Great River Shakespeare Festival has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support bringing arts to rural communities. The NEA is the federal agency that supports and funds the arts to give all Americans the opportunity to experience creativity and participate in the arts. NEA programs and funding support thousands of activities in communities large and small across the country, including about 30,000 performances and 3,000 exhibitions annually.
GRSF received the grant through the Arts Engagement in American Communities funding program. The Festival will take artist residencies to underserved communities through public institutions like schools and libraries. Two GRSF education programs will reach learners of all ages in Southeast Minnesota. The programs provide insight into the theatre production process, Shakespeare’s language, and themes of the GRSF season. First, the Library Partnership, which was greatly reduced in 2015, will return to the communities served in previous years. The partnership provides visits to public libraries from GRSF staff and artists. Sessions include information and education about the upcoming season and other topics such as stage combat. Library users are able to use ticket vouchers to come to the performances in Winona.
The second part of the NEA grant will bring Shakespeare in the Schools to those communities as well. The school program brings actors and directors into classroom residencies. In partnership with the classroom teachers, actors get students to understand and perform scenes from Shakespeare. Schools can also choose to participate in the after-school program. This education opportunity takes place over three weeks outside of school time. Students rehearse an abridged Shakespeare play using the same process the professional actors use during the summer. The program culminates with a public performance of the play.
NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “I’m pleased to be able to share the news of this award to Great River Shakespeare Festival. In each community the arts have the power to create new avenues for economic health and physical vibrancy, and for people to feel a sense of pride in their locality. This grant demonstrates this power and affirms that the arts are part of our everyday lives.”
“There was great disappointment at GRSF and in the communities we serve in 2015 because the library partnership took place in only two towns. We hope to return to all of our previous partners and the schools in their area year round in 2015 and 2016,” stated Valerie Williams, GRSF Education Coordinator.
To learn more about the National Endowment for the Arts, please visit the NEA website at arts.gov. Follow the conversation about this and other NEA‐funded projects on Twitter at @NEAarts.