Western States Arts Federation: Grants for Creative Writing

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. The best way for individual writers to gain access is to approach presenting organizations.

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.” Writing 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 literary artists (as well as those in the music, dance, and theater realms). It is a subsidy because the program pays for up to 50 percent of the artists' fees, up to $2,500.

This is obviously a very specific subset of creative writing. It requires the creator not only to have written the piece, but now be willing and able to perform it in a compelling (and perhaps theatrical) way. Strong applicants will have a solid history of successfully bringing performers to its venue and will have a well-articulated plan that includes a collaboration with other presenting organizations in the region.

In addition to a minimum of one public performance, the TourWest program also requires that the writer 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 artist.

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. Grantseekers should be mindful of this in their literary arts 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.

A sample of past literary artists presented through TourWest grantees include Marc Bamuthi Joseph (based in Oakland, CA) presented by the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului, HI, The Robot Planet presented by University of Hawaii in Honolulu, HI, American Place Theatre: Literature to Life's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl presented by the Idaho Falls Arts Council in Idaho Falls, ID; the Pend Oreille Arts Council in Sandpoint, ID; and the City of las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs in Las Vegas, NV, Patrick Ball presented by Alpine Artisans in Seeley Lake, MT.

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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