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Now Accepting Applications: 2024-25 NEA Big Read and Shakespeare in American Communities

by Joshua Feist

A group of people in masquerade masks dancing on stage, as the stage band plays on an elevated platform above them.
Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow
The cast of Much Ado About Nothing at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee, WI.

Applications are now open for the 2024-25 cycle of our two national grants programs: the NEA Big Read and Shakespeare in American Communities.


The NEA Big Read and Shakespeare in American Communities grants are both open to organizations across the country—read below to learn about these upcoming opportunity for communities and theater companies nationwide!

NEA Big Read

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read supports community reading programs designed around a single NEA Big Read book. The goal of this program is to inspire meaningful conversations, celebrate local creativity, elevate a wide variety of voices and perspectives, and build stronger connections in each community.

Grants range from $5,000 to $20,000 each, and the Intent to Apply is due on January 10, 2024.

Learn More about NEA Big Read

Two women in wheelchairs talking with books.
Photo Credit: Mikki Schaffner

NEA Big Read At-A-Glance

  • What: 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.
  • When: The mandatory Intent to Apply is due January 10, with final applications due January 24, 2024 , and funded projects must occur between September 2024 and June 2025.
  • Where: Nonprofit organizations and public libraries located across the United States and the Native nations that share this geography can apply.
  • Who: Arts organizations, universities, libraries, service organizations, museums, school districts, and tribal governments are all encouraged to apply.

New this year, community programming during this cycle will focus on the theme “Where We Live.” Applicants will host books discussions, writing workshops, and creative activities that celebrate unique aspects of their community, using as inspiration one of 50 available NEA Big Read books. These 50 titles are drawn from the NEA Big Read archive and showcase a wide range of genres, perspectives, and geographic regions.

NEA Big Read FAQ

501c3 nonprofits; divisions of state, local, or tribal government; or a tax-exempt public library. Eligible organizations include arts organizations, community service organizations, colleges and universities, libraries, literary centers, school districts, theater companies, museums, and more.

Selected organizations receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 to support their NEA Big Read projects. In addition, the National Endowment for the Arts offers online content for each reading selection, and resources to help organizations prepare to host and promote the NEA Big Read in their communities.

The list of books available for NEA Big Read programming changes each year and can be found in the NEA Big Read library.

No, applicants for NEA Big Read must be a 501c3 nonprofit organization; a division of state, local, or tribal government; or a tax-exempt public library.

Yes—applicants will be required to demonstrate matching funds on a 1:1 basis for their requested grant amount. (For example, if an applicant requests a $10,000 NEA Big Read grant, the total project budget must be at least $20,000.) Federal funds cannot be used as a match.

Yes. The Intent to Apply is due on January 10, 2024.

Shakespeare in American Communities

Shakespeare in American Communities is a theater program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. Through grants to theater companies, this program supports high-quality productions and educational activities to young audiences throughout the United States. Applicants can choose from two paths: Schools or Juvenile Justice.

Grants range from $15,000 to $25,000 each, and the Intent to Apply is due January 25, 2024.

Learn More about Shakespeare in American Communities

A group of high school students hold script papers in a black box theater.
Photo Credit: West Cliff Creative

Shakespeare in American Communities At-A-Glance

  • What: Shakespeare in American Communities is a project-based, matching grant that helps theater companies and organizations bring Shakespeare and works inspired by Shakespeare to students.
  • When: The mandatory Intent to Apply is due January 25, with final applications due February 8, 2024, and funded projects must occur between August 2024 – July 2025.
  • Where: Nonprofit theater companies and organizations located across the United States and the Native nations that share this geography can apply.
  • Who: The schools program is available to theater companies producing a play that is a work written or inspired by Shakespeare, an adaption of Shakespeare’s text, or a production that incorporates scenes, monologues, and/or sonnets by Shakespeare, with related educational activities in partnership with schools. The Juvenile Justice program is available to nonprofit organizations providing Shakespeare educational activities in partnership with the Juvenile Justice System.

New this year, grantees applying to the schools path do not need to produce Shakespeare plays. They now have the option to conduct performances and educational activities that use the works of William Shakespeare as an inspiration. Additionally, grantees may conduct performances and educational activities outside of schools, as long as they still reach middle/high school age participants.

Shakespeare in American Communities FAQ

501c3 non-profit professional theater companies located in the U.S. or the Native Nations that share this geography that have a minimum of two years’ experience providing professional performances and related educational activities to middle and/or high schools.

Selected organizations receive grants ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 to support their Shakespeare in American Communities programming.

Yes, but there must be no overlapping programming or costs between the applications and budgets.

For the School track, applicants will be required to demonstrate matching funds on a 1:1 basis for their requested grant amount. (For example, if an applicant requests a $15,000 Shakespeare grant, the total project budget must be at least $30,000.) Federal funds cannot be used as a match. Juvenile Justice track grantees do not have a match requirement.

Yes. The Intent to Apply is due January 25, 2024.

Questions?

We’re happy to answer any questions you have about the NEA Big Read or Shakespeare in American Communities. Be sure to check out our FAQs, and if you’d like to talk to us we’re just an email away.

Contact our Grants Team

  • Headshot of a smiling person of light skin tone with peppered hair and a short beard, wearing a plaid button down under a navy blue blazer.

    Grants Officer

    Joshua Feist (he/him) is the Grants Officer at Arts Midwest. He specializes in grantmaking operations, federal compliance, and databases, and has been working in arts administration for over 15 years.

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