at the beginning of the year before the Foundation's funding is allocated.

The Mellon Foundation's Performing Arts program encompasses music and dance in addition to theater, but generally at least a third of Mellon's performing arts grants are awarded in theater. The big money usually goes to the big programs, like the recent $2.2 million award to the Washington Drama Society, the Sundance Institute's Theatre program's $600,000, and the New York Foundation for the Arts' grant of $3.14 million. But Mellon is staying true to its shift and many small to mid-sized theater organizations also benefit. For example, The Wooly Mammoth Theater Company recently received a $30,000 grant, Z Space Studio got $45,000, and The Network of Ensemble Theaters in L.A. was awarded $35,000. Click through the links below to learn more and see where your organization may fit in.