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 grants focus on supporting 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, which are in the western region of the US, the individuals and groups that benefit from the actual funds can come from anywhere in the world. If you are an individual writer, the best way to gain access is to approach the presenting organizations.

PROFILE: Western States Arts Federation gets its name because it focuses on bringing artists to western states. The organization is completely open to all sorts of presenting organizations—performance halls, community centers, museums, parks, college campuses, high school theaters, and more—so 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 literary arts grants go through the TourWest program, which subsidizes presenting groups to showcase out of state literary artists (as well as those in the music, dance, and theater realms). It’s 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, including 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 literary artist 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. Be mindful of this as you pitch the literary arts project you wish to present.

And perhaps needless to say, Western States Arts Federation also 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 some recent 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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