Western States Arts Federation: Grants for Theater

OVERVIEW: Western States Arts Federation creates and promotes arts opportunities in the western region of the US. Its grantmaking supports presenting organizations by financially incentivizing them to bring visiting artists into the area. Its TourWest program is a "competitive grant program that provides subsidies to arts and community organizations for the presentation of out-of-state touring performers and literary artists."

IP TAKE:  Although its grants primarily go to presenting organizations in the western region of the US, the individuals and groups that benefit from the actual funds can come from anywhere in the world.

PROFILE: Western States Arts Federation gets its name because it brings artists to western states. The organization seeks to assist “state arts agencies, arts organizations, and artists in their quest to serve diverse audiences, enrich lives of local communities, and provide access to the arts and arts education for all.” Theater Grants are awarded through the TourWest program.

The organization is open to all sorts of presenting organizations—performance halls, community centers, museums, parks, college campuses, high school theaters, and more—as long as they’re a nonprofit and in one of these 13 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The TourWest program subsidizes presenting groups to showcase out of state performers and programs (including music, visual arts, and theater). It is a subsidy because the program pays for up to 50 percent of the artists' fees, up to $2,500.

Strong applicants will have a solid history of successfully bringing performers to its venue, and will have a well-articulated plan, including collaborations with other presenting organizations in the region—meaning that the time and costs for those traveling dance programs will amount to maximum performance and exposure.

In addition to a minimum of one public performance, the TourWest program also requires that theater programs being presented engage in an outreach activity. Examples of these include lectures, demonstrations, master classes, or in-school educational activities that engage students with the performers.

Part of the reason this outreach component is mandatory is because Western States Arts Federation views engagement with “underserved and/or culturally diverse” audiences as important criteria. Grant seekers should be mindful of this in their project pitch. Additionally, Western States Arts Federation wants these performances to be of high quality. “Artistic excellence” is at the very top of its list of criteria for selection.

Past theater programs presented through TourWest grantees include: The McCarter Theatre Center Company (based in Princeton, NJ) presented by Alaska Junior Theater in Anchorage; Aquila Theatre (based in New York, NY) presented by the Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center in Pueblo, CO; The Acting Company (based in New York, NY) performing Hamlet, presented by the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, ID; Nampa Civic Center in Nampa, ID; and the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings, MT; The Nebraska Theatre Caravan (based in Omaha, NE) presented by the Admiral Theatre Foundation in Bremerton, WA.

TourWest applications are an online process, and due at the beginning of April each year for performances starting the following September.

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