USArtists International: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: USArtists International provides grants to U.S.-based music, dance, and theater performers 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 performers are significant beneficiaries of these grants, but grant seekers must be a non-profit entity (or fiscally sponsored by a reputable one).

PROFILE: USArtists International (USAI) is a program of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in partnership with the National Endowment of the Arts, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It “supports performances by U.S. artists at important cultural festivals and arts marketplaces around the globe.”

USAI supports performers by defraying costs, which can be significant even for solo theater performances, let alone groups. The program recognizes the scope of these expenses, and the grants will cover travel, housing, per diem, shipping, visa fees, and agents’ fees—up to $15,000 worth, though typically dispensed in the $1,000 - $10,000 range.

There are, of course, stipulations as to what types of international performances qualify. USAI covers festival and performing arts markets, both of which need to be curated—meaning performers must be selected to perform; it is 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.

Additionally, performers must be talented to garner a USAI grant. USAI states that it seeks “artistic excellence,” which it does not define. It will judge for itself when it reviews work samples and looks over a grant seeker’s performing resume.

USAI also requires grant seekers’ potential performance on the international scene to demonstrate “artistic merit”: What does this performance mean for 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 and states: “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.”

Past grantees include: 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.

Theatrical performers/programs 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. Each deadline is synced with performances set to happen about three months later, and grant seekers will hear if they have received the grant about 10 weeks after each application deadline.

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