Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation tasks itself with supporting artistic work created by, presented to, and engaged with its geographic region.

IP TAKE: Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation is primarily focused on bringing artistic expression into its region, but it wants that artistic work to come from all around the world. This foundation gives to the arts through its support of presenting organizations. Theater is on the playbill, though it's less prevelantly presented than dance and music.

PROFILE: The name Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation leads you to make assumptions about the organization's focus. Those assumptions you’ll make are partially right and partially wrong.

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation is a vigorous funder of the arts, supporting creators who live and work all over the United States—and the world. So why the “Mid Atlantic” name? It’s because the foundation’s focus is bringing this diversity of artists and artistic expression into its region for performances and community engagement, and is primarily focused on funding the presenting organizations that will host them there.

The “there” of the Mid Atlantic: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The foundation also intriguingly includes support of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The biggest of MAAF’s funding programs is ArtsCONNECT, a program that’s all about teamwork: It provides support for projects in which at least three Mid Atlantic performing arts presenters from two different states work collaboratively to present a touring solo artist or ensemble. 

The consortium’s plan must include public performances and well as community outreach engagements, with an eye towards both of these elements tapping into underserved communities. There are some worm-hole details regarding which presenting organizations can band together to submit an application; be sure to read the guidelines carefully.

If your plan is funded, MAAF will grant each presenting organization between $1,000 to $10,000 to bring the theater group to its stage and its community. (This can go up to $15,000 if new, commissioned work is being presented.) This dollar range reflects MAAF’s commitment to covering 50 percent of each presenting organization’s costs—including actors' appearance fees, travel, lodging, and performance operating expenses.

As for who these theater groups are? Applications that make the cut are presenting companies who demonstrate “artistic excellence,” which MAAF measures in part by awards, honors, previous grants, and performance history. The theater artist or ensemble being presented must also have a proven history of “experience in touring.” 

A sampling of theater groups who have recently been presented and supported by funds flowing through ArtsCONNECT include The Actors Gang (based in Culver City, CA), Aquila Theater Company (based in New York, NY), chelfitsch Theater Company (based in Tokyo, Japan),and Kashu-juku Noh Theater (based in Shiga-ken, Japan). MAAF provides a list of its current tours.

In a similar vein, MAAF also operates a Special Presenter Initiatives program. It's a microcosm of ArtsCONNECT, specifically geared towards bringing performance to Delaware, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (the smallest populations in the Mid Atlantic region) with grants ranging from $500 to $5,000. For this program, the performance groups must be from the Mid Atlantic or reside outside of the U.S. Brown Box Theatre Company, based in Maryland, recently performed in Delaware through this program.

MAAF also operates a program specific to South American performing arts. Southern Exposure is a grant program that "brings exemplary contemporary and traditional performing arts from Latin America to audiences in the United States." This program operates as a hybrid, partly likes ArtsCONNECT in that it funds presenting organizations to bring in performance groups, and partly as a curator, since it selects a roster of groups the presenting organizations can bring in. Theater ensembles on the roster include Imaginarios from Venezuela and Christiane Jatahy from Brazil.

Lastly, if you’re a theater company whose home base is either in the Mid Atlantic region or outside of the U.S., you also may want to seek out the opportunity to join MAAF’s Mid Atlantic Tours roster, which puts you on a touring bill traveling throughout the region with the foundation’s oversight.

MAAF reports that in 2015 alone, it administered 204 grants totaling $1.65 million, resulting in 454 performances. These are big numbers, so even though theater doesn't get top billing, there is certainly opportunity here if you’re a Mid Atlantic organization looking to present some theater—or a theater company looking to partner with them.

PEOPLE