Attention Young Theatre Professionals (And Biomedical Researchers?) The Vilcek Foundation Beckons

How's this for an elegant piece of Inside Philanthropy synchronicity? Today's post is about the New York City-based Vilcek Foundation, whose goal is to "raise public awareness of the outstanding contributions of foreign-born scientists and artists living and working in the United States."

Ever the journalist, I was fishing around for a hook. "Try to think of a foreign-born scientist and artist living in the U.S.," I told myself. "Your editor will love it." Turns out, I had to look no further than my nightstand. I'm finally reading Walter Isaacson's biography on the most famous foreign-born scientist of them all, Albert Einstein.

It isn't very often we stumble across foundations that so brazenly embrace science and art. Usually, the two are separate. And Isaacson's book suggests that they have a lot to teach each other. Here's the author, from page 38: "What Einstein appreciated in Mozart and Bach was the clear architectural structure that made the music seem 'deterministic' and, like his own favorite scientific theories, plucked from the universe rather than composed."

The Vilcek Foundation has a foot in both worlds (albeit not classical music or quantum physics). It grants two awards on an annual basis. One in biomedical research and one in the arts and humanities, in a field designated by the foundation. In 2015, the arts category is fashion. Previous categories include fine art, architecture, music, film, culinary arts, literature, dance, contemporary music, and design.

Vilcek Prize winners each receive $100,000 and a trophy, uniquely designed for each winner by Stefan Sagmeister. The foundation presents the Vilcek Prizes in an award ceremony held early in spring, in New York City.

Not to be outdone, the foundation is also now accepting applications for the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Theatre. The foundation will award three prizes of $50,000 each to young theater professionals who demonstrate outstanding early achievement. Playwrights/book writers, directors, actors, designers (sets, costumes, lights, projections/video, sound, and/or puppetry), composers, lyricists, and choreographers are encouraged to apply.

To be eligible, applicants must have been born outside the United States, not be more than 38 years old as of December 31, 2015, be a naturalized citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) of the United States, intend to pursue a professional career in the United States, and not be a past winner or finalist of the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise.

The curious blending of biomedical research and the creative arts, while novel, isn't unprecedented, of course. However, we often find this coupling at the university level—see my recent post on MIT's Center for Arts, Science, and Technology—rather than embedded within large arts foundations.

Either way, Vileck's grants represent a lucrative—they have $115 million in assets—opportunity for young theatre professionals. Einstein would (probably) approve!