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Arts Midwest is now accepting applications for two national grants programs: NEA Big Read and Shakespeare in American Communities.

To learn more about these funds and how they enable arts organizations to do more programmatic activity we caught up with Joshua Feist, Grants Officer at Arts Midwest.

Joshua Feist

Arts Midwest

What are some top tips for crafting a successful application?

Provide as much detail as you can about your proposed program, even if it’s with artists or partners you hope to work with but haven’t yet confirmed. Both the Big Read and Shakespeare applications are reviewed by panelists and these reviews need as much information as possible to make an evaluation. Read the guidelines as thoroughly as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What is the NEA Big Read?

The NEA Big Read is a reading program that brings communities together around the central theme, “Where We Live,” using one of 50 available NEA Big Read Books as inspiration. The program uses literature as a way to inspire artists and community members to not only do more reading in their daily lives but use literature as a way to inspire other art forms. It’s not strictly a grant for distributing books—it’s also about putting on artistic events that are inspired by the book. Grantees have the freedom and opportunity to make the program resonate with their community, for example, if you’ve got a great dance program there could be a performance piece based on the book in that artistic avenue.

What kinds of organizations can apply and what kinds of projects have they produced?

Arts organizations, universities, libraries, service organizations, museums, school districts, and tribal governments are all encouraged to apply. Organizations have issued calls for artists to build on a theme, create art in reaction to a theme, or host an exhibition with art that reflects elements from the book.

More Information

Grants range from $5,000 to $20,000 each. The deadline to submit your Intent to Apply is January 10.

What is Shakespeare in American Communities?

Shakespeare in American Communities is a project-based, matching grant that helps nonprofit theater companies and organizations bring Shakespeare and works inspired by Shakespeare to students. The grant is exclusively for interested theater companies that already have a relationship with schools or the justice system. A host of Shakespeare plays have been produced in schools across the country, and in recent years there have been some virtual presentations done as well, so we have some flexibility in how the productions take place.

Why is Shakeshpeare still relevant today?

Shakespeare’s work wrestles with what it means to be human in all its ugliness and grandeur. Romeo and Juliet deals with love, bullying, and being shunned. There’s lots of educational opportunity, language, love, relationships, it’s reflective of politics that are still controversial these days. It’s a bit cliche to say but they are really timeless in that sense because they deal with universal topics. This grant is very much open to interpretation to make Shakespeare’s plays relevant to their communities and the history of their communities.

More Information

Grants range from $15,000 to $25,000 each. The deadline to submit your Intent to Apply is January 25.