Arts Midwest: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: Arts Midwest is the regional arts organization tasked with creating and promoting arts opportunities in that region. Its grants support presenting organizations that have theater, music, dance, and other performing arts groups coming in from all over the world.

IP TAKE: While the performers and groups can come from anywhere in the world, Arts Midwest only supports arts and culture opportunities in the Midwest. Theater is a big part of its grantmaking; however, grant seekers should remember that the organization does not support performers or artists directly and applications must come from the presenting organizations.

PROFILE: Created in 1984, Arts Midwest is the result of a merger between two other organizations that were established by the National Endowment for the Arts in the 1970s in order to strengthen and cultivate arts on a regional level. The organization promotes “creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives.” Arts Midwest funds “performing, visual, and literary arts and leadership development initiatives” to support arts and culture in the American Midwest, ie. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The organization’s theater grantmaking primarily occurs through two funding programs: Arts Midwest Touring Fund and Arts Midwest World Fest.

Arts Midwest Touring Fund supports “engagements” that “feature a public performance and community activity, and reach an underserved audience with the goal of fostering exchange between professional touring artists and Midwest communities.” Performers can be Midwest-based as long as they are not local to the presenting venue. The grant generally covers up to 20 percent of the performers’ contract fees, with a standard maximum amount set at $4,000.

To qualify for the grant, grant seekers must make sure the project and its performers display “excellence and merit.” Arts Midwest does not define what it means by this, but the program’s Spotlight page and past funded events Search Engine will give a sense of what that means in practice. Additionally, the performing group and the presenting venue must partner to create a community engagement activity and reach an underserved audience. Examples of community engagement activities include post-show talkbacks, community workshops, meet-and-greet receptions, and behind-the-scenes tours. Performances that target K-12 students or seniors also qualify as a community engagement activity. Applications—which are made by the presenting organization/venue—are due in the spring.

Past Arts Midwest Touring Fund theater grantees include:

  • L.A. Theatre Works (based in Venice, CA) presented by Luther College in Decorah, IA. The partnership consisted of a public performance and a K-12 performance of In the Heat of the Night, as well as campus and community wide discussions surrounding the themes of the performance and how they play out in the community today.

  • TeAda Productions and Leilani Chan (based in Santa Monica, CA) presented by InterMedia Arts in Minneapolis, MN. The partnership consisted of a public performance of Global Taxi Driver and seven days of residency activities.

  • David Lutken presented by Three Oaks Theater Festival in Three Oaks, MI. The partnership consisted of a public performance of Lutken’s play Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie and two days of residency activities.

  • Mad River Theatre Works (based in Zanesfield, OH) presented by Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake, IL. The partnership consisted of a public performance of Everybody’s Hero: The Jackie Robinson Story and a post-show Q&A.

The Arts Midwest World Fest presents international dance ensembles in intensive week-long residencies in smaller Midwest communities. The program seeks to “foster an understanding of and appreciation for global uniqueness and differences.” This program funds dancers directly. However, performers must be a global dance ensemble.


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