I’ve been working for over a month now as a freelance grantwriter for a theater company in Los Angeles on a NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant. It’s been a humbling process. I really wanted to work on this one in particular so that if, in the future, a company I was with wanted to apply for NEA funding, I’d have some experience.
The checklist for the grant contains eleven separate items, each of which is a discrete document – and then there are also three artists’s statements and three work samples. Also, in order to apply for NEA funding, you have to be registered as a contractor with three different online entities, which maintain data.
In contrast to the convoluted bureaucratic process, if you actually call the NEA and speak to the two-person staff of Theater Specialists (as I have done a few times) you get some of the most helpful, nice people you’ve ever talked to on the phone, who really care about theater and want to help you get through the grant.
One thing I thought was interesting, which I learned from one of the Theater Specialists, is that there is no annual budgetary minimum for applying organizations. No matter how small you are, you can apply within the Access to Artistic Excellence category. We learned this when we were asking about our consortium partner, which has a much smaller budget than the lead applicant.
Although I’m sure it’s hard for small theaters to manifest an interesting enough project or a committed enough staff to complete this intensive grant, I’m glad that technically, if you work hard enough, it’s still open to everyone.