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Now accepting applications: NEA Big Read and Shakespeare in American Communities

by Joshua Feist

Multiple people perform on a wooden stage on a lawn outside, some singing and some playing guitars.
Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Lee A. Butz

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


Read below to learn more about these upcoming opportunities for communities and theater companies across the country!

NEA Big Read

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our neighbors, and ourselves through the power of a shared reading experience. Showcasing a diverse range of contemporary themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections in each community.

Grants range from $5,000 to $20,000 each, and the Intent to Apply is due on January 18, 2023.

Learn More

A group of smiling people holding up copies of Sandra Cisneros's novel, "The House on Mango Street."
Photo by: Alley Theatre

NEA Big Read At-A-Glance

  • WHAT: The NEA Big Read is a reading program that brings communities together around a selected book title.
  • WHEN: Applications are due January 25, 2023 (with the Intent to Apply due January 18), and funded projects must occur between September 2023 – June 2024.
  • 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: applicants are now required to submit an Intent to Apply at least one week prior to the application deadline.

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 that produce Shakespeare’s works, this program supports high-quality productions and educational activities in middle schools, high schools, and juvenile justice facilities throughout the United States. Applicants can choose from two paths: Schools or Juvenile Justice.

Organizations can access grants up to $25,000, and the Intent to Apply is due January 9, 2023.

Learn More

A crowd of students sitting on bleachers in a gymnasium watch a performance happening on the gym floor.
Photo by: Montana Shakespeare in the Parks

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 to students.
  • WHEN: Applications are due February 8, 2023 (with the Intent to Apply due by January 9), and funded projects must occur between August 2023 – July 2024.
  • 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 of Shakespeare or an adaption of Shakespeare’s text 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: applicants may now request grant awards ranging from $15,000 to $25,000. A one-to-one match is still required; the total project budget must be between $30,000 and $50,000.

New this Year: SmartSimple, a Grants Management Platform

Arts Midwest is now collecting applications through a new grants management platform called SmartSimple. Before you apply for a grant opportunity, you’ll need to register your organization in the system. Because SmartSimple will help streamline the application process, several components and templates from previous years have changed. Please review the guidelines and application instructions carefully before you begin preparing your materials.

Learn More + Watch SmartSimple Tutorials

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.

Director of Grantmaking

Joshua Feist (he/him) is the Director of Grantmaking 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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