Open to organizations in rural communities of 50,000 people or less, the Express Grant program offers expedited awards of up to $3,000 supporting the presentation of touring artists.
Express GrantsSee All Grants & Opportunities
Express Grants now require a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). Obtaining your UEI could take a minimum of 30 days. Read more about obtaining a UEI to begin the process today.
If you are engaging an Indigenous artist...
Thanks to a special partnership, up to 100% (or $6,000) of the artist fee can be supported for organizations engaging Indigenous artists. For more details, see the program updates below.
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 $3,000. To be eligible for funding, applicants must program arts experiences featuring a Southern artist.
Express Grants are an opportunity for organizations in South Arts' nine-state region to receive fee support to present Southern guest film directors, visual and performing artists, or writers from inside or outside of the presenter's state. Artist fee support is awarded for:
- film (documentary, fiction, experimental, and animation),
- performing arts (theater, music, opera, musical theater, and dance),
- literary arts (fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry),
- traditional arts, and
- visual arts (crafts, drawing, experimental, painting, photography, sculpture, and mixed media).
Projects must include both a public presentation (film screening, performance, reading, or exhibition) and an educational/community engagement component. Based on the artist fee, the maximum request is $3,000. The grant requires a dollar-for-dollar cash match (for example, an applicant that requests $3,000 must provide a $3,000 cash match for a project with a $6,000 artist fee).
South Arts is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. We have prioritized this commitment to ensure that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) led organizations, LGBTQIA+ led organizations, and organizations representing persons with disabilities are represented as both applicants and grantees. In addition, we encourage applications for projects that engage BIPOC artists, LGBTQIA+ artists, and artists with disabilities.
New applicants are encouraged to contact Nikki Estes at 404-874-7244 x816 to discuss eligibility before applying.
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, 2023 and June 30, 2024.
The following is a top-level list of the main eligibility requirements necessary to be considered for Express Grants. Please refer to the full list of eligibility requirements in the Guidelines section below.
- Be a tax-exempt nonprofit or an official unit of local, county, or state government based within South Arts' nine-state service area (AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, or TN)
- Ineligible applicants include:
- Organizations based outside of AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, or TN
- Fiscally sponsored organizations
- For-profit businesses or organizations
- Artists or ensembles
- Ineligible applicants include:
- Be in a rural community (for the purposes of this program, we define rural as a community with a population of 50,000 or below)
- Engage a professional artist or ensemble who resides within South Arts' nine-state service area (AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, or TN)
- Have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI)
- 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 presenters/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.
- Presenters/presenting organizations are defined as organizations that present or host artists for engagements in their communities. Presenters can include but are not limited to community cultural organizations, community centers, churches, schools/colleges/universities, libraries, museums, film festivals/series, and performing arts centers. Typically, producing organizations or performing arts groups are not considered presenters, and are strongly encouraged to contact South Arts to discuss eligibility.
- Only 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.
- Applicants must have not-for-profit, tax-exempt status; be an official unit of local, county, or state government; or be a federally recognized tribal community. Applications are accepted from any tribal community with not-for-profit, tax-exempt status. For nonprofit applicants, tax-exempt status will be verified by a third-party entity. Governmental applicants must provide proof of government status. South Arts does not accept applications from fiscal agents for this grant program.
- All applicants must have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). Applications will not be accepted from organizations that do not have a UEI. Read more about how to obtain a UEI.
- Eligible projects must take place in South Arts' nine-state region. Unless there are special circumstances, projects should occur in the applicant's state (please contact South Arts to discuss special conditions).
- Eligible projects must include the engagement of a guest artist or company (i.e., a film director, visual artist, performing artist/ensemble, or writer) that resides in South Arts' region. The engagement must include a guest artist that resides inside or outside of the applicant's state.
- Supported disciplines include film (documentary, fiction, experimental, and animation), performing arts (theater, music, opera, musical theater, and dance), literary arts (fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry), traditional arts, and visual arts (crafts, drawing, experimental, painting, photography, sculpture, and mixed media).
- Need help finding a Southern artist? View artists who have been supported by South Arts in the past or look through our State Arts Agency partners' rosters.
- Screening partners currently receiving funding through South Arts' Southern Circuit program are not eligible to receive additional funding for Southern Circuit film screenings.
- Applicants currently receiving funding through South Arts’ Presentation Grants or Traditional Arts Touring program are not eligible for this grant program.
- Applicants are limited to one Express Grant application per South Arts fiscal year.
- Applicants 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 from this grant program until they have completed a conversation with program director Nikki Estes.
- Applicants who did not properly acknowledge South Arts' AND the National Endowment for the Arts' support in programs and press materials for any previous South Arts grant may not be considered for funding from this grant program.
- 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, 2023 and June 30, 2024.
- The project must include both a public presentation (film screening, performance, reading, or exhibition) and an educational/community engagement activity.
- The public presentation must meet the following requirements:
- 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.
- For a public film screening, a minimum of 40 minutes of running time (this may include a full-length film or a collection of shorts) with the film director is required.
- For a public exhibition, a presentation with the artist is required.
- The educational/community engagement component is not limited to student participants. Although presentations at conferences and school-focused presentations, which primarily engage students (whether happening at the school or another venue), will not be considered public presentations that are open and accessible to the general public, they will satisfy the educational/community engagement requirement.
- For faith-based institutions, presenting projects must be without religious proselytizing.
- Only one artist/company per grant application. The artist/company is required to participate fully in the public presentation. The artist or company members must also conduct the educational/community engagement component.
- Events must be open and marketed to the public and dedicated to serving a broad audience. While projects are not required to serve the entire geographic community, they should have targeted local participants.
- Project activities may be live, in-person experiences, virtual events, or a combination of in-person and virtual events. All grant-funded activities must follow all local, state, and federal COVID-safety protocols, as applicable.
- All grant recipients are required to provide accessibility for constituents with disabilities at grant-funded events. For 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 are required and 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 Endowment's website for more information.
- Applicants must commit to the Endowment's Assurance of Compliance.
- The educational/community engagement component is integral to the project and should be carefully planned. A meaningful educational/community engagement component should involve concentrated preparation by the artist/company and presenter, including a learning event that has a lasting impact on the audience (e.g., workshops, lectures, and master classes). The artist(s)/company must conduct the educational/community engagement activity. Please be aware that failure to include an educational/community engagement 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.
- Grant awards require a dollar-for-dollar cash match. Applicants can request a grant up to 50% of the artist fee as listed in the artist contract or letter of agreement, up to $3,000 (subject to funding availability). For example, a project with an artist fee of $6,000 means the applicant can request $3,000 and must provide a cash match of $3,000. This grant does not support indirect and additional project costs.
- The minimum grant request is $500. The minimum artist fee for this grant program is $1,000.
- The maximum grant request is $3,000.
- 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 a 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 not reviewed by panelists/staff/committee members.
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 request a review of the considerations affecting South Arts' decision. Subsequently, if you believe there are grounds for an appeal, you must submit your appeal, in writing, to South Arts' President & CEO 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 President & CEO will make and render a final decision within 30 days of the appeal.
Mail your appeal to:
ATTN: President & CEO
1800 Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
Applications are reviewed and funding adjudications are made using the following criteria to evaluate each application:
- Artistic Excellence (20%) – Quality of artist/company/writer
- Project’s Artistic Merit (40%) – 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
- 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. For example: "XYZ Ballet Company will conduct a three-day residency, with two master classes, two workshops for older adults, a Q&A with the artistic director and local choreographers, 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 the community members or groups likely involved.
- Artistic Excellence (20%)
(Maximum 2,500 characters including spaces, approximately ½ page)
Evaluation of this criterion is based on the submitted:
- artist's work samples (i.e., audio, video, film footage, images, and written work),
- support material (i.e., ensemble/company history, artist biography, or writer's resume/biography), and
- description of artistic excellence for the artist.
Work samples should represent the quality or type of work the artist/company will have presented during your engagement and should be no more than three years old. For audio/video samples, include instructions identifying the particular selection to be played. For video samples, we encourage applicants to submit a continuous work sample for the artist that is at least 3-5 minutes in length, but not to exceed 10 minutes. If the sample is part of a larger publication/book, please mark the passage/section to review.
Describe the artistic excellence of the artist included in project. Specifically include information about the artist's impact or influence on the artform (local, regional, and/or nationally), the artist's contributions to the artform, and/or if the artist or artistic expression is demonstrative of a historically underrepresented community.
- Project’s Artistic Merit (40%)
(Maximum 5,000 characters including spaces, approximately 1 page)
Describe the project. Include a detailed description of the presentation and explain why this artist/company was chosen. Explain why this project is important to your community. The educational/community engagement component* requires that participants be engaged in learning activities that have a lasting impact. Describe the educational and community engagement activities.
*An educational/community engagement component is a learning event that has a lasting impact on the audience (e.g., workshops, lectures, and master classes) and is not limited to student participants. The educational/community engagement component is integral to the engagement and should be carefully planned. A meaningful component should involve concentrated preparation by the artist(s) and presenter. The artist(s)/company must conduct the 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 an engagement plan, and developing effective partnerships. Describe your community and the population size. Describe the audiences and community segments you are targeting and engaging with this project. Explain why they were selected for this project, how they are involved in planning, and what community partners are involved. Describe any plans to broaden or diversify your audiences, any additional efforts to reach those lacking access to arts programs, services, or resources, or how your organization addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion. 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 for people with disabilities. Beyond meeting the minimum Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, describe actions to ensure programmatic and communications accessibility. Activities can include and are not limited to planning/advisory committees include people with disabilities, large print programs/labels, American Sign Language interpretation, audio description, and specific marketing strategies. Provide specific details on how you will reach those without access to the arts due to disability for this specific project (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/programming history. Describe the method(s) you will use to evaluate the project's success.
Updates for 2023-24 Applicants
Please be aware of the following major updates to the 2023-24 Express Grants cycle:
- We have a new grants management system. Please visit our new portal to create an account and begin your application. All organizations need to create new account logins and passwords. Passwords from prior grant portals do not transfer.
- Applicants must have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). Read more about HOW TO OBTAIN A UEI.
- A dollar-for-dollar cash match is required.
#aipAdvancing Indigenous Performance
South Arts is partnering with the Western Arts Alliance as part of their Advancing Indigenous Performance (AIP) program.
There may be additional funds for engaging Indigenous artists residing in the South. We are happy to partner with Western Arts Alliance (WAA) on their Advancing Indigenous Performance (AIP) program that promotes the touring and engagement of Indigenous artists. To qualify, the artist/ensemble must identify as an Indigenous performing artist according to Western Arts Alliance’s definition of Indigenous: A member or descendant of a Native American, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian nation or community, including the U.S. Territories of Amelika Sāmoa (American Samoa), Guahan (Guam), Saipan, Tinian, Rota (Northern Mariana Islands), Borikén (Puerto Rico), and the US Virgin Islands. This includes individuals without official tribal status who are members of Native communities, and tribal members or descendants not living in their homelands or home community.
An Express Grant application that meets our program guidelines and engages an Indigenous artist/ensemble residing in the South may be eligible for a matching grant from Western Arts Alliance dependent upon available funds. All eligible applications will be forwarded to WAA for final determination of qualification for match. Approved applicants may receive additional funds to offset South Arts' required match (up to $3,000) through this collaboration with WAA.
Please plan plenty of time to organize your application in our Salesforce grant management system. South Arts encourages applicants to contact us with questions or concerns about accessing Salesforce before submitting an 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/community engagement component), date(s), and fee (signed by both parties)
- Artist 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
- Performing – Submit up to 10 minutes of audio or video
- Literary – Submit up to 10 pages of written work or up to 10 minutes of audio or video
- Visual – Submit up to 10 high-resolution images
- Film – Submit up to 10 minutes of film footage
- 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. The supplemental document should not exceed five (5) pages unless the document is a publication.
All grant applications must be submitted online using our grants management system. We recommend that you visit the site early to create your account and become familiar with the system. Complete your application and upload the required materials as detailed above. Applicants will be notified of funding decisions by email within four weeks of the application submission. For assistance, contact Nikki Estes at 404-874-7244 x816.
South Arts strictly adheres to deadlines and will NOT accept late or incomplete applications. Deadlines are not extended due to inclement weather. Applicants must agree to the Contract Terms of Agreement, Assurance of Compliance, and Federal Suspension and Debarment Requirements prior to submission.
Have a question about the guidelines or priorities above? It may be addressed in our Express Grants FAQ.FAQ
After reviewing program guidelines, log in to Salesforce to apply for an Express Grant, edit an application in process, and submit any required reports.Log in to Salesforce
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