Western States Arts Federation: Grants for Music

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:  The name Western States Arts Federation is only somewhat accurate. Its grants primarily go to presenting organizations, and those must be out west. 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—and music is at the forefront.

PROFILE: As its name suggests, Western States Arts Federation focuses on bringing artists to those western states. But that name also fails to characterize the organization’s worldliness, because the artists who show up are coming from all around the globe.

And now, inevitably, a geography primer: Western States Arts Federation’s definition of “western” includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

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 in one of these 13 states and are of the non-profit variety.

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

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

In addition to a minimum of one public performance, the TourWest program also requires that the music group 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 musicians.

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 music project you wish to present.

And perhaps needless to say, Western States Arts Federation also wants those music performances to be of high quality. “Artistic excellence” of the performing musicians is at the very top of its list of criteria for selection. Interestingly, this not only includes the music they make, but the context in which they make 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 musicians presented through TourWest grantees include:

  • yMusic (based in New York, NY) presented by the Anchorage Concert Association and Juneau Arts and Humanities in AK;
  • Trio Voronezh (based in Moscow) presented by the Lake County Youth Home in Ronan, MT; the Sunburst Community Service Foundation in Eureka, MT; the Fort Benton Community Improvement Association in Fort Benton MT; the Judith Arts Society in Hobson, MT; and the Pondera Arts Council in Conrad, MT;
  • Sybarite 5 presented by the Campbell County Public Land Board in Gillette, WY; University of Wyoming Cultural Programs in Laramie, WY; and the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra in Casper, WY.

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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