National YoungArts Foundation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: The National YoungArts Foundation's mission is to foster the burgeoning careers of 15 to 18 year old emerging artists in the visual, literary, design, and performing arts. The NYAF provides a variety of support in the way of mentorship and scholarship programs, master classes, national recognition, and other opportunities in order to further their learning and encourage their 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. They offer cash grants and provide an array of comprehensive support through various programs and have a very accomplished list of alumni to their credit.

PROFILE: So far the NYAF has provided mentorship and support to over 17,000 young artists with over $6 million in awards and over $150 million in scholarships since its inception in 1981. They serve emerging artists age 15-18 (or grades 10-12) in the areas of cinematic arts, dance, design, jazz, music, photography, theater, visual arts, voice, and writing.

Each year 700 students are selected out of a field of around 10,000 applicants. Winners of YoungArts awards 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 $5000, Level 1 $3,000, Level 2 $1,500, Level 3 $1,000). Honorable mentions are given a $250 award in addition to the same recognition of merit level winners.

All finalists are also eligible to be nominated to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Commission and 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 YoungArts master teachers have included 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 Miami, New York, and Los Angeles as well as an in-school presentation program. They also have 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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