Knight Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: Through the Knight Foundation's arts program, they seek to "weave the arts into the fabric of Knight resident communities to engage and inspire the people living in them." Knight views the arts as "a catalyst for public dialogue, and that shared cultural experiences contribute to a sense of place and communal identity." The Knight Foundation does not have a specific theater grantmaking program. Grantseekers will need to look toward the foundation's Fostering the Arts program for theater related grants. It's critical that you operate in one of the 26 communities where Knight engages in grantmaking. 

IP TAKE: The key to gaining backing from Knight in most all of their grantmaking, including any theater grants, is innovation and community engagement, so if those elements are present in your project, you're definitely on the right track. 

PROFILE: The Knight Foundation’s Arts program is pretty big, awarding hundreds of arts grants each year. Grants range from the very low end of $5,000, up to the very high end of $5 million. Both the low and high end grants are few and far between, with most grants falling into the $20,000 to $100,000 range. 

Knight has an excellent and informative website, the includes a comprehensive grants database. This is the place to start for anyone seeking support. 

Looking through the grants database, a few theater grants from recent years stood out to us. The largest $5 million theater grant was awarded to the John S. and James L. Knight Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina. Other large grants include the following:

  • $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
  • $400,000 to the Miami Light Project for The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse

Yes, Knight does like to fund big theater projects, with the largest grants tending to go toward general operations as opposed to the actual production of any particular show. This shouldn’t lead any theater grantseeker to become despondent however. Knight awards a whole host of theatrical production grants, they just aren’t as big. Here are just a few such grants awarded in recent years:

  • $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 tend to land around the $100,000 to $150,000 range. Location matters greatly, since the Knight Foundation has a special focus on 26 communities where John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. You can find that list on its website. If you're working in one of the eight of these cities where Knight has offices, better yet. 

There are no set deadlines for submissions, though you are required to submit a full proposal within four weeks of the submission of any type of funding request. You can get started online here.


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