Western States Arts Federation: Grants for Dance

OVERVIEW: Western States Arts Federation is the regional arts organization tasked with creating and promoting arts opportunities in that region. Its grants focus on supporting presenting organizations by financially incentivizing the opportunity for music, dance, theater, literary and visual arts projects and programs to head west.

IP TAKE: Although its grants primarily go to presenting organizations, which are in the western region of the US, the individuals and groups that benefit from the actual funds can come from anywhere in the world. But in terms of the artists who can occupy those presenting venues and benefit from that grant? Those individuals and groups can come from anywhere in the country.

PROFILE: Western States Arts Federation gets its name because it focuses on bringing artists to western states. The organization is completely open to all sorts of presenting organizations—performance halls, community centers, museums, parks, college campuses, high school theaters, and more—so long as they’re a nonprofit and in one of these 13 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

For its dance grants, this all relates to the federation’s TourWest program, which subsidizes presenting groups to showcase out of state dance troupes (as well as those in the music, theater, and literary realms). It’s a subsidy because the program pays for up to 50 percent of the theater artists' fees, up to $2,500.

Applicants should have a solid history of successfully bringing performers to its venue, and a well-articulated plan, including a collaboration with other presenting organizations in the region—meaning that the time and costs for those traveling dancers will amount to maximum performance and exposure.

In addition to a minimum of one public performance, the TourWest program also requires that the dancers being presented engage in an outreach activity. Examples of these include lectures, demonstrations, master classes, or in-school educational activities that engage students with the artists.

Part of the reason this outreach component is mandatory is because Western States Arts Federation views engagement with “underserved and/or culturally diverse” audiences as important criteria. Be mindful of this as you pitch the dance project you wish to present.

And perhaps needless to say, Western States Arts Federation also wants those dance performances to be of high quality. “Artistic excellence” is at the very top of its list of criteria for selection. Interestingly, this not only includes the dance they create, but the context in which they create it; “relevance and potential impact of the artist/company in relation your community” is another key aspect the federation would like to know about.

A small sample of some recent dance artists presented through TourWest grantees include:

  • Michael Mao Dance (based in New York, NY) presented by the Skagway Arts Council in Skagway, AK;
  • Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (based in Aspen, CO) presented by the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului, HI and the Kahilu Theatre Foundation in Kamuela HI.
  • AXIS Dance Company (based in Oakland, CA) presented by University of Washington in Seattle, WA;
  • Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli de Veracruz (based in Veracruz, Mexico) presented by College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, ID; by Caldwell Fine Arts Society in Caldwell, ID; and by the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, OR.

    TourWest applications are an online process, and due at the beginning of April each year for tours starting the following September.


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