Express Grants


Open to organizations in rural communities of 50,000 people or less, the Express Grant program offers expedited awards of up to $2,000 supporting the presentation of touring artists.

View Full Guidelines

Detailed Program Description

South Arts believes that rural communities deserve great art, and can require specialized support to make that vision viable. Distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, Express Grants support rural organizations and communities with expedited grants of up to $2,000.

To be eligible for funding, applicants must program arts experiences featuring an out-of-state Southern artist that include both a public performance or reading and an educational component. Express Grants can be used to support theater, music, opera, musical theater, dance, fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry projects.

New applicants are encouraged to contact Nikki Estes at 404-874-7244 ext. 16 to discuss eligibility prior to submitting an application.

Important Dates & Deadlines

  • Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
  • Applications must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the project start date.
  • Applicants will be notified by email within four weeks of submission.
  • Projects must take place between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.

Eligibility Requirements

The following is a top-level list of the main eligibility requirements necessary to be considered for an Express Grant. Please refer to the full list of eligibility requirements in the program's Guidelines.

  • Be a tax-exempt nonprofit or an official unit of local, county, or state government based within South Arts' nine-state service area
  • Be in a rural community (for the purposes of this program, we define rural as a community with population of 50,000 or below)
  • Engage an artist who resides within South Arts' nine-state service area, excluding the applicant's state
  • Provide a dollar-for-dollar cash match

A full list of eligibility criteria and other project requirements is provided in the guidelines below.


While preparing your Express Grant application, please refer to the following guidelines.

  • Only nonprofit and governmental presenting organizations in South Arts’ nine-state region are eligible to apply. South Arts’ nine-state region includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Only presenting organizations in rural communities are eligible for this grant program. For the purposes of these guidelines, a standard definition of rural is a population of 50,000 or below.
  • Presenting organizations must have not-for-profit, tax-exempt status or be an official unit of local, county or state government. For nonprofit presenters, tax-exempt status will be verified by a third party entity. Governmental presenters must provide proof of government status. South Arts does not accept applications from fiscal agents for this grant program.
  • All applicants must have a DUNS number. Applications will not be accepted from organizations that do not have a DUNS number. Visit the Dun & Bradstreet website for additional information about DUNS numbers as well as instruction on how to receive one.
  • Eligible projects must take place in South Arts’ nine-state region. Unless there are special circumstances, projects should take place in the presenter’s state (please contact South Arts to discuss special conditions).
  • Eligible projects must include the engagement of an artist or company that resides in South Arts’ region, excluding the applicant’s state. Please note the following exemption for touring within state boundaries: In-state touring is allowed for Southern artists residing at least 400 miles away from the applicant’s location.
  • Presenters cannot receive funding for artists who reside in the presenter’s state (i.e., a Georgia nonprofit organization cannot apply for funding to present a Georgia artist). Eligible projects must include guest artists for theater, music, opera, musical theater, dance, fiction, creative nonfiction or poetry presentations. 
  • Presenters are limited to one Express Grant application per South Arts fiscal year.
  • Presenters currently receiving funding through South Arts’ Performing Arts Touring, Traditional Arts Touring, or Literary Arts Touring program are not eligible for this grant program.
  • Presenters who have failed to submit final reports for any previous South Arts grant by the application deadline for this program will not be considered for funding in this grant cycle.
  • Presenters who fail to properly acknowledge South Arts’ AND the National Endowment for the Arts’ support in programs and press materials may not be considered for additional funding.
  • Express Grant applications must be submitted online at least 60 days prior to the project start date.
  • The project must take place between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.
  • The project must include both a public performance or reading and an educational/outreach component. NOTE: Performances/readings at conferences and school-focused performances/readings (primarily engaging students, whether taking place at the school, or a performance venue) will not be considered public presentations that are open and accessible to the general public; however, school-focused presentations will satisfy the educational component requirement. For a public reading, a minimum of 30 minutes of presentation by the writer is required. For a public performance, a minimum of 60 minutes of performance by the artist/company is required.
  • Only one artist/company/writer per grant application. The artist/company/writer is required to fully participate in the performance/reading. The writer, artist or members of the company must also conduct the educational/outreach component.
  • Events must be open and marketed to the public and dedicated to serving a wide audience. Projects are not required to serve the entire geographic community but should have targeted participants.
  • All grant recipients are required to provide accessibility for constituents with disabilities at grant-funded events. For the purpose of these guidelines, accessibility relates to your overall facility and project being accessible to all. In addition to physical access (ramps, accessible parking/box office/restrooms/seating, etc.), communications and programmatic accessibility is not only required but can help your organization build audiences and strengthen engagement. Grant applications should show evidence of thoughtful planning and implementation efforts. The National Endowment for the Arts has resources to assist arts organizations in making accommodations. Please visit the NEA’s website for more information and view presentation slides from the fall of 2015. Applicants must commit to the Endowment’s Assurance of Compliance.
  • The educational/outreach component is an integral part of the engagement and should be carefully planned. A meaningful educational component should involve concentrated preparation by the artist/company and presenter, and include a learning event that has a lasting impact upon the audience (e.g., workshops, lectures and master classes). The artist(s)/company must conduct the educational activity. Please be aware that failure to include an educational/outreach component will result in ineligibility.
  • South Arts does not fund benefits or fundraisers.
  • Grants are NOT transferable to other events. All changes in an event must be submitted in writing to South Arts before the event. Awards may be revised or revoked in light of such changes.
  • Express Grant awards require a dollar-for-dollar cash match.
  • Applicants are eligible to receive up to 50% of the artist fee as listed in the artist contract, up to $2,000 (subject to funding availability). Indirect and additional project costs are not supported by this grant.
  • The minimum grant request is $500.
Appeals Process

You can request a review of the method for South Arts’ decisions concerning grant applications through the Appeals Process. If you did not receive funding or if your grant award was rescinded or reduced, you may submit an appeal based on the criteria listed below. Incomplete applications are not eligible for the appeals process. Dissatisfaction with the denial or amount of an award is not sufficient reason for an appeal. An applicant not funded may appeal South Arts’ decision if the applicant can demonstrate that the application was rejected for any of the following reasons:

  • Application was reviewed using criteria other than those published;
  • Funding decision was influenced by panelist/staff/committee member who failed to disclose conflict of interest; and/or
  • Application materials (submitted by the deadline) were reviewed by panelist/staff/committee member.

If an applicant’s funds were rescinded or reduced, the applicant may appeal South Arts’ decision if the applicant can demonstrate that (a) the project activities outlined in the application were performed, and (b) the contract terms and conditions were followed and fulfilled. To appeal a funding decision, first contact the Program Director, Nikki Estes, to review considerations affecting South Arts’ decision. If you believe that you have grounds for an appeal, you must submit your appeal, in writing, to South Arts’ Executive Director no later than 15 calendar days following the receipt of the written notice from South Arts. The submission should contain evidence to support one or more of the allowable grounds for appeal. The decision on an appeal will be made by the Executive Director, who will render a decision within 30 days of the appeal.

Mail your appeal to: South Arts, ATTN: Executive Director, 1800 Peachtree Street, NW, Suite 808, Atlanta, GA 30309.

Narrative Instructions

Review Criteria

Applications are reviewed and funding adjudications are made using the following criteria to evaluate each application:

  • Artistic Excellence (30%) – Quality of artist/company/writer
  • Project’s Artistic Merit (30%) – Quality of project
  • Audience Development/Community Involvement (20%) – Quality and degree of audience development efforts and community participation
  • Accessibility (10%) – Quality and degree of facility and program accessibility
  • Organizational Capacity/Evaluation (10%) – Presenter’s ability to carry out and evaluate the project

Helpful Resources

  • Sample application from a past grantee demonstrates a clear, succinct, and well-organized application that was evaluated very highly in the review process.
  • The Evaluation Rubric/Matrix used to score applications.

In addition to organizational and project information, you will need to provide a narrative addressing the following:


(Maximum 500 characters including spaces)

Provide a one-sentence description of the project which South Arts will use in publicity if a grant is awarded, e.g. “XYZ Quintet will provide two workshops for high school music students and a public evening performance at the ABC Theatre.”


(Maximum 1,250 characters including spaces, approximately ¼ page)

List the chronological schedule of activities during the project including what, when, where, who, with/for whom; include ticket prices where applicable. NOTE: If your schedule is not complete at this time, provide as much detail as is known about how many activities will take place, and which community members or groups will be involved.

Artistic Excellence (30%)

Work samples should represent the type of work the artist/company/writer will perform/read during your project. For audio/video samples, include instructions identifying the particular selection to be played. Promotional videos, montages and poor video quality will prevent the reviewers from being able to make an assessment on this criterion and may result in a low score. If sample is part of a larger publication/book, please mark the passage/section for the panel to review. NOTE: No narrative response is necessary. Evaluation on this criterion is based on the submitted work samples (i.e., audio, video, and printed materials).

Project’s Artistic Merit (30%)

(Maximum 5,000 characters including spaces, approximately 1 page)

Describe the project; include a detailed description of the performance or reading and explain why this artist/company/writer was chosen. Explain why this project is important to your community. The educational and outreach component* is the requirement that participants be engaged in learning activities that have lasting impact. Describe the educational and outreach component and any additional community activities; describe the anticipated impact for participants.

*An educational and outreach component is a learning event that has a lasting impact upon the audience (e.g., workshops, lectures and master classes). The educational/outreach component is an integral part of the engagement and should be carefully planned. A meaningful educational component should involve concentrated preparation by the artist(s) and presenter. The artist(s)/company must conduct the educational activity.

Audience Development and Community Involvement (20%)

(Maximum 2,500 characters including spaces, approximately ½ page)

Audience development includes assessing audience and community needs, cultivating audiences, creating a plan for engagement, and developing effective partnerships. Describe your community and the population size. Describe the audiences and community segments that you are targeting and engaging with this project. Explain why they were selected for involvement in this project, how they are involved in planning, and what community partners are involved. Describe any plans to broaden or diversify your audiences and any additional efforts to reach those that lack access to arts programs, services, or resources. Describe your marketing plan for target audiences.

Accessibility (10%)

(Maximum 2,500 characters including spaces, approximately ½ page)

Grantees are required to ensure accessibility to funded programs to people with disabilities. Beyond these minimum ADA requirements, describe actions you will take for programmatic and communications accessibility (e.g., planning/advisory committees include people with disabilities, large print programs/labels, American Sign Language interpretation, audio description, specific marketing strategies, etc.). Provide specific strategies on how you will reach those that lack access to the arts due to disability for this project specifically (not your organization’s work in general).

Organizational Capacity and Evaluation (10%)

(Maximum 2,500 characters including spaces, approximately ½ page)

Describe your organization’s ability to carry out the proposed project. Provide a summary of your organization’s presenting history. Describe the project goals and the anticipated outcomes. Describe the evaluation methods you have in place to learn how you are, or are not, achieving your goals.

Application Requirements

  • Application
  • Proof of government status (if applicable)
  • Letter of intent or contract between the artist and the presenting organization stating the services (including the educational component), date(s) and fee (signed by both parties)
  • Artist/company/writer support material: Company history, artist biography, or writer’s resume/biography with a list of published works
  • Work sample: A representative work sample for the artist, company, or writer – audio/video or written work (up to 10 pages for writer)
  • Supplemental document (optional)
    • Other support material (e.g., reviews, letters of support, or brochure) directly related to the application may be submitted. Do not include audio, video, or other electronic samples. Supplemental document should not exceed five (5) pages, unless the document is a publication.

All grant applications must be submitted online using the eGrant system. We recommend that you visit the site early to create your account, and become familiar with the system. Complete your application in eGrant and upload the required materials as detailed below. Applicants will be notified of funding decisions by email within 4 weeks of the application submission. For assistance, contact Nikki Estes at 404-874-7244 ext. 16.

South Arts strictly adheres to deadlines and will NOT accept applications that are late or incomplete. Deadlines are not extended due to inclement weather. Applicants must agree to the applicable Contract Terms of Agreement (for Performing Arts or Literary Arts engagements)Assurance of Compliance, and Federal Suspension and Debarment Requirements prior to submission.

Application Portal

After reviewing program guidelines, log in to eGrant to apply for an Express Grant, edit an application in process, and submit any required reports.

Log in to eGrant

Manage Your Award

Review recipient terms and conditions, download the appropriate logos, access final reporting requirements, and more.

Manage Your Grant


For questions about Express Grants, contact program director Nikki Estes.

Contact Us