United States Artists: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: United States Artists provides unrestricted $50,000 grants to artists across eight different creative disciplines: Architecture & Design, Crafts & Traditional Arts, Dance, Literature, Media, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts.

IP TAKE: United States Artists gives out as many as 50 unrestricted $50,000 grants directly to creative artists each year. Support for theater programs and artists (particularly playwrights) is a significant part of this giving. Needless to say, this is a competitive grant. It is an elusive one too; grant seekers must be nominated for it, and the nominators are anonymous.

PROFILE: United States Artists (USA) was established in 2005 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson, and Prudential Foundations to “invest in America’s finest artists and illuminate the value of artists to society.” Today, the organization is funded by a range of foundations and individuals, and it has its own permanent endowment that allows its USA Fellows program to provide unrestricted grants of $50,000 each to as many as 50 creative artists each year across different creative disciplines including architecture & design, crafts, dance, media, music, theater & performance, traditional arts, writing, and visual arts.

Application for a USA Fellowship is by nomination only; nominators change year-to-year and are always anonymous. All that USA will share about their nominators is that they are always a “group of arts leaders, critics, scholars, and artists who live in every state throughout the country, from small communities to major metropolises. They work in diverse practices across virtually every artistic discipline.” (There is a separate group of panelists who assess the applications of those who are nominated and apply, and USA does share the lists of its previous panelists, which is also very diverse in geography, artistic discipline, and profession. Therefore, those lists provide potential insight in terms of the nature of the anonymous nominators too.)

In order to get nominated by an anonymous group of arts professionals working across the United States, grant seekers should be inclusive in their craft and community. The more collaborative they are, and the more broadly grant seekers showcase their work around the country, the more likely they are to hit on one of these anonymous nominators.

USA supports quality, creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and diversity—which is certainly reflected in the scope of theater programs USA has funded. Though USA grant money is unrestricted, the organization also states that more than 91 percent of the grants it has given out have been used to “develop new art,” so as a theater program looking to get USA’s attention, grant seekers are better off creating new work rather than re-visiting the classics (or, approach them in a radically new way).

A full list of past grantees is on USA’s website.

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