New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) gets its name half-right. It is a vigorous funder of the arts, but it is not limited in geographic scope to the New England region. In the realm of music it focuses on presenting organizations that bring in musicians to perform in New England, but these musicians can come from anywhere in the country (or the world).
NEFA was established in 1976 as one of six regional arts organizations receiving initial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts in order to strengthen and cultivate arts on a regional level. NEFA achieves this through a variety of specific grant programs. Other performance arts (theater and dance) have some specific grants of their own, including those that directly support artistic creation.
Music shares the coffers of NEFA grants that span all of the performing arts, but when NEFA divides the wealth, musical performance gets its due.
All of these grant programs “aim to provide to provide access to high quality arts experiences for the underserved, including projects that feature artistic expressions from diverse cultures and geographies.” These grants are all also built to encourage New England-based presenting organizations (based in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) the opportunity to successfully plan, execute, support, and showcase the work of theater, dance, and music artists from around the world. These presenting groups must have 501(c)(3) status, or be a school or government entity, but need not “formally” be a music or arts organization.
The largest of these funding opportunities are Expeditions Touring Grants, which provide up to 50 percent of artist fees (maximum $10,000 per partner) to cover the cost for multiple performances, residencies, and other contextual outreach activities, travel, accommodations, and per diem. Grantees are expected to collaborate with other potential presenting organizations to maximize a musician’s touring schedule.
In 2014, The Nile Project, based in San Francisco, CA was presented at the Asian Arts & Culture Program at the Fine Arts Center UMass Amherst, Boston University Arts Initiative, Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts, and Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts through Expeditions Touring Grants. Each presenting organization created a different user-experience to accompany the musical performance; clicking on each presenting organization will show you the full range, from lectures on ethnomusicology, speaker panels on the politics of water, and hands-on instrument demonstrations.
NEFA has an extensive and detailed search engine where you can also additional 2014 and previous years’ recipients, with descriptions of each of those artists as well.
NEFA also oversees Expeditions Tour Planning Grants, which provide up to $5,000 for the planning of a tour, such as meetings between potential partners, artist showcases for presenters, workshops to build community interest, and artists' travel to visit presenters' communities.
For the record NEFA doesn't neglect its own regional musicians. NEFA's New England States Touring Grants and New England Presenter Travel Funds both support access, exposure, and collaboration between New England music groups New England presenting organizations.
All said and done, in 2014 NEFA provided more than $3.4 million in grants to artists and presenting organizations in New England, throughout the U.S., and internationally. NEFA not only supplies a very detailed search engine sharing all of its previous grantees in all sectors; it also provides very detailed eligibility and deadline information for each grant opportunity. In the world of music and arts granting, NEFA is as thorough and transparent as they come.