Mellon Foundation Grant Supports Performing Arts Discovery Program

Jun 17 2016

Western Arts Alliance is thrilled to announce a recent grant in the amount of $25,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help further WAA’s work with the NEA Performing Arts Discovery (PAD) program supported by a two-year, $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Mellon Foundation grant will be disbursed through Arts Midwest.

Over the next 12 months WAA will recruit and host performing arts presenters from Australia, China, Colombia, Mexico, New Zealand, and Taiwan to build relationships and solidify exchanges with WAA agents and artists. We expect a delegation of 13-14 international delegates at the 2016 Conference in Los Angeles.

Cultural exchange is at the root of many major performing arts presenting series across the country, inviting American audiences to learn about diverse cultures and expressions through experiencing dance, music, and theater. Historically, these experiences have been facilitated by strong relationships between foreign governments and the U.S. presenters showcasing this work. Those international governments have welcomed U.S. arts leaders abroad, encouraged presenters to share their art forms in American communities, and in turn provide opportunities for domestic audiences to learn about the artists’ homeland.

Conversely, in the United States, while there may be privately funded opportunities to invite foreign presenters to experience U.S. artists, no formal exchanges exist within the structure of the American government. And even with privately funded opportunities, the experience tends to focus on artists from the coasts, often ignoring work being created in “fly over” states. While artists and ensembles from areas like Los Angeles and New York may be well known, the cultural richness of lesser known regions within the United States is often overlooked.

To begin to bridge this gap, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) initiated and funded Performing Arts Discovery, a two-year pilot program aimed at helping U.S. Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) facilitate trusted curatorial networks and learning opportunities between the U.S. performing arts market and international presenters. The goal of this effort is to build cooperating relationships among U.S. artists, their managers and agents, and international and U.S. presenters that result in increased international tours for U.S. artists.

In June 2015, the NEA awarded three $100,000 grants to launch the program: Arts Midwest, WESTAF/Western Arts Alliance, and to a consortia including South Arts’ Performing Arts Exchange, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and New England Foundation for the Arts.


Pictured: Niyaz featuring Azam Ali, performing in the 2015 Juried Showcase at WAA's Annual Conference in Vancouver, BC. Photo by Coast Mountain Photography.