USArtists International: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: USArtists International provides grants to U.S.-based music, dance, and theater artists to perform at well-regarded festivals and performing arts markets anywhere in the world.

IP TAKE: USArtists International provides for a unique travel grant, defraying the costs of performing artists who showcase their acts abroad. Solo and ensemble theater artists are significant beneficiaries of these grants, but be sure you're a non-profit entity (or fiscally sponsored by a reputable one).

PROFILE: USArtists International (USAI) is a joint program of Mid Atlantic Arts Alliance, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that focuses on showcasing the range of American performing arts talent to the rest of the world.

Each USA Fellow receives an unrestricted $50,000 award and recognition as one of America’s most accomplished and innovative artists.

There are, stipulations regarding the types of international performances that qualify. USAI covers festival and performing arts markets, both of which need to be curated—meaning you are selected to perform your theatrical piece; it’s not open-entry. The festival or market also needs to be international in scope, a bill that either singularly touts American performing artists or represents performing artists from at least two countries beyond the host nation. The festival or performing arts market also has to program a “consistently high level of activity,” including performances, lectures, and workshops.

And of course, you have to be a very good theater act yourself in order to garner a USAI grant. USAI is looking for “artistic excellence,” which it doesn’t define but will judge for itself when it reviews your work samples and takes a look at your performing resume.

USAI is also looking for your potential performance on the international scene to demonstrate “artistic merit”: What does this performance mean for your professional development? What are the “significance” and the “quality” of the festival or performing arts market themselves? 

Lastly, USAI seeks diversity within all these forms of excellence, stating: “Priority consideration is given to those application that are exemplary in meeting the review criteria and foster the program’s goals of broad domestic and international geographic representation as well as diverse aesthetic expression.”

For more insight into how USAI defines some of these more subjective assessments, here’s a look at some of the recent theater artists the program has recently supported, and where they performed:

  • The Actors’ Gang (based in CA), performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Spoleto Festival, Italy;
  • Double Edge Theatre (based in MA) performed at Fredriksten Music and Culture Festival and the Porsgrunn International Theater Festival, Norway
  • Elevator Repair Service (based in NY) performed at the SESC Arts Showcase, Brazil;
  • Spanish Theatre Repertory Company (based in NY) performed at the International Theatre Festival of Manizales, Colombia;
  • Basil Twist (based in NY) performed at Festival Passages and La Biennale International des Artes de la Marionette, France;
  • Wooster Group (based in NY) performed at the Singapore International Festival of Arts, Singapore;
  • Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company (based in NY) performed at the LIFT Festival, United Kingdom.

    One other note of selection logistics: theater performers/ensembles must have 501(c)(3) status, or else be fiscally sponsored by a reputable non-profit agency.

    Applications are online, and are administered by the Mid Atlantic Arts Alliance. There are three deadlines each year: in April, September, and December. Choose the deadline that links up with the dates you intend to perform internationally; each deadline is synched with performances set to happen about three months later, and you’ll hear if you’ve received the grant about 10 weeks after each application deadline.


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