National YoungArts Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The National YoungArts Foundation (NYAF)'s seeks to nurture accomplished 15- to 18-year-old emerging artists in cinema, dance, design, music, photography, writing, theater, and the visual arts. The NYAF provides a variety of mentorship and scholarship programs, master classes, national recognition, and other opportunities in order to further learning and encourage pursuit of careers in the arts.

IP TAKE: The National YoungArts Foundation is one of the few organizations of its size that focuses strictly on the development of teens in the arts. However, it is not a traditional grant provider. It selects 800 students each year to participate in its week-long program of master classes and performance and showcase opportunities. From there, some students may receive additional cash grants.

PROFILE: The National YoungArts Foundation was created in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison. The foundation “identifies and nurtures the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts and assists them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development” and “aspires to create a community of alumni that provides a lifetime of encouragement, opportunity and support.” YoungArts national arts competition includes Theater among its supported disciplines.

Each year, about 800 students are selected out of a field of around 12,000 applicants to participate in NYAF's program. Participants gain access to "master classes with internationally renowned artists, workshops, interdisciplinary activities, performances and exhibitions." The recognition levels vary from "Merit" level, which receives a Certificate of Achievement, a Recommendation Letter, and possible invitation to participate in regional programs, to "Finalist," where winners are eligible for prizes of $1,000 to $10,000 (Gold $10,000, Silver $5,000, Level 1 $3,000, Level 2 $1,500, Level 3 $1,000). Honorable mentions receive a $250 award in addition to the same recognition of merit level winners.

All finalists are also eligible for nomination to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Commission and may be selected as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. This includes an invitation to participate in National Recognition Week in Washington, D.C. for a medal ceremony and the possibility to "showcase their work in a performance at the Kennedy Center or an exhibition and presentation at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art."

Each discipline has specific portfolio requirements, which can be accessed through the application page. There is also a $35 non-refundable application fee for each category. Deadlines for applications are always toward the end of the year in mid-October.

Some of the past YoungArts master teachers include Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jacques d'Amboise, Plácido Domingo, Bill T. Jones, Quincy Jones, and Martin Scorsese. And some of their alumni include Vanessa Williams, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Raúl Esparza, Nicki Minaj, Chris Young, Terence Blanchard, Jennifer Koh, choreographer Desmond Richardson, visual artist Hernan Bas, and acclaimed multimedia artist Doug Aitken.

In addition to the national program, the Foundation features regional programs in MiamiNew York, and Los Angeles as well as an in-school presentation program. It also has a variety of affiliate programs with other organizations like the Educational Theater Association and the Music Teachers National Association, designed to develop cultural and educational connections and cross-promote other programs, events, and special opportunities.

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