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However, first things first. I want to express my deep gratitude to the NTP Advisors who had a daunting decision-making task. Thank you for the thoughtfulness and hard work you put into advising, reviewing, discussing, and eventually voting to achieve this year’s beautiful cohort of grantees. Thank you also to Meena Malik and Derek Schwartz, the other members of the NTP team, for your dedication, hard work, brilliance, and for always being the best thought partners as we do this work. And to Jane Preston, NEFA’s Deputy Director, Programs, and Elizabeth Timmerman, NEFA’s Technology & Data Coordinator, thank you for helping our meeting run smoothly. In addition, we’d like to thank the foundations which have made NTP possible. NTP is generously supported with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
After the preliminary application panel meeting, the NTP Advisors worked with their two to three finalists on the development of their full proposal. The Advisors shared feedback that highlighted the strengths, observations, and questions raised during the preliminary application round discussions. They looked at work samples, answered questions, helped with thinking around budgets and approach to support finalists submit their strongest final application.
In July, over five days of Zoom meetings, the NTP advisors engaged in a series of discussion and multiple rounds of voting to aid in their collective decision-making for this year’s grantee cohort. For a description of that process, please see the blog Announcing the 2021 NDP Production Grant Projects by Indira Goodwine, Program Director for Dance. The NTP and NDP processes, while not exactly the same, do follow the same basic process.
While NTP would normally award only 10 grants in any particular round, this year we reached an impasse – there continued to be a three-way scoring tie. This put the NTP Advisors in a position where their next vote would have to be to choose which application they didn’t want to fund. This type of thinking is antithetical to NTP’s values and vision. The conversations during panel meetings center on generosity and responsibility to the field, not on exclusion. After discussion of the situation, the decision was made to give all 11 top scoring projects Creation and Touring grants. This resulted in 11 slightly smaller grants ranging between $90,000 to $95,500 including both Creation grants and Touring subsidies. The final allocation for these grants is set through conversations with each grantee once they have been notified of the award.
An additional fun fact! For the very first time, we will have two different generations of artists within the same family as current grantees. Spiderwoman Theater (Muriel Miguel) was awarded a Creation and Touring grant in 2019. This year, Safe Harbors NYC (Murielle Borst Tarrant) was awarded their second Creation and Touring grant. This speaks to the longevity of ensemble theater as well as its continuing value in today’s artistic landscape.
So, who are this year’s grantees?
To learn more about all of the projects with tour subsidy available, visit our Grantee Directory
This year, NTP again reallocated unspent meeting and travel costs to increase the number of Artist Development Grants we are making. These are $10,000 awards that offer development support to projects reviewed in the final application round that were not selected for a Creation and Touring Grant. In previous years, NTP offered four or five of these grants, however because our travel and meeting costs have decreased during the pandemic, we are able to reallocate those unspent funds to artist support. We don’t know what next year will bring but we are looking for ways to expand our budget to allow us to continue making Artist Development Grants available for all finalists into the future.
The artists who received artist development grants for this year are: (Drop down of 2021 Artist Development Grantees)
There have been many calls for funders to take responsibility when grantees behave unethically. One of the ways National Theater Project has addressed these issues, when raised, is to approach each case as an opportunity to learn and do better. Our Advisors make the determination of who receives the grant, and it is our responsibility to uphold NEFA’s values and to respond when we believe that our grants are enabling harmful behaviors.
As funders, often our first instinct in these situations is to say, “We can’t fund that” or “We can’t do anything about their behavior.” However, over the 11 years of making NTP grants, there are things we have learned and the very first of those things is to take a breath. Funders are human beings also and we recognize our first reaction is often uninformed. Instead, some questions that need to be considered are:
For NTP, which gives grants to ensembles and not individuals, those questions can be crucial. For instance, if the issue is with an ensemble member, the issue needs to be addressed with that individual, and they still need to answer the questions, care also needs to be taken that the actions of that individual are not held against the ensemble as a whole. If it is an organizational behavior, then the ensemble, as a whole, needs to address the questions and decisions need to be made about whether or not to award the grant. The answers to those questions may determine what happens with the grant itself.
Our goal is to encourage and support change in a way that encourages accountability and action. To give an example, in a recent experience, concerns were raised about the behaviors of an organization. That organization had already received part of their grant payment, and the decision that needed to be made was whether or not providing funding would continue to perpetuate harm. The ensemble, let’s call them Ensemble E, had already responded to the raised concerns and had publicly laid out steps to address the issues before NTP was made aware of the situation. NTP contacted Ensemble E, explained that the behaviors that had been raised were contrary to our values and that we were aware that they had already responded. In fact, during the conversation, it became clear that not only had Ensemble E responded with a list of action steps but that in the interim, they had started on the list and were taking others as well. The conversation resulted in NTP deciding not to revoke the grant but to check in with Ensemble E six months from the conversation for further discussion on their progress and, given good progress, to release the funds from the grant award.
Is this the solution to all questions about the behaviors of grantees? Absolutely not. Is it one solution to a particular circumstance? Yes, and it is our belief that each circumstance requires that kind of attention to the issue. If we are truly committed to our values and transformative justice, we have to find ways to support organizational transformation beyond penalizing bad behavior. Just as we encourage and empower ensembles to define excellence and success for themselves, we must be willing to put the same energy into providing ensembles the opportunity to responsibly address their own issues. For that, as funders, we must be willing to engage in difficult conversations with ourselves and our grantees. Could this have gone differently? Of course! If the circumstances had been different and Ensemble E had not been aware of the accusations or was incalcitrant about addressing them, our decision would be different based on those circumstances. However, we believe that this example has helped us set some parameters by which we can make tough decisions that continue to uphold our values and support the field.
NEFA welcomes conversations regarding its grantmaking priorities and process. We support and believe in creating space for dialogues that foster mutual learning and build/strengthen our various roles in the field as allies. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the NTP Team.
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