Watch the New England States Touring (NEST) 3 Webinar

The deadline to apply for NEST 3 is March 1, 2024

With New England States Touring support, Global Arts Live presented Fouadd Boussouf

A woman with brown bobbed hair wears a black and green jacket with yellow flowers
Senior Program Director, Regional Grants and International Exchange

Watch this webinar to learn more about the changes to our New England States Touring (NEST) Grant in advance of the Idea Swap on November 13. Deadline to apply for NEST 3 support is March 1, 2024.

Read the Transcript

Adrienne Petrillo: Thank you all for joining us. As you just heard, this session will be recorded and shared on NEFA's platforms. Before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge the land on which NEFA is based. 

While we are meeting virtually, NEFA's offices are on the traditional lands of the Massachusett, Wampanoag, and Nipmuc people, and we honor their ancestors, past, present, and future, and recognize their continued existence and contributions to our society. At NEFA, we believe that one of the roles of the arts is to make the invisible visible, and it is not the responsibility of those who have been made invisible to remind us that they are still here. We also acknowledge that all places where we provide support and hold events are Indigenous lands, and we offer our respect to those who have and continue to steward the land on which we meet. We'll take a moment to pause, and I invite you to reflect on the deep history of these lands and its people. Thank you. 

I would now like to formally introduce myself. I am Adrienne Petrillo. My pronouns are she/her, and I am the Senior Program Director for New England Presenting and Touring, and I am calling in today from Massachusett, Nipmuc, and Wampanoag lands. I'm happy to be joined by my colleagues Audrey and Falyn, who will also introduce themselves. Falyn, if you'd like to begin. 

Falyn Rose Elhard: Hello. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Falyn Rose Elhard. I use they/them pronouns, and I am the Program Coordinator for New England Presenting and Touring, here at the New England Foundation for the Arts. I am located on the traditional lands of the Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Pokanoket peoples, in Providence, Rhode Island. 

Audrey Seraphin: Hi, everybody. My name is Audrey Seraphin. I use she/her pronouns, and I am the new-ish Program Manager for Regional Grants and Initiatives, here at NEFA. I'm also calling in from Nipmuc and Massachusett lands, in Boston. 

Adrienne Petrillo: Thank you both. Our agenda today includes an overview of the NEST program and the application process, as well as a brief mention of our CreativeGround website, and we will have time at the end for some questions. You can also use the Q&A function in the chat as well. And we'll do our best to answer questions throughout the presentation, but we'll also have time towards the end. 

So today's webinar is focused on New England States Touring, or NEST, as it's known. NEST is one of many grant programs available for support, for projects based in New England. I encourage you to review our website for information about other NEFA programs and resources. 

NEST is the oldest of NEFA's grant programs, and it is really the core of our support for the New England region, particularly for organizations that connect artists with communities in our region. It is a program that is publicly funded, supported through our partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the six state arts agencies in New England. I'll start by sharing the goals of the program, which helped inform the program design and the funding criteria. 

Broadly speaking, NEST supports access to high quality artists and aesthetic diversity for New England communities, connecting people to artists from New England, other parts of the US, and the world. Supporting access to the arts is an important goal for our partners at the NEA, as well as our state arts agency partners. We do this through stimulating collaboration and partnership between New England cultural organizers, artists, and communities. 

The larger field of regional presenting and touring is an interconnected ecosystem and NEST funds help to support creative partnerships between arts presenters and artists. You will hear a number of different words today, including the word presenters, organizations, tour partners, some of which may be used interchangeably. Apologies for that, but there is some jargon that we tend to use as much as we try hard not to. But we largely are working with organizations to support their work in supporting artists. 

The goals of NEST are to expand direct access to high quality artists and aesthetic diversity for all New England communities and stimulating those opportunities for collaboration and partnership among New England cultural organizations and between artists and the organizations. We also encourage projects that provide meaningful interaction between artists and communities and looking for those opportunities that go beyond the stage. So those are the overall goals for the NEST program, which again, really impact how the program functions. 

There are currently three versions of NEST. NEST 1 funds New England nonprofit applicants to present a New England artist from outside of their state. So a Massachusetts-based organization can apply to bring an artist from Vermont. 

NEST 2 funds tours of New England-based artists presented by one nonprofit who is inside the artist's home state and another nonprofit from outside of the artist's home state. So in this case, there are two organizations that apply. If one organization is in Boston, and they are presenting a Massachusetts artist, they can apply, as long as there is also a partner based in New Hampshire that's presenting the same artist, and both organizations apply. 

Then, there is NEST 3, which funds tours of regional, national, and international artists, presented by a minimum of three organizations in at least two New England states. So NEST 1 and 2 are exclusively for support for performances and activities by New England artists. Today's webinar is going to focus on NEST 3, because that is the program most closely aligned with our upcoming Idea Swap, which we will talk about a little later in this presentation. If you're interested in learning more about NEST 1 and 2, you can see the full guidelines on our website, and you're always welcome to reach out to us with any questions. 

Moving into the NEST 3 grants, so as I said, these grants are funding tours of artists from anywhere in the world. They might be regional, national, international, and those artists are presented by a minimum of three organizations in at least two New England states. The organizations that are applying must be a nonprofit organization, so they must have 501(c)(3) status, or be a school, a federally recognized tribal government, or other government entity. 

They also must be based in New England, and just for the sake of clarity, I will say New England includes Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. It does not include New York. That is the key thing to know. 

The organizations applying also do not need to be an arts organization. So they could be a theater or performing arts center, a festival, a museum. They could also be a university-based art center, a public school, or other kinds of educational programs. 

We also regularly fund libraries, community arts centers, municipalities, parks, historical societies. As long as the above eligibility criteria are met, it can be any type of nonprofit. I'm now going to turn it to my colleague Falyn to talk a little bit more about how the NEST 3 grants work. 

Fayln: NEST 3 funds presentations of regional, national, and international artists hosted by New England-based organizations. At least three organizations in two different New England states must submit an application for the same artist or ensemble. This is the definition of a tour for the NEST grant program. Tours may include more than three organizations and more than two states. 

Organizations applying may request up to 60% of the total artist's fee. The fee may include travel, accommodations, and per diem. If the total artist fee is $2,000 or less, the organization may request up to 100% of the fee. Grant amounts range from $500 to $10,000. 

These grant amounts are per organization on a tour. So if you have three organizations on a tour, it's possible that each one could get $10,000. Typically, grants fall within the $5,000 to $7,000 range. 

Applications must include at least one public performance open to the public and advertised accordingly. We are happy to support activities within school setting, but there must also be at least one performance open to the general public. Online performances and community engagement activities are acceptable. 

Organizations may submit up to three applications, meaning that a single organization can be part of up to three different tours. The grant period is from June 1, 2024, to August 31, 2025, and all funded activities must take place within that time frame, but tour dates do not need to be contiguous. For example, one organization can be doing events in June and another in September. 

NEST does not fund events that are not open to the public and advertised accordingly; events outside of New England; fundraisers-- which isn't to say that you can't make money on your event. What we don't want to fund is an exclusive, high priced event, where the performance is just background music. 

NEST also does not fund activities and programs which take place exclusively in schools during class time; performances in which the performers are primarily students, self-produced presentations by artists or ensembles; producing organizations inviting a guest artist, such as a conductor or soloist, to perform as part of a performance by the producing organization; and finally, presentations of artistic work with funding available through the National Dance Project, NDP, and/or the National Theater Project, NTP. NDP and NTP are other NEFA grant programs, which offer support to New England organizations for presenting projects that have previously been selected. There's a new roster of funded projects each year. For organizations who present dance and theater, it's always worth checking out the projects available. 

Adrienne: Thank you, Falyn. I am going to talk a little bit about the funding criteria. NEST grants are awarded through a competitive selection process, and the amount of funding awarded is based on the extent to which the project meets the criteria. So this is always the question-- how do we decide what gets funded? These criteria are what the panel use in assessing each individual grant application. 

The first criteria is clear rationale for how the project aligns with the organization's arts programming goals and its significance for the community. This is the place to talk about the artist. Name the artist, describe their work in your application. Please, don't make assumptions about what a panelist may or may not know. We want to see that you are excited about working with this artist and bringing them to your community. 

We also look for collaborative planning among tour partners and the artists. The featured artist should be included in the project planning. So we will ask how the tour partners have worked together, as well as with the artist. 

What are those opportunities for collaboration? Have there been conference calls or Zoom meetings between the partners and with the artists? Is there a sharing of resources or ideas? One thing we see a lot is that one presenter may develop marketing or educational materials that then can be shared with other partners. What assets does each partner bring that can be contributed to the overall tour and help everyone do their best in bringing the artist to their community? 

We also look for additional activities beyond the performance which provide opportunities for the artist to meaningfully engage with various sectors of the community. Cross-sector exchanges, and collaboration are highly encouraged. Cross sector meaning arts partnering with non-arts, so that might be with a health care organization, environmental organization, a social justice organization. What are those cross-sector relationships? 

And the types of activities we're looking for can be panel discussions, workshops, other types of classes. They can also be more informal, like dinners, receptions, but what are the opportunities for the local community to engage beyond the performance? And then finally, we are looking for projects that expand access to the arts for all New England communities, including rural and/or Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color, also known as BIPOC, communities. 

We acknowledge structural inequities that have excluded individuals and communities from opportunity based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, class, age, language, culture, and geography, and we look to counter those inequities in our work. I encourage you to read our value statement around equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility for more information. Also, organizations serving rural communities and/or deeply engaging with BIPOC communities are highly encouraged to apply to NEST. And I will pass to Audrey, who will talk a little bit about the application process. 

Audrey: Thanks, Adrienne. So we have a couple tips and tricks for you through this application process. The first of which is getting in touch with us. We would encourage you not to spend time on something without first making sure that the project you're hoping to submit is eligible. Our contact information will be on the last slide, and we do encourage you to reach out before submitting an application, especially if you are a first-time applicant. 

All applicants are also responsible for negotiating the terms of their engagement with the artist. That is pricing, availability. We're not managing the tour for you. 

Your organizations are also responsible for developing the additional activities that happen outside of the performances. Community engagement, as Adrienne mentioned, is a central criteria for the grant program. So if there's no or minimal engagement, it's not going to be a strong application, when our panelists look at it. 

Also worth noting that the deadline for this application is going to be March 1 of 2024, and that our deadline is always at 11:59 PM on the day that a grant is due. Please note that NEFA staff are only available until 5:00 PM. We're available 9:00 to 5:00, typical business hours, but we're only available until 5:00 PM that day. So we do recommend that you submit while you can still reach us, in case you encounter technical problems. 

We would also like to make sure that you verify NEST eligibility of the New England artists that you are programming through this grant. New England-based artists do need to be listed as NEST eligible on CreativeGround, which as you all probably know, is NEFA's Creative Economy Database. It means that an artist needs to fill out certain fields in their profile and enter our eligibility queue. NEFA staff is available to support and assist in this process, but you'll want to make sure, before you submit your application, that that artist is marked as NEST eligible. 

Finally, you also want to make sure that all of your other tour partners are submitting their own applications. As Adrienne mentioned, all three applications can receive funding, but we need to see all three of them to consider each individual application. And make sure that they're submitting by the date, and that you are coordinated in that. 

If you are submitting a project featuring an artist based outside New England, one partner on the tour must submit an artist work sample, since non-New England-based artists aren't featured on CreativeGround. I believe that's everything. I'm going to hand it over to Falyn. 

Falyn: Thank you, Audrey. NEST 3 features a peer panel review process. Panelists include presenters, artists, agents, managers, and others with knowledge of the presenting and touring field. They may be from New England, but many are not, because it's hard to find people in New England who don't have any conflict of interest. 

They may have familiarity with the New England arts landscape, or they may not. Keep that in mind when talking about your audience or community. Don't assume that they have knowledge about your organization or your city or town. NEFA staff facilitate the panel meeting and may supply contextual information when requested, but we do not participate in the review process. Final decisions are made by the panel. 

Applicants will be notified in early May. We realize that this is challenging timing for organizations presenting in June, and that's something to consider when applying. And it's why the grant period includes two summers, the summer of 2024 and the summer of 2025. 

With all NEFA grant programs, we offer panel feedback, once the process has concluded. We even recommend that funded organizations reach out for feedback. It's a great way to strengthen your application in the future. 

NEFA grants are generally paid as a reimbursement. It's important to understand this prior to applying. We can make partial payments in advance, when requested. 

As was mentioned earlier, the deadline is March 1, 2024. We do not accept late applications. The application form will become available online in early 2024. 

NEST 3 requires partners throughout New England, and you may be wondering, how do I find partners? NEFA's CreativeGround website is an excellent tool. It's a robust directory of New England's artists and cultural organizations. NEST applicant organizations must maintain an updated profile in the CreativeGround directory for their cultural nonprofits, and the NEST-eligible artist profile is required for projects featuring a New England-based artist. You can search in a variety of ways, including by organization type, discipline, and geography. 

You can also use CreativeGround to find NEST-eligible artists, and organizations can apply for funding through the NEST 1, 2, or 3 grants. Only artists that are based in New England may create a profile on CreativeGround. Applicants should also update their own profiles within CreativeGround. It's good to do, because you're also a part of the New England creative economy, and panelists will use it in their review. 

Another resource available to you is NEFA's annual Idea Swap. The Idea Swap is an annual gathering of New England arts presenters, cultural organizers, and artists, for networking and sharing touring project ideas. This year, the Idea Swap will be on November 13, 2023, in Nashua, New Hampshire. Organizations based in New England are encouraged to attend the Idea Swap to learn more about potential NEST 3 tours and identify tour partners. 

Adrienne: All right. Thank you, Falyn, thank you, Audrey, and most importantly, you always should remember to thank your funders. So we want to acknowledge our partnerships with the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the six New England state arts agencies. We are so happy that we continue to work with them in supporting the NEST program. 

We thank you all for joining us. We have our contact information available. It's also available on our NEFA website, and please, reach out if you come across questions about our programs. 

You are welcome to email or call us. We will actually respond to you, I swear, and if you are applying for the first time, we highly encourage having a conversation with us previously, so that we can address any questions that may come up. We're also happy to support applicants in the application process and provide input on program plans and how those plans may meet the funding criteria. 

So with that, if there are additional questions, I invite you to raise your hand using the Raise Hand button, at the bottom of the screen. And we can unmute you, and you can ask your question. If you'd prefer to type it, you are also welcome to enter your question into the Q&A portion of using that button as well. But I'll give it a minute, in case anyone has questions they would like to ask about the NEST program. 

There is a question. Does a project with one New England lead artist and remaining New York artists qualify as a New England artist? So that's a conversation we should have. 

There are different scenarios, but keep in mind that the intent of the program is to support artists who are living and making work in this region. We recognize people move around a lot, and we live in a global world. So we're happy to talk to you about your specific situation, but we would need the group to be considered a New England-based artist and have a eligible profile on CreativeGround, if you are truly based in New England. But more than happy to follow up on a specific scenario. 

OK. With that, well, I thank everyone for joining us today. We're so glad you could take the time. As a reminder, this webinar will be recorded and posted on NEFA's website shortly. So you will be able to access this information again, all of which also is on NEFA's website, if you want to do some deep reading. 

And you're welcome to reach out to us at any time with questions. Feel free to email or call us. Thank you all for coming today. 

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