Knight Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The Knight Foundation is one of the larger grantmakers in the arts, especially when it comes to more innovative, modern forms of expression, which includes many different types of theater projects. It is especially interested in ideas that incorporate technology and that bring diverse communities together through "shared experiences."

IP TAKE: Unlike many of the other larger organizations that make theater grants, the Knight Foundation is fairly wide-ranging in the genres it considers, which is helpful for grant seekers whose project leans more toward the popular culture end of the spectrum.

PROFILE: The Knight Foundation was founded by John and James Knight, who were once print media moguls, owning newspapers in 26 cities across the United States. It seeks “to foster informed and engaged communities,” which it believes “are essential for a healthy democracy.” The foundation focuses its grantmaking in and around those 26 cities, but not exclusively. Of the four Knight Foundation initiatives, theater falls under Arts (the foundation does not have a grantmaking program exclusively dedicated to theater).

The Knight Foundation harbors a strong belief that the arts are "a catalyst for public dialogue, and that shared cultural experiences contribute to a sense of place and communal identity." Consequently, it prioritizes projects that have a community aspect and bring people together around arts based events. Some of its main strategies in this area revolve around "creative placemaking," making projects general and available to everyone, and spurring innovation. Grantseekers whose project tries something new and attempts to bring a diverse set of people and cultures together around a theater based project have a very good chance at attracting the attention of Knight.

Past examples of theater grantmaking include: a $5 million grant to the John S. and James L. Knight Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina, $2.25 million to the University of Michigan’s Visiting Artists for the Detroit School of Arts, $1.5 million to North Carolina Dance Theater, and $400,000 to the Miami Light Project for The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse. Knight also awards theatrical production grants, including: $180,000 to Partners for Sacred Places’ Philadelphia Theatrical Design Center; $150,000 Teatro Avante for the International Hispanic Theatre Festival; $100,000 to the Philadelphia Theatre Company for Anna Deveare Smith’s “The Pipeline Project. Theater grants to support productions and festivals average around $100,000 to $150,000. 

Submit letters of inquiry online and describe the project in about two pages. The Foundation reviews inquiries and notifies grantees of its decision via email. If it likes what it reads, a Foundation representative requests a full proposal. There are no exact deadlines for LOIs, however, grant seekers are required to submit a full proposal within four weeks of submitting an idea.

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