OVERVIEW: New England Foundation for the Arts operates with the mission “to cultivate and promote the arts in New England and beyond.” It supports artists, presenting organizations, and communities engaging in theater, dance, music and the visual arts.
IP TAKE: New England Foundation for the Arts supports organizations throughout the region in showcasing musicians based throughout the U.S. and beyond, and also encourages these organizations to seek new and interesting musicians to bring into their communities.
PROFILE: New England Foundation for the Arts gets its name half-right. It is a vigorous funder of the arts, but it is not limited in geographic scope to the New England region. In the realm of music it focuses on organizations who bring musicians to perform in New England, but these musicians can come from anywhere in the country, or the world.
New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) was established in 1976 as one of six regional arts organizations receiving initial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts in order to strengthen and cultivate arts on a regional level. NEFA achieves this through a variety of specific grant programs. Other performance arts (theater and dance) have some specific grants of their own, including those that directly support artistic creation. All of these grant programs “aim to provide to provide access to high quality arts experiences for the underserved, including projects that feature artistic expressions from diverse cultures and geographies.”
These grants are all built to encourage New England-based presenting organizations (based in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) the opportunity to successfully plan, execute, support, and showcase the work of theater, dance, and music artists from around the world. These presenting groups must have 501(c)(3) status, or be a school or government entity, but need not “formally” be a music or arts organization.
- The largest of these funding opportunities are Expeditions Touring Grants, which provide up to 50 percent of artist fees (maximum $10,000 per partner) to cover the cost for multiple performances, residencies, and other contextual outreach activities, travel, accommodations, and per diem. Grantees are expected to collaborate with other potential presenting organizations to maximize a musician’s touring schedule. In 2014, the Asian Arts & Culture Program at the Fine Arts Center UMass Amherst, Boston University Arts Initiative, Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts, and Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts were all given Expeditions Touring Grants to present The Nile Project, based in San Francisco, CA. You can peruse through the search engine to see current and previous years’ recipients.
- NEFA also oversees Expeditions Tour Planning Grants, which provide up to $5,000 for the planning of a tour, such as meetings between potential partners, artist showcases for presenters, workshops to build community interest, and artists' travel to visit presenters' communities. These are fewer and farther between for both music and the rest of the performing arts genres, but a recent example is a 2014 grant of $2,000 to Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, VT to bring composer Maria Schneider in ahead of time to begin planning outreach opportunities and drum up interest in other potential presenting organizations.
- Its New England States Touring Grants provide up to 50 percent of the artists' fees (typically ranging from $400 to $4,000) for a New England presenting organization to showcase the work of a performance art group that resides in another New England state. In 2015, Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire in Littleton, NH received three separate grants to showcase the music of Burlington Taiko (based in Burlington, VT), Shamou (based in Portland, ME), and the Asylum Quartet (based in Hartford, CT). These grants totaled almost $9,700. Here again, NEFA’s search engine of previous grantees allows you to explore this rich list of performers, organizations, and ideas for opportunity.
- The NEFA supports New England-based musician’s work here and now, while also encouraging new organization’s to book them in the future. Its New England Presenter Travel Funds provide 50 percent of total expenses (generally ranging from $500 to $700) for presenting organizations to scout festivals, showcases, conferences, or other cultural events where they can see New England-generated artistic work that they may present in their own community. For instance, in 2014, the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon, NH was awarded $700 to “attend the Association Performing Arts Presenters annual conference; go to artist showcases; network with agents and colleagues; and take advantage of professional development opportunities.” Examples like this abound.
Even though these four categories have funds going to potential presenting organizations, NEFA still has qualifications for the artistic output they would be showcasing. NEFA has a group of pre-selected New England-based performing arts groups (called NEST artists, and new groups can always apply) for its New England-specific grants. For its Expeditions grants, NEFA requires that performing arts product an organization wishes to present display a “high level of artistic quality, exploration, and creativity.”
All said and done, in 2015 NEFA made 418 grants totalling more than $3 million to artists and presenting organizations in New England, throughout the U.S., and internationally. NEFA not only supplies a very detailed search engine sharing all of its previous grantees in all sectors; it also provides very detailed eligibility and deadline information for each grant opportunity. In the world of music performance granting, NEFA is as thorough and transparent as they come.